Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Martin Truex Jr. won the Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, on Sunday and the automatic qualification into the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs that came with it.
Truex defended his crown after winning the event last year and did so by beating out second-place finisher Chase Elliott and third-place finisher Kevin Harvick.
With Truex’s victory as the backdrop, here is a look at the updated playoff picture after the postseason’s first race.
Michelle R. Martinelli of USA Today‘s For The Win provided a comprehensive breakdown of the 2017 playoff format, which features 10 races—starting with Sunday’s—and 16 drivers.
The 16 drivers who qualified were Truex, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney, Elliott, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray with Elliott, Kenseth and McMurray qualifying based on points in the standings because they didn’t win a regular-season race.
Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway was one of three in the Round of 16 (New Hampshire and Dover). There are also three races in the Round of 12 and three races in the Round of 8 before the Championship 4 square off in Homestead-Miami in the last race. Whichever one of those four finishes first in the final race is the champion.
Drivers qualify for the next round by earning automatic qualification with a victory like Truex did Sunday or through playoff points. The four with the fewest points among those who didn’t win a race through the three races of the Round of 16, Round of 12 and Round of 8 will be eliminated.
NASCAR shared Truex cruising to the victory Sunday:
#TruexJr and @ToyotaRacing take the 🏁 in the first race of the #NASCARPlayoffs. https://t.co/VsE4SyjJDF
“This is awesome, man!” he said, per NASCAR Alerts. “This is the playoffs, this is what it’s all about.”
According to Nick Bromberg of Yahoo Sports, Truex became the first to win two straight races at Chicagoland Speedway since Harvick—who won the initial two races ever held at the track.
The victory was Truex’s fifth of the season, and he earned it in comeback fashion after falling behind early in the race following a penalty for being too fast on pit row.
He overtook Harvick heading into the stretch run and then beat him on a critical restart on Lap 215 to put himself in ideal position to dictate the remainder of the race.
While Truex won the race, Kyle Busch captured the first stage and Elliott won the second stage.
Truex also solidified his position atop the playoff standings with his dominant performance Sunday.
The full playoff standings are per NASCAR.com.
1. Martin Truex Jr. (2,102 points)
2. Kyle Larson (2,075 points)
3. Kevin Harvick (2,067 points)
4. Brad Keselowski (2,061 points)
5. Kyle Busch (2,061 points)
6. Chase Elliott (2,059 points)
7. Denny Hamlin (2,058 points)
8. Jimmie Johnson (2,046 points)
9. Matt Kenseth (2,039 points)
10. Ryan Blaney (2,034 points)
11. Jamie McMurray (2,031 points)
12. Austin Dillon (2,026 points)
13. Kurt Busch (2,026 points)
14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2,022 points)
15. Kasey Kahne (2,021 points)
16. Ryan Newman (2,019 points)
The remaining schedule for the rest of the 2017 season and playoffs can be found on NASCAR.com.
The two remaining races in the Round of 16 are the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 24, and the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway on Oct. 1.