By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on October 22, 2017 | 8:11 P.M. EST
The next round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is set as the Round of 8 kicks off next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
The next round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is set as the Round of 8 kicks off next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Martin Truex. Jr.’s Hollywood Casino 400 win Sunday at Kansas Speedway was his second win of the second round and along with Brad Keselowski, who was victorious at Talladega Superspeedway, automatically advanced to the next round.
But six drivers solidified their spots in the playoffs after Kansas with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson also moving on.
Unfortunately for Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., their title hopes ended in Kansas.
“It just looked like the No. 77 (Erik Jones) got loose,” McMurray said after getting caught up in the day’s biggest accident and then eliminated. “I saw him and it looked like he over-corrected. And then actually, I didn’t think I was going to hit him and I didn’t have that much contact with him, but someone came through later on and got into me a little bit harder. I had a really fast car. I thought we had one of the best cars, and I felt like if we could have gotten to the lead, I could have led the race for a while. It was a good Cessna Chevy. But we’ve had two bad races in a row and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
The news was better for fellow Chevy driver Chase Elliott, who parlayed a fourth place finish into staying alive in the playoffs.
“It was a wild day for sure,” Elliott said. “We fought our balance all weekend. I know the result wasn’t terrible, but definitely feel like we could have been a lot better this weekend and just the way things worked out for us. But, our car got better as the day went along, we just didn’t have the balance on a very long run to go up and pass guys like you need to have.”
Kyle Busch came into the weekend seven points out of the playoffs but he leaves Kansas comfortably inside the cut line thanks to his first stage win and tenth place race finish.
“Fortunately, our situation today was that we had to race guys that ended up crashing out, hate it for them,” Busch explained. “I would have liked to race it heads up and that might have been a different situation, but all in all we’ll take what was given to us today and we’ll live to see another day and fight again next week going to Martinsville.”
Hamlin is a many time Martinsville winner and now has a chance to make a big splash in the opening race of round three after surviving Sunday in Kansas.
“Yeah, that’s the biggest thing we need to work on is short run speed,” Hamlin said. “If we can do that, then we could contend, but we’re heading to a mighty good race track for us next week that hopefully we’re able to capitalize.”