Martin Truex Jr.'s win at Kansas Speedway on Sunday was his seventh of the season, and he has nearly twice as many wins as anyone else this year.
Truex has a comfortable lead in points heading into the Round of 8, and he's the favorite to win the Cup Series championship this season. With only four races remaining in the season, can anyone top Truex, or is it simply a foregone conclusion that the 37-year-old will win his first career championship?
Look at his dominance:
- Truex has had the fastest car this season. He drives a Toyota, which seemingly has an advantage over Ford and Chevy this year.
- He's led the most laps, and become just the 12th driver ever to lead 2,000 or more laps in a season
- He has the most stage wins
- He has a team that's completely devoted to him since Furniture Row Racing has no other drivers in the playoffs.
All signs point to Truex winning the title, but as drivers realized yesterday after Kyle Larson's engine failure in Stage 1, anything can happen in these playoff races. Larson was almost a lock to make it into the Round of 8, but the engine failure ended his day early, and it prevented him from advancing to the next round.
The good news for the rest of the field is that while Truex has a sizable advantage now, he's also never won at any of the four remaining tracks.
The four racetracks left on the schedule are Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. Truex has never won at any of those tracks, and he doesn't have as much experience as some other drivers still remaining.
Kyle Busch is Truex's biggest competitor since Busch's 18 car has been almost as fast as Truex's 78 car, and Busch also has four wins on the year. If Busch can get to the Round of 4 at Homestead, he might even be the favorite over Truex since he's won there and won a championship in the past.
Jimmie Johnson can never be counted out, though he hasn't won in a few months. But if Johnson makes it into the Round of 4, he'll have a good shot at capturing his eighth championship.
Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are still in the playoffs, and they both have championship pedigrees. While Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott don't have championships, they are certainly capable of pulling off an upset.
So, while it looks like the championship is Truex's to lose, there are still several drivers in the field with the experience and capability of winning the title. The key for Truex will be to get off to a good start at Martinsville, and a win there would take the pressure off of him for the next two weeks.
But as we all know, anything can happen in a NASCAR playoff race.