KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It’s another beautiful day in the state of Kansas. The second race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has just waved the green flag.
Many storylines going into the day make for different focuses across the field. All but one Playoff driver started in the top 20 positions for the Hollywood Casino 400. Kyle Busch would start at the rear of the field and would quickly climb into the top half of the pack at Kansas Speedway.
Then disaster strikes, but not for one whom anybody could have predicted.
The regular season champion has a flat tire going into Turn 3, and with no warning whatsoever, crashes into the outside wall.
“I just blew a tire,” Truex shared after being evaluated and released from the infield care center. “I’m not really sure why, but real shame, obviously. The car was really fast in practice and in qualifying, and then I knew something was up right away. I was crazy tight, but I didn’t expect the tire to blow out. We were going to have an awesome day. I felt really good about it.”
“That’s racing, as they say.”
What was a comfortable gap in the Playoff standings has turned into a fight for survival with next weekend’s elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway. All of his race wins, stage wins and 15 point bonus have been erased. Between today and last weeks’ struggles at Darlington Raceway, Truex has one more chance to squeeze his way into the next Playoff round.
“We’ll see what we have to do when today is over,” he stated. “You never know where it’s going to end up. A bunch of guys could have problems and we could be all right again, but ultimately, I just hate it for my team, all my sponsors and all our partners. We’ve had a great year. We had an awesome car today. I really felt like we could go out and win this race and for that to happen, it just sucks.
“I mean, we don’t even get a chance. We shouldn’t have even shown up at this point; just a real punch in the gut.”
Despite all the speechless chaos, Truex hasn’t lost faith in himself or his team. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing crew has been top notch nearly all season, including a strong qualifying effort on Saturday. They are looking to carry over that momentum when it counts most.
“I’m not worried about our team. Anything can happen in these races, and today is a perfect example of that. No matter how good you are or what you do right, something like that can happen. When you know your whole season is on the line, it’s a real shame.”
Throughout the regular season, Truex averaged 34 points per race en route to the regular season title. He will leave Kansas and Darlington having just 20 points in total to his first round, at risk of elimination.