NASCAR’s ‘Big Three’ nearly became NASCAR’s ‘Big Two’ at Kansas

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 16: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 16, 2018 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

All season long the focus has been on NASCAR’s “Big Three”. Three drivers who won a majority of the races and were picked by many to be among the four championship contenders at Homestead.

That number almost became two Sunday at Kansas.

After finishes of 23rd and 15th in the first two races of the Round of 12, Martin Truex Jr. was in serious danger of not advancing to the next round and the chance to defend his title.

Both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were able to clinch on points during the race, but Truex spent the afternoon at the track where he swept last year’s races and finished second in the spring, struggling, and below the cutoff line to advance.

His struggles were evident when he ended up with only one out of possible 20 stage points.  But in the closing laps, Truex and his team were able to rally, and at the end of day Truex found himself with a fifth-place finish and moving onto the Round of 8.

“It was a tough day – blue–collar day for sure,” Truex said. “We worked hard and the guys never gave up on the car. They kept working on it for me and I just kept trying to get all I could out of it. The pit crew saved us today, they were unbelievable. They are probably the reason we transferred on. That’s something you need going down the stretch for a championship.

“At times it was pretty bad and not much fun. That’s part of this deal. This stuff is hard man. It shows how difficult it is to win both races here last year and run second in the spring and then come back trying to be better and struggling all day. But we still managed to get fifth.

“We struggled a little bit yesterday in practice and we thought we knew what to do to fix the problems. Clearly we didn’t because we had the same ones today, but proud of the effort of all the guys. Those last couple of runs we got our car way better and was able to hang on to it. All our guys back in Denver, I got to thank them for continuing to build great race cars and keeping their heads in the game.”

Truex left Kansas third in the Playoff point standings; behind Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Round of 8 Playoff Point Standings

1.    Kyle Busch, 4055 points

2.    Kevin Harvick, 4054

3.    Martin Truex Jr., 4038

4.    Chase Elliott, 4018

5.    Clint Bowyer, 4015

6.    Joey Logano, 4015

7.    Kurt Busch, 4015

8.    Aric Almirola, 4006

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