There are two ways to advance through the NASCAR Playoffs, and Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver to do so via both.
The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won a race in the Round of 16 to move on to the Round of 12. Once there, he qualified for the Round of 8 by virtue of points.
Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin won their way into each round. Every other remaining playoff driver’s points carried them to the present.
“As you whittle the field down and there’s less cars, obviously you feel like the cream rises to the top,” Truex told NASCAR.com Wednesday. “The challenge becomes more, as there’s less cars. You feel like they’re the best teams and it’s more difficult to outrun them on average, so that’s just what it’s all about.
“You can have two bad races if you win one. But if you don’t win one, you have to be really consistent.”
The entire Round of 8 group falls within the top nine when it comes to average finish — with Truex checking in sixth at a 12.3 mark. The only outlier is Kevin Harvick (third), who was eliminated from title contention last week after the Round of 12 finale.
There are only three organizations still in the running. Joe Gibbs Racing has Truex (ranked sixth), Hamlin (second) and Kyle Busch (fifth). Team Penske also has three with Ryan Blaney (fourth), Joey Logano (seventh) and Brad Keselowski (eighth). Hendrick Motorsports finishes it off with Larson (first) and Chase Elliott (sixth). Altogether, they account for 22 of the 32 race wins so far.
There are no longer any winless drivers remaining in the postseason.
Truex’s four victories are second most overall (Larson has seven) and the highest total among his Joe Gibbs Racing companions (Busch and Hamlin each have two).
“You want teammates that are running good, you want them to be pushing you, you want to be able to push them,” Truex said. “All three of us — really, all four teams — I feel like have had a great season. It’s nice to have that competition. I feel like we compete really well together until it comes down to the final four. Then, if we make it there, it’s kind of like OK, all bets are off, we’re on our own.”
The fourth JGR pilot is Christopher Bell. He made the playoffs thanks to his first career win in the regular season, but his run ended last week.
Half of the playoff field has been eliminated, and it’ll be cut in half again after the Round of 8, which begins Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway with the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The final three-race round then continues at Kansas Speedway (Oct. 24) and concludes at Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 31). The Championship 4 will then be set for the Nov. 7 championship at Phoenix Raceway.
“The Round of 8 is always really hard to get through,” Truex said. “It’s the best of the best, three tough race tracks. We just have to execute to the best of our abilities. We know what we’re capable of: We’re capable of winning races.”