While Brad Keselowski earned a one-way ticket to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs after winning at Richmond Raceway, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano emerged with strong results on Saturday, September 12, though they missed out on the victory. By rounding out the podium results, both are in stable positions to transfer to the second round of the postseason and heading into next weekend’s first round of eliminations at Bristol Motor Speedway.
For Truex, he started in 14th place and was aiming to rebound from his late incident at Darlington Raceway last weekend that cost him an opportunity to win. By Lap 10, he was mired back in 13th place and battling with tight handling issues to his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry with no drive. He stabilized himself in 13th place when the competition caution flew on Lap 30. Following his first pit stop of the race, Truex was then able to make his way up into the top 10 as he settled in seventh place when the first stage concluded.
Moving up and restarting inside the top five for the start of the second stage, Truex started to make his way towards the front. When the race passed its Lap 100 mark, Truex made his way up to third place. He stabilized himself in third place throughout the second stage and was able to maintain the position when the stage concluded, thus collecting a bevy of stage points.
Restarting on the front row for the final stage, Truex’s strong run towards the front continued as he spent most of the time battling Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon for the lead. With approximately 40 laps remaining, Truex was able to make his way to second place. Despite his late rally, Truex was unable to close the gap between himself and Keselowski as Truex settled in second place, 1.568 seconds behind and as the highest-finishing Joe Gibbs Racing competitor on the track.
With his fourth runner-up result and 12th top-five result of the season, Truex is in fifth place in the Playoff standings and is 38 points above the top-12 cutline entering next weekend’s Round of 16 finale at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Never could really get the balance right,” Truex said on NBCSN. “It was slow on the short run early, slow on the long run late. Somewhere in between, we’d be pretty competitive but we could just never really put it all together. I was really surprised that we ran second after how it felt early in the race. I was like, ‘Oh, boy. This is gonna be a long night.’ I needed a little bit of practice time, another stab at it. Overall, solid day for our Bass Pro Toyota Camry. Thanks to everybody who helps us, who makes this possible, all the guys at the shop. It’s a good rebound week. You want to win every one of them but if we can run top two or three every week like we’ve been a while now, we’ll be where we want to be.”
For Logano, he started on the front row alongside Harvick and battled towards the front throughout the early portions of the race. He stabilized himself in second place when the competition caution flew on Lap 30. Following pit stops under the competition caution, Logano continued to run inside second place throughout the first stage. When the first stage concluded, Logano was overtaken by Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon as he finished in third place in the first stage and collected a bevy of stage points for himself.
For the start of the second stage, Logano found himself with the lead after leaders Hamlin and Dillon were penalized for speeding on pit road. Leading for the first time on Lap 85, he went on to lead 36 laps before he was locked on and was overtaken by teammate Brad Keselowski for the lead following a vicious battle. Having a competitive car throughout the stage, Logano went on to finish in fourth place in the second stage as he collected more stage points.
Restarting on the front row with 157 laps remaining and to start the final stage, Logano settled in second place as he continued to pursue teammate Keselowski for the lead. Throughout the final stage, Logano remained at the front while battling Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Martin Truex Jr. for the win. Despite having a car strong enough to run towards the front, Logano was unable to close the gap between himself and Keselowski. In the end, Logano was overtaken by Truex for the runner-up spot as Logano crossed the finish line in third place.
Settling in third place for the second consecutive weekend and for his eighth top-five result of this season, Logano is in fourth place in the Playoff standings and is 51 points above the top-12 cutline.
“It was a pretty calm race and we just kind of hung around in the top three the whole time,” Logano said. “I felt like our car was pretty good in the beginning of the race. The track kind of tightened up a little bit and we lost a little bit of speed to [Truex] and [Dillon] a little bit and also, obviously, [Keselowski], congrats to those guys. They were fast today. It just seemed like if we fixed the turn I got loose off, so it seemed like pick your poison a little bit. It just seemed like we had third to fourth-place speed in our car and we finished third with the Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. We’re doing what we have to do. We scored stage points and a top five and puts us in a pretty good spot for next weekend. I’m proud of the effort and proud of what we’ve picked up here lately since the playoffs started. We just have to keep it rolling. If we keep getting top fives we’ll get all the way to Phoenix. We just have to keep doing that.”
Truex and Logano, along with their fellow Playoff contenders, will return for the next scheduled NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 19, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.