On Monday, Martin Truex Jr. was untouchable at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Truex led all but 47 laps of the 301-lap race en route to his third win of the season. The dominating win also propels Truex to first in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings.
Truex looked set to win, but ended up having to go through three late-race restarts to take the win. Noah Gragson crashed out with 31 laps to go and forced the top 10 teams to choose between two and four fresh tires during a pit stop.
The n°19 started with two tires to maintain its position on the track. With the rest of the top five making the same decision, it turned out to be the right choice. Truex restarted third after the Gragson crash behind Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon after they stayed out. Truex easily passed both immediately after restarting.
He then took the lead over Joey Logano in the final two restarts of the race. Those restarts came for a multi-car crash that included Alex Bowman and Chris Buescher and the wreckage of Christopher Bell.
Truex started the postponed race alongside teammate Christopher Bell in the front row and took the lead on lap two. The pit cycles were basically the only thing that kept him from having the lead the rest of the way. Austin Dillon led the second most laps of any rider in the field behind Truex’s 254. Dillon led 12.
Truex entered the race weekend as the favorite despite missing out on a win in New Hampshire. He had that status due to a top-12 ranking streak dating back to 2016 and clearly lived up to that billing on Monday.
Ryan Blaney’s chances of victory end late
Ryan Blaney was second behind Truex when Gragson crashed. He had stopped a lap ahead of Truex on the final green-flag pit stop cycle of the day in an effort to save time on the #19 car. This move did not work; a slow pit stop by Blaney’s crew ended up losing him time.
Blaney also picked up two tires after Gragson crashed and was going to restart near the front of the field. But he left his pit too soon after his team put the tires on the right side. As his tire levers were still on the right side of his car, Blaney ran over the front air hose when leaving his pit and had to start the race again at the back of the field.
Blaney ended up finishing 22nd.
Chevy’s Bad Day
Truex was the first of four Toyota drivers to finish in the top 10 while four Ford drivers also finished in the top 10. That left only Kyle Larson in third and Dillon in 10th among the Chevy drivers ahead of the peloton.
Chevy was significantly outpaced by the other two automakers on Monday. Jones came back to finish 11th despite two cautions and Chase Elliott finished 12th as he is still off the playoff field. Elliott will likely need to earn a win in one of the six races remaining before the playoffs to secure a spot in the 16-driver field thanks to his absences for a broken leg and suspension for destroying Denny Hamlin in Charlotte.
The playoff bubble with six regular season runs remaining
The race for the final playoff spots is approaching.
So far, eleven drivers have won a race in 2023 and all are guaranteed to make the playoffs unless a winless driver wins each of the final six races of the regular season. Kevin Harvick is the leading driver without a win in the points standings and looks like a lock to make the playoffs. He is 137 points ahead of 17th in the standings.
Brad Keselowski also looks good to qualify for the playoffs. He is 108 points clear of 17th and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Chris Buescher is 97 points clear of 17th.
Things get really tight after that. Bubba Wallace is currently 15th in the standings and just two points ahead of Daniel Suarez in 17th while Michael McDowell sits 16th and last in the playoffs with one point over Suarez.
AJ Allmendinger, 18th, is currently 20 points behind McDowell while Ty Gibbs has 41 points and Bowman on 42 points after missing races with a back injury sustained in a sprint car crash earlier this year.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Kyle Larson
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Tyler Red Dick
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Bubba Wallace
10. Chasing Briscoe
11. Erik Jones
12. Chase Elliott
13. Michael McDowell
14. Alex Bowman
15. Chris Buescher
16. Daniel Suarez
17. Justin Haley
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
19. AJ Allmendinger
20. Harrison Burton
21. Todd Gilliland
22. Ryan Blaney
24. William Byron
25. Austin Cindric
26. Ty Dillon
27. Ty Gibbs
28. Ryan Preece
29. Christopher Bell
30. Ryan Newman
31. BJ McLeod
32. Noah Gragson
33. Corey The Joy
34. Aric Almirola
35. Cole Custer
36. Kyle Busch