Martin Truex Jr. won the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway as most of the NASCAR play-off drivers suffered misfortune in the Round of 12's elimination race.
Those woes began early in the race and claimed one driver after another on Sunday. Kyle Larson, who entered the race ranked third in the NASCAR standings, went out with an engine failure in the first stage, knocking him out of the play-offs.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. suffered a cut tyre and hit the wall early in the third stage. He finished 29th and was also eliminated from the play-offs.
As those drivers lamented their fate, a huge crash on lap 199 really shook up the play-off field.
The crash erupted when Erik Jones, who was running third at the time, spun in front of the field and slammed into the wall. Play-off drivers Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray were among the nine drivers involved in the crash. Kenseth's fate was sealed when his team were penalised for having too many men over the wall as they worked to repair his damaged car.
Both Kenseth and McMurray were eliminated from the play-offs.
"I really don't have a lot to say right now," a disappointed Kenseth told NBCSN after getting out of his car.
As Kenseth, McMurray, Larson and Stenhouse were knocked out of the play-offs, eight drivers advance to the Round of 8 beginning next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Truex will be joined by Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott.
Johnson's advance to the Round of 8 seemed in jeopardy much of the latter part of the race. The seven-time series champion spun through the frontstretch grass in the third stage, and a few laps later spun again and hit the wall. But he battled back for an 11th-place finish to keep his championship hopes alive.
Truex struggled through his own troubles. He was handed a penalty for a restart violation early in the race, then in the second stage had to make an unscheduled pit stop because of a loose tyre.
In the end, they were mere distractions on the way to Truex's seventh win of the season, and his 14th career victory.
"I can't believe how this day went, and that's why you never give up, because you don't know what can happen," Truex told NBCSN.
Truex and his team-mates are dedicating the victory to Jim Watson, a Furniture Row Racing crewman who died of a heart attack Saturday. He was 55.
"He was a huge part of this team. It's just tragic," Truex said. "We were racing with heavy hearts and we talked about it before the race."
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