NASCAR: Regular season champion eliminated after disastrous playoffs

Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

NASCAR Cup Series regular season champion Martin Truex Jr. failed to finish higher than ninth place in nine playoff races.

The last two months for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. have been disastrous, but his 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship bid was kept afloat thanks to the playoff points he scored during the regular season.

Truex scored 15 playoff points by winning the regular season championship, his first since 2017 when he went on to win his first Cup Series title, and added 15 more thanks to his three victories. His six stage points brought his playoff point total to 36, which was tied for the highest entering the postseason.

During the regular season, it looked like he could win anywhere, much like 2017. But that was the furthest thing from the case during the playoffs.

In the round of 16, his best finish was 18th place at Darlington Raceway, but he survived and advanced. His round of 12 wasn’t much better, as he failed to place higher than 17th, but once again, he survived and advanced.

Truex entered the round of 8 without a top 16 finish since the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International in August, eight weekends prior.

Despite taking pole position for two of the three round of 8 races, Truex’s top finish of the round was ninth place, and that was not nearly enough to propel him to his first Championship 4 since 2021.

Just how bad have his playoffs been? When drivers are eliminated from championship contention, they are still in a battle for fifth place in the standings, with their point totals ultimately resetting to what they were to start the playoffs, plus the points they earned up until their elimination.

Following Truex’s elimination, he finds himself down in 12th place in the standings, even though his elimination didn’t happen until the round of 8. He sits 35 points and four spots behind the next closest driver eliminated in the round of 8, and the other two sit in fifth and sixth.

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The only other playoff driver whose top finish of the postseason is ninth place is JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has twice as many playoff top 10 finishes as Truex. Stenhouse sits in 16th (last) among playoff drivers in points.