A resurgent Martin Truex Jr. secured his third win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season on Monday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Despite remaining non-committal on his NASCAR Cup Series future beyond the conclusion of the 2023 season, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. remains very committed to a resurgence this year after failing to make the playoffs — and win a race — for the first time since 2014 in 2022.
The driver of the No. 19 Toyota earned his third win of the 2023 season in Monday’s rain-postponed Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
He dominated the entirety of the 301-lap race around the four-turn, 1.058-mile (1.703-kilometer) Loudon, New Hampshire oval, winning the first two stages before going on to finally secure his first victory at the Magic Mile following several years of coming oh-so-close.
But was Martin Truex Jr. the biggest winner of Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series race?
There are 26 regular season races and 16 playoff spots. The playoff field is restricted to 16 drivers, no matter how many drivers win a regular season race, meaning that there can technically be more than 16 playoff eligible drivers when then regular season ends, in which case at least one would be left on the outside looking in.
As a result, winning once doesn’t necessarily lock a driver into the playoffs — at least not at this point in the season.
But winning twice does, so Truex was already locked into the playoffs heading into the Crayon 301. He won at Dover Motor Speedway (also in a rain-postponed Monday race) back in early May and at Sonoma Raceway (in what ironically remains the most recent race not affected by rain) back in mid-June.
The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion, whether he is a race winner or not, and the 15 drivers who finish the season ranked highest in the wins category. There can be no more than 13 multi-race winners in the regular season, so drivers can officially punch a playoff ticket by winning more than once.
The seven playoff points — two for his two stage wins and five for his race win — Truex gained on Monday certainly help his case in the playoffs.
The 60 points he scored throughout the race help also, since bonus playoff points are awarded the higher a driver finishes inside the top 10 in the regular season point standings. Truex retook the lead of the point standings in Monday’s race, putting him position for an additional five (15 as opposed to 10) playoff points when the regular season ends.
But Truex had already long secured his playoff spot. The big winners of Monday’s race were the five winless drivers who find themselves in the final five provisional playoff spots, plus the drivers fighting to break into that group.
Why? Because Truex’s win prevented another driver from jumping all of those drivers in the playoff picture as the 12th playoff eligible race winner this season, thus leaving just four spots (maximum) open for drivers to lock into the playoffs on points.
Sure, they all would have liked to win the Crayon 301 for themselves, but Truex winning was the next best thing.
With Truex’s win, there is now one less opportunity for a driver from below the cut line to bump his way into the provisional playoff picture with a win. There are just six races remaining on the regular season schedule, leaving just six opportunities for the playoff cut line to move up from where it currently is between the 16th and 17th place drivers.
By comparison, the playoff cut line finished between the third and fourth place drivers last year, and Truex, despite the fact that he finished the regular season in fourth, missed the postseason entirely, due to not having a win to his name.
The single-race winners who rank lowest in the point standings, including 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick (13th place) and JTG Daugherty Racing’s (14th), are also big winners here, since there is less of a chance that they can potentially be bumped out of the playoff picture.
There can be, at most, 17 different playoff eligible winners before the regular season ends. So they are now on the verge of mathematically securing their playoff spots.
Of the 11 playoff eligible race winners so far this season, only four have won more than once to officially solidify their playoff berths. Truex and Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch have won three races each, while Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron leads all drivers with four wins. Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson has won two.
The HighPoint.com 400 is the next race on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. It is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Pocono Raceway starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 23. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now if you have not already done so and be sure to tune in!