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.’’
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.