Roger Diez: Honest moment for Truex after Richmond race | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Honest moment for Truex after Richmond race

Roger Diez

Martin Truex Jr. had a bittersweet moment as he accepted the regular season champion's trophy after Saturday night's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Richmond. His car had been dominant all evening, but he ended up in the wall and finished 20th after contact with Denny Hamlin while battling for second place on a late restart. Kyle Larson went onto take his fourth checkered flag of the season, tying Truex in the win column. He's seeded second to Truex as the 16 playoff drivers gear up for the 10-race elimination for the 2017 title. Four drivers will be eliminated after each of the first three rounds, leaving the final four to run for the championship in the season finale at Homestead, which reportedly received only "cosmetic" damage from Hurricane Irma. Drivers will carry playoff points through the first three rounds, but the four championship finalists will race straight up at Homestead.

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Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs each have three drivers in the playoffs; Jimmy Johnson, Chase Elliott, and Kasey Kahne for Hendrick, and Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth for Gibbs. If you count Truex's Furniture Row operation as a Gibbs satellite team, then they have four. Chip Ganassi has both Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray in the playoffs. For Stewart-Haas, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick will be the playoff drivers. Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon will represent Richard Childress Racing. Brad Keselowski is Penske's lone playoff entry, but Penske also has Wood Brothers satellite team driver Ryan Blaney in the mix. Ricky Stenhouse is the lone Roush-Fenway playoff contender. The playoff field consists of seven Chevrolets, five Fords, and four Toyotas, an indication NASCAR has the playing field about as level as it can get.

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Starting with 53 playoff points and carrying those through the first three elimination rounds, Truex would have to have a disastrous postseason not to make it to the final. Likewise, Larson, starting with 33 extra points in hand. And with 29 playoff points, Kyle Busch is also a likely contender at Homestead. However, when it comes down to the third elimination round, points won't necessarily get you in. So we can anticipate some hard racing for wins in that round.

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Silly season is heating up in NASCAR's top series as well. Danica Patrick won't be back in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford next year, and Aric Almirola is departing the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. With two, and possibly three veterans and a couple of young guns in play, who will get those seats? Smithfield Foods is taking their sponsorship dollars from RPM to SHR, but Almirola doesn't appear to be tagging along. Kurt Busch's 2018 contract with SHR is up in the air, and we already know Kahne and Kenseth are looking for work. Bubba Wallace is said to be the front-runner for the No. 43, having done an excellent job filling in for the injured Almirola earlier this year. And Stewart-Haas is said to be eyeing young Cole Custer for the No. 10 ride. Also possibly in play is the No. 77 Furniture Row Toyota if sponsorship can be secured for 2018. Stay tuned, it's not over yet.

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In other weekend racing action, Formula One's only night race will take place in Singapore on Sunday. It will be the 10th year for the venue, and only three active drivers have won there: Fernando Alonso twice, Lewis Hamilton twice, and Sebastian Vettel four times. The latter two are locked in a tight points battle, and the race promises to be a good one.

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The Verizon IndyCar season finale is also this weekend at Sonoma. As you read this I will be there for the race, courtesy of Pirelli World Challenge team GAINSCO Racing with Bob Stallings. I'm looking forward to visiting what used to be my home track after a long absence. Next week I'll share my experiences in this space.

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