Truex Owns 1.5-Mile Tracks
Martin Truex Jr. finished 2nd at Martinsville last week and sits comfortably above the cutoff to advance to the Championship 4. But he can officially look up his spot with a win Sunday at Texas, and it's on his bread-and-butter, a 1.5-mile track.
Truex has won 6 of the 9 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season, no other driver has won more than once, and the 3 races he didn't win, he finished no worse than 8th.
Truex has dominated on this type of track for the last 2 seasons. He's led 1,830 of a possible 6,035 laps, 30 percent, and won 8 of the 20 races.
Truex is putting together one of the best playoff performances since NASCAR instituted the system for the 2004 season. His 5.3 average finish would be the 5th-best in a single playoff, and he's chasing the record of 5 wins by Tony Stewart in 2011.
And if Truex picks up 1 win in the final 3 races, he'll become the first driver with 8 wins and 2,000 laps led in a season since Jeff Gordon in 1996. Since 1990, only Gordon, Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt have hit those marks in a season. But of the last 5 times a driver hit those numbers in a season, only twice did it lead to a championship.
Kyle Busch Picks Up 3rd Playoff Win
The only driver who has locked in a spot in the Championship 4 so far is Kyle Busch, who survived the late-race drama at Martinsville, and passed teammate Denny Hamlin on the final lap for the win. Busch, who had 1 win in 89 career starts as a playoff driver entering this season, now has won 3 of the 7 playoff races this year.
Busch is 27 laps away from his first time leading 2,000 in a single year. He'd join Truex Jr. as drivers with 2,000 laps led this season. There hasn't been a year with multiple drivers hitting that mark in a year since 1989, when Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace did so.
Is Jimmie Johnson in Trouble?
After a 12th-place finish at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson finds himself on the wrong side of the bubble with 2 races remaining in this round. Johnson did win the spring race at Texas this year, and is the most successful driver in the track's history.
But Johnson enters Texas with a 20-race winless streak, tied for the 3rd-longest of his Cup Series career. But every time he's had a winless streak of 18 or more races, it was snapped at a 1.5-mile track, including twice at Texas.
Elliott After Martinsville Drama
How quickly things can change. Chase Elliott was leading on lap 498 of the scheduled 500-lap race at Martinsville last weekend before he was spun by Denny Hamlin. He went from less than 3 laps from a guaranteed berth in the Championship 4 to a 27th-place finish and sitting last among the remaining 8 playoff drivers.
But Elliott has 2 top-5 finishes in 3 career Texas races, giving him the best percentage among all drivers there. He's never finished outside the top 10 there. And at Phoenix, the final race of the Round of 8, he led 106 laps in the race there earlier this season.
Variety of Winners in XFINITY Series
It's a triple-race weekend at Texas, as the XFINITY and Truck Series are also racing, both also with 3 races remaining in their season. The XFINITY Series is having a season that has seen some of the most variety in race winners in series history.
2017 XFINITY Series - By the Numbers
• 6 1st-time winners (1 shy of most since inaugural series season in 1982)
• 10 winners in last 10 races
• 17 different race winners (1 shy of series record, set in 1988)
Who's Hot and Who's Not - Texas (Playoff Driver Edition)
• Martin Truex Jr.: won 6 of 9 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season (has never won at Texas)
• Chase Elliott: has never finished outside top 10 in 3 career Texas races
• Kevin Harvick: 8 top-10 finishes in 9 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season (2nd only to Truex Jr.'s 9)
• Kyle Busch: 5 top-5 finishes in last 6 Texas races
• Jimmie Johnson: on 20-race winless streak (snapped 20-race winless streak at Texas in 2015)
• Denny Hamlin: 0 top-5 finishes in 12 races at Texas since sweeping 2010 races at track
• Ryan Blaney: 27.6 Avg finish at Texas is his 2nd-worst at any track (30.2 at Richmond)
• Brad Keselowski: 22.4 Avg finish in last 5 1.5-mile track races (0 top 5s, 1 top 10); 3.5 Avg finish in first 4 1.5-mile track races this season (1 win, no finish worse than 6th)
--- ESPN Stats & Info ---