Martin Truex Jr. wins at Chicago for second-straight time

Martin Truex Jr., drives during the NASCAR Cup auto race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Martin Truex Jr. has automatically advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

Truex pulled away after a restart with 52 laps to go and beat Chase Elliott by over six seconds to get his second-straight win at Chicago and get an automatic berth in the next round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

Kevin Harvick finished third and Denny Hamlin was fourth. Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.

[Full results from Chicago]

Truex is the first driver to win consecutive races at Chicago since Harvick won the first two races at the track in 2001 and 2002.

He got a pit-road speeding penalty on the first pit stops of the day on lap 40. But Truex’s car was so fast that he stayed on the lead lap after his pass-through penalty and was quickly back in the top 10. He stayed there the rest of the race.

The win also means Truex has five more points to use once the second round of the playoffs begin. Truex entered NASCAR’s playoffs with 53 bonus points and will have at least 58 when the second round begins at Charlotte on Oct. 7. The bonus point total is staggering.

25 of those potential 58 points have come via wins. The victory is Truex’s fifth of the season and his fourth on a track 1.5-miles long. That success — along with the bonus points, of course — is a good reason why he’s the championship favorite. Four of the remaining nine races are on 1.5-mile tracks, including the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

OK, Truex will have 58 if his car passes inspection. We bring that up because Truex’s car failed inspection after winning the race a year ago. But as Jimmie Johnson’s car also failed inspection, Truex wasn’t penalized. NASCAR’s penalty system in place at the time was simply a points penalty. And with Truex having won the race and automatically advanced to the second round, a points penalty was pointless.

Kyle Busch won the first stage of the race and probably had one of the fastest cars throughout the entire race. But pit stop miscues after the first stage ruined his race.

Shortly after the second stage began, Busch reported a loose wheel. As he came down pit road for the team to change his tires and tighten the wheels fully this time, his gas man was sitting on the wall without a gas can and his feet were in Busch’s pit stall. That meant Busch’s team was assessed a pit road penalty for a crew member jumping over the wall too early.

The penalty meant Busch had to serve a pass-through and he ended up two laps down. Busch ended up getting the laps back and finished 15th.

Busch’s day is also a good example of NASCAR’s new points system. After entering the race 24 points ahead of 13th place in the standings, Busch is 35 points ahead of 13th even after finishing outside the top 10. He can credit that to the 10 points he earned for winning stage one.

Here’s how the playoff standings look with two races to go in the first round. The top 12 drivers advance to the second round of the playoffs.

1. Martin Truex Jr., 2,102 points (Chicago win) [5 bonus points for next round]
2. Kyle Larson, 2,075
3. Kevin Harvick, 2,067
4. Kyle Busch, 2,061 [1 bonus point for next round]
5. Brad Keselowski, 2,061
6. Chase Elliott, 2,059 [1 bonus point for next round]
7. Denny Hamlin, 2,058
8. Jimmie Johnson, 2,046
9. Matt Kenseth, 2,039
10. Ryan Blaney, 2,034
11. Jamie McMurray, 2,031
12. Kurt Busch, 2,026
13. Austin Dillon, 2,026
14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2,022
15. Kasey Kahne, 2,021
16. Ryan Newman, 2,019

– – – – – – –

Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!