Martin Truex Jr. will enter Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway 7 points out of the top-12 in the standings. With this being third contest held within the first round of the NASCAR Playoffs, the checkered flag will bring about the first set of cuts from the championship hunt. A total of four drivers will see their hopes of a title at season’s end evaporate.
Despite having won three races so far in 2023 and being the regular season champion, finishes of 18th at Darlington and 36th at Kansas have landed Truex in the 13th position in the standings and on the brink of elimination.
Besides Truex, Bubba Wallace(-19), Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(-22) and Michael McDowell(-40) find themselves on the wrong side of the cutline coming into this weekend in the hills of east Tennessee. Each of these drivers must either turn in a solid, if not winning, performance on the concrete-surfaced half-mile track or hope that someone above them in the standings suffers a near disaster.
Being only 7 points behind 12th-place Kevin Harvick and 13 points or less in arrears of Joey Logano, Christopher Bell and Chris Buescher would lead one to believe that the path for Truex to advance to the next round is a rather straightforward one. Simply score that number of points more than those drivers ahead of him either by finishing position or stage points and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will be ushered into the ‘Round of 12’.
However, that task may not be as easy as it would seem on the surface.
Of all the tracks currently in use by the NASCAR Cup Series, Bristol is Truex’s worst in terms of finishing position aside from the two super speedways of Daytona and Talladega. His average result is a mere 20.8. In 32 starts on the high-banked oval, the Mayetta, New Jersey native has never won and has managed only 2 top-five and 4 top-ten finishes. The 43-year-old driver has finished off the lead lap at ‘The Last Great Colosseum’ a total of 19 times.
Truex’s last nine starts on the concrete version of BMS have resulted in just one top-10(7th in 2021) and seven finishes outside the top-15. It would be hard to imagine gaining points on the front runners in the standings with such a result on Saturday night.
The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion and a team as solid as that of JGR can never be counted out until they are actually out. However, if Truex had a choice of where he would like to race when facing elimination, it likely would not be at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
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