Is Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Martin Truex Jr. a shoo-in to make the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?
Maybe. He has a big enough lead that he could clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on Sunday at Texas without winning the AAA Texas 500. If a Playoff driver other than Truex or Kyle Busch takes the checkered flag, Truex can clinch with a lead of 56 points or more over the second-place non-winning Playoff driver.
If Busch or a non-Playoff driver happens to win, Truex will clinch if he holds a lead of 56 points or more over the third-place non-winning Playoff driver.
On the other hand, Truex has three DNFs (did not finish) at both Texas and Phoenix for a total of six. The other seven Playoff drivers have a combined seven DNFs at the two tracks. Though Truex is a strong bet to advance, he’ll have to avoid calamity – and that’s not a guarantee.
Interestingly, the only two Playoff drivers without a DNF at either track are last week’s Martinsville combatants, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. Hamlin has a combined 47 starts at Texas and Phoenix. Elliott’s sample size is much smaller – three starts at each track.
But if Elliott decides to get some payback for last Sunday’s wreck and has the opportunity to do so, Hamlin’s unblemished streak could end.
Elliott has the best combined average finish at the final two tracks in the Round of 8 – 6.0 at Texas and 9.7 at Phoenix, again with a small sample. The second-best combined average finish belongs to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, with 8.1 at Texas and 9.0 at Phoenix in 56 starts combined.
The driver who scored the highest number of stage points in the spring races at Texas and Phoenix is Ryan Blaney, who will start eighth in the AAA Texas 500. Blaney claimed seven stage points at Phoenix in March and won the first and second stages at Texas (worth 10 points each) in April before finishing 12th.
In five starts at Texas, however, Blaney has by far the worst average finish (27.6) but has come home 12th in each of the last two races in Fort Worth.
Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski scored the second most stage points on the initial visits to the tracks this year – 23 each.