Martin Truex Jr. on NASCAR’s regular-season title: “I think it’s a huge deal for all of us, honestly” – The Denver Post

Winning NASCAR’s regular-season points championship is unquestionably a big deal, but no trophy is awarded and few will remember who won when Round 1 of the playoffs begin next month.

Still, driver Martin Truex Jr. of Denver-based Furniture Row Racing envisions a celebration when he clinches the title as early as Saturday night in Bristol, Tenn. Those sentiments are echoed by FRR general manager Joe Garone, the Colorado native who oversees what has been stock-car racing’s best team this year.

“It’s a huge deal for all of us, honestly,” Truex said in a phone interview from his North Carolina home.

“Does it guarantee getting to the final four?” Garone said of the team’s Denver race shop. “Absolutely not. But it’s certainly a position you want to be in.”

Truex, who has a series-high four victories and leads in virtually every key statistical category, carries a 129-point lead over Kyle Larson into Bristol, which is race No. 24 of the 26-race regular season. If Truex leaves Bristol with a 121-point advantage or more, he will clinch the regular season title and pocket 15 playoff bonus points to help him advance through the three rounds of the 10-race playoffs.

Truex already has a series-high 35 playoff bonus points, 18 more than anyone else. All playoff drivers will begin with 2,000 points, with each driver’s accrued bonus points tacked on. Four drivers will be eliminated in each round of the postseason, setting up a final four in Homestead, Fla., in a best-finish-takes-home-the-championship scenario.


“I hate to say this, but we’re so focused on Homestead you just kind of look straight through it,” Garone said of the regular-season championship. “It’s certainly a gauge of how the season has gone, how the team has been performing. But it’s all preparation to get to Homestead.”

Said Truex: “Being someone who can consistently win and run up front and really do what we’ve done this year, it’s been awesome. Probably a few weeks after the playoffs start it will kind of be forgotten, but it will be a huge accomplishment for our team to win the regular season. It makes me think about the old days, when there was no playoffs, and what this year could be.”

Playoff bonus points were established this year, perhaps partly because of what happened to Truex a year ago. He won two of the early playoff races but was knocked of the second round after blowing an engine at Talladega, Ala. Based on his body of work throughout the season, he deserved to be in the final four at Homestead.

“If that happens this year, we’ll have enough points to make it through the round,” Garone said. “If you end up having some real bad luck, the bonus points can carry you to a degree, for sure. So it’s huge, or it could be huge.”

FRR’s second team, the No. 77 driven by rookie Erik Jones, is 16th in the standings and needs a victory to clinch a playoff berth. Jones finished third Sunday in Michigan, his third consecutive top 10 showing.

“I’d like to be at where we are today four months ago, or three months ago, but that might be getting greedy,” Garone said of Jones and the No. 77. “I just can’t say anything negative about how that’s going, because you’re dealing with a new group of people working together, and that takes time. Doesn’t matter what sport you’re in. It takes time, and with a rookie driver, you throw that in the mix. So I look at it and think they’ve been terrific.”

League of his own

Points leader Martin Truex Jr. leads NASCAR in the following categories

Category   Rank

Wins    Four

Top-10 finishes    16

Driver points   933

Playoff bonus points   35

Stage wins    15

Stage points   312

Laps led    1,372

Miles led 1,970

Fastest laps  825