DARLINGTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 01: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, speaks with Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 BassProShops/TrackerBoats40thAnv Toyota, in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 1, 2017 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Top NASCAR driver thinks the stage format provides a 'safety net' for drivers in the playoffs

Martin Truex Jr. was sitting pretty in the standings even before his win at Chicagoland. The win may have punched his ticket into the next round, but the new points rules and stage racing format made sure he had what he described as a "safety net."

"It's kind of like the regular season," Truex Jr. said via Autosport.com. "Once you win that race, you're locked in, but that doesn't stop you from trying to go win again because of the bonus points. On top of that this year, with the bonus points available, stage wins, all that, as far as I know all the bonus points we gain in this round, they go to our total so we get them next round as well. You want to get as many of those as you can just for a safety net."

Truex Jr.'s domination during the regular season meant he had a big lead in playoff points going into the postseason races, meaning he had a leg up on the competition even before the first green flag.

Related: Two drivers have combined for more stage wins than the rest of the field combined

That cushion does not mean that Truex Jr. will be playing it safe however.

"From our standpoint, our approach doesn't change from what it was in the regular season," He said. "We go every single week to try to win both stages and try to win the race, try to get as many of those points as we can in case we have something happen like we did last year at Talladega."

Being eliminated at Talladega because of an engine failure last year is an obvious motivation for Truex to build up that safety net as much as possible. The biggest thing he has going for him this year that he didn't in years past is his consistency.


"Without a doubt, this is the best position I've ever been in," Truex Jr. said. "We've been in this position the last two years really. Last year we had the speed that we have now but I feel like we didn't have it as consistently. Two years ago we didn't have the speed, we just executed well. So now I feel like we've got all of that put together this year, where we're very consistent."

Truex Jr. currently has a 27 point lead over Kyle Larson in second place as well as being guaranteed to move to the next round by way of his playoff-opening win. Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch round out the top five.