FORT WORTH, Texas -- Martin Truex Jr. felt quite confident that if he could get through the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup and then Martinsville, he could make it to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at the title.
The Furniture Row Racing driver showed why he had such confidence Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. He took the lead with 17 laps remaining before a loose wheel, no power steering and a slight door-bang with Brad Keselowski relegated him to eighth.
Even though he could have left Texas in an even better position, Truex still sits ahead of the current cutoff spot to be one of the four drivers with a shot at the title. At fourth in the standings, he has a seven-point edge on Carl Edwards and a 19-point edge on Keselowski for what is the current final spot based on points.
"I thought we had a shot at it and the right-front wheel started shaking real bad and got tight," Truex said. "It's a damn shame. It's a good run. ... We had a really good race car."
Truex had an average finish of 20.8 over the final 11 regular-season races. But in the Chase, he has an average finish of 8.9. He has an average finish of 7.0 in the current round with a sixth-place finish at Martinsville and the eighth at Texas.
The turnaround is a result of the team appearing more comfortable with the "traditional" 2015 rules package, the one teams started the year with but didn't race in four events this summer as NASCAR experimented with rules packages for the 2016 season.
The Chase tracks also suit Truex well, as they include some of his favorite tracks -- the 1-mile flat tracks. He believes he will be strong at one of those next week at Phoenix.
"We're still in good shape," Truex said. "Next week would have been a lot easier had we ran second or third or even won. We had a chance at it. It's disappointing when those finishes slip away. But all in all, we're in good shape."
Truex would have not been in as good of shape if Keselowski had won the race since the win would have given Keselowski an automatic bid to vie for the championship even if he was behind the top four in points. But Jimmie Johnson, who already was eliminated from Chase contention, passed Keselowski with four laps left.
"The 2 [of Keselowski] didn't win the race," Truex said. "That certainly helped a little bit. I was cheering for Jimmie Johnson pretty hard. We did what we needed to do. It would have been nice to have those five or six spots -- that's five or six points next week. It could be the difference.
"But we'll just have to wait and see and we'll go race hard again."
The drivers who finished third and fourth Sunday left few points on the table. Kyle Busch, who finished fourth, has the most points of any Chase driver without a win in this round, just one point more than Kevin Harvick (third at Texas), four on Truex and 11 on out-at-the-moment Edwards.
Harvick has won four consecutive races at Phoenix. He bounced back from two punctured tires for the great finish at Texas with a car that also had a broken shifter.
"That doesn't mean we're going to go there and run good this time," Harvick said. "We've got to go and try to have our ducks in a row. We've done a good job of managing the Chase thus far with all the adversity that we've had.
"We've really only had one smooth weekend [winning Dover]. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing and hopefully the smooth weekend is next week and the week after. We've overcome a lot of things I don't think a lot of people could have overcome."
If Edwards, Keselowski, Kurt Busch or Joey Logano wins next week at Phoenix for an automatic spot among the final four competing for the championship, then it will be Kyle Busch, Harvick and Truex likely vying for two spots based on points.
"I do not think it's a winnable race until Kevin Harvick gets beat," Kyle Busch said. "He's shown that he's certainly got the stranglehold on the Phoenix racetrack. ... We look at the points situation and guarantee Harvick winning that race, then you have to figure out who you're racing after that to know what you have to do in order to point your way through."
Xfinity Series: Penske wins owners' title
The Team Penske No. 22 team won the owners' championship as Brad Keselowski's win Saturday gave the organization a 98-point lead on the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 team.
"I was thinking about it when I came to Team Penske in 2010 we didn't have any and now we have four Xfinity championships in five years," said Keselowski, who won the drivers' title for Penske in 2010. "That is a huge accomplishment and a lot to be proud of."
Camping World Truck Series: Jones enjoys triple-duty
Erik Jones opened his triple-duty weekend with a victory in the Camping World Truck Series race. Jones already had a win at Texas this year as he had captured the Xfinity race back in April.
Jones, who increased his truck series points lead to 17 over Matt Crafton and 21 over Tyler Reddick, finished fourth in the Xfinity race and then 12th in the Cup race in place of the suspended Matt Kenseth. He'll have triple-duty again next weekend at Phoenix.
"At this point, I'm feeling fine, but I can definitely feel it coming on," Jones said after the Cup race Sunday. "I'll be worn out tonight. It was a fun weekend and I'll do it again for sure next weekend.
"I'm looking forward to it, but it's definitely busy and definitely hard on you. I'll take a nice day off tomorrow."