CONCORD, North Carolina — Alex Bowman’s grandmother Loretta is fond of saying “over the moon” for significant events.
Her grandson gave her reason to cheer by winning Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it’s a phrase that also could be used for Martin Truex Jr., winner of Sunday’s Cup race there.
Truex’s victory moved him into the third round, putting him one step from the championship race next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Also significant is that Truex scored five more playoff points, giving him 64 playoff points. Only two drivers are within 40 playoff points of Truex: Kyle Busch has 41 playoff points and Kyle Larson has 34.
That’s key because in the next round, the remaining eight title contenders will have their points reset to 4,000 and then have their playoff points added. At this point, Truex will begin the next round with 4,064 points and would have a 25-point lead on Busch, who would be the closest driver.
With two more races in this round, there are 14 playoff points available (five points for a win in each of the two races and one point for each of the four total stages).
At least one driver will advance from the third round to the championship race via points. In two of the previous three years, three drivers advanced via points because those no longer eligible for the title won races and took away those automatic spots in the championship finale. Last year, only one driver made it on points as title contenders won each of the three races in the third round.
Despite the advantage in points, Truex isn’t about to assume he can coast into the championship race if he doesn’t win in the next round.
“If three guys win that are behind us in points and somebody like Kyle Busch doesn’t have a win but has a decent consistent run and we have two or three bad races, we could be out just like that,’’ Truex told NBC Sports.
Crew chief Cole Pearn told NBC Sports: “You can never have enough protection. That last round has a history coming down to points.’’
Chase Elliott’s second-place finish Sunday marked the sixth time in his Cup career (71 races) he’s finished second. It ranks second (naturally) all-time among drivers without a Cup victory. G.C. Spencer was a runner-up seven times without scoring a win.
Elliott, though, has a way to go to match James Hylton’s record of 12 runner-ups before scoring his first career Cup victory.
Elliott is closing on his father’s mark. Bill Elliott was a runner-up eight times before he won his first Cup race.
Sean Bowman admits he nearly broke down emotionally in victory lane after his son, Alex, won Saturday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race.
It has been quite a journey for father and son, starting with the father, who was a race fan and saw his son’s fascination with cars. It led to Alex driving quarter midgets, then to midgets before moving to stock cars with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (he was rookie of the year), ARCA and then NASCAR.
“We bonded so much over racing, traveling the country together,’’ Alex Bowman told Nate Ryan in the NASCAR on NBC podcast.
So to be there when Alex won was a special moment for Sean.
“It was pretty emotional,’’ Sean Bowman told NBC Sports. “It means a lot for him to come out and run against the caliber of competition he did.’’
Other family members were at the race, including Bowman’s grandmother. She was in the stands and didn’t make it down to victory lane, but they talked shortly after his win on the phone.
Sunday was his grandmother’s birthday, so Bowman said he wished her happy birthday while standing in victory lane. No doubt, she was “over the moon’’ with that.