Martin Truex Jr. gets emotional win in Kansas

Team learned crew member died night before

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in victory lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Kan. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Ed Zurga/Associated press
Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

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KANSAS CITY, Kan.— Martin Truex Jr. overcame two early mistakes to win a wild playoff elimination race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, an emotional victory in the Hollywood Casino 400 for his Furniture Row Racing team following the death of a crew member on Saturday night.

Truex had already advanced to the round of eight after winning a couple of weeks ago at Charlotte. But after starting on the pole, the season’s most dominant driver calmly overcame a restart violation and a loose tire early on to win for the seventh time this season.

Hours before the race, the Furniture Row team learned that fabricator Jim Watson had died Saturday night of a heart attack while in town for the race. He was 55.


‘‘We were racing for Jim today,’’ Truex said. ‘‘He was a heck of a guy.’’

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Kurt Busch finished second before a wave of playoff contenders headed by Ryan Blaney, whose car failed post-qualifying inspection. He quickly worked his way through the field from the 40th starting spot to finish third, easily making it within the playoff cutoff line.

Chase Elliott was fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth, both punching their tickets to the next round. Kevin Harvick finished eighth to stay alive heading to Martinsville, while Kyle Busch finished 10th and Jimmie Johnson 11th, both of them making the cutoff line as well.

Brad Keselowski finished 13th after his win last week sent him to the next round.

Kyle Larson blew his engine to spoil his chances of advancing, while a penalty on Matt Kenseth for having too many crew members ended his championship hopes.


Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also were eliminated from the playoffs.

Larson began the race 33 points on the good side of the cut line, but he was forced to watch things play out after dropping a cylinder early in the race, then hearing his engine let go entirely.

His hopes improved when Erik Jones triggered a multicar wreck on a restart with 70 laps to go, which collected McMurray and caused damage to Kenseth’s car. Kenseth thought he would be able to continue when he reached pit road, but seven crew members hopped over the wall for repairs.

NASCAR’s damaged vehicle policy limits teams to six. The penalty is an immediate parking.

‘‘I don’t know what the rules are,” Kenseth said. “It seems like we have a lot of stuff that is changed so often I can’t keep up with it. You’re not able to race anymore? I just don’t get it.’’


The result left Larson hoping that Johnson, who started the day on the bubble, would falter. But despite two early spins, he managed to come home 11th to punch his ticket to the next round.

Stenhouse and McMurray, who both needed to win to advance, were involved in wrecks that ended their hopes. Stenhouse cut a tire and hit the wall with 93 laps left, while McMurray was near the front all afternoon before getting involved in the wreck that knocked Kenseth out.

‘‘If we ever got to the lead,’’ McMurray said, ‘‘we could have led the race for a while.’’