Kasey Kahne

Martin Truex Jr. wins at Kansas; Kenseth, Larson, McMurray, Stenhouse Jr. eliminated

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Given he already was locked into the upcoming Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Martin Truex Jr. had nothing to lose in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 — so he went out and won his third race of the playoffs (Chicago, Charlotte and Kansas) and seventh race of the season.

Truex led a total of 91 laps — including the last 57 laps — to capture the win at Kansas Speedway, his second win there this season and an uncanny sixth win on a 1.5-mile track in 2017, a new single season NASCAR record by a driver. His seventh win was on the road course at Watkins Glen.

Truex’s seven wins are the most in a season by a driver since Matt Kenseth won seven in 2013. And Truex still has four more races — including 1.5-mile races at Texas and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway — to add to his wins total.

Truex has now doubled the number of wins he had coming into this season, from seven to 14 now.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, who was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Sunday’s race was the cut-off race for the Round of 12. The four drivers that were eliminated from advancing to the Round of 8 semifinal round were Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson.

Those advancing to the Round of 8 are Truex, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

Following the first two stages, among incidents in the 167 laps of the final stage:

* Jimmie Johnson spun coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 187. He tore up a good chunk of the frontstretch grass but did not hit any other cars. He brought his car to pit road to fix some damage to the hood, strapped on four new tires and fuel and returned to the track. Shortly after the restart on Lap 192, Johnson spun again, clipping the Turn 3 wall and flatspotted all four of his tires.

* A big wreck on the restart on Lap 197 involved a number of cars, including playoff contenders Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray. The incident brought out a red flag race stoppage. The wreck occurred when Erik Jones got loose, turned right and head-on into the wall, and collected a number of other drivers including Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

* Kenseth suffered a huge penalty on the ensuing pit stop. Because he had seven crew men over the wall, violating the damaged vehicle policy, NASCAR ruled Kenseth was out of the race. As a result, he will not advance to the Round of 8 and has been eliminated from the playoffs in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

* As for McMurray, his car could not be repaired and his championship hopes are done. “We just unfortunately had two bad races in a row and couldn’t do nothing about it,” McMurray told NBCSN. “You race all day to the end and we didn’t make it today.”

MORE: Stats, results for Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. remains at top of heap as NASCAR Cup playoffs advance to Round of 8

STAGE WINNERS: Kyle Busch won Stage 1, Denny Hamlin won Stage 2.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Runner-up Kurt Busch had his best outing of the season since winning the season-opening Daytona 500. … Sixth-place finisher Chris Buescher tied for his best finish of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Larson came into the race third in the standings, 29 points above the cut-off line. Unfortunately, his engine blew up – the first time in his career with Chip Ganassi Racing – on Lap 74, and he was eliminated from advancing to the Round of 8. … Matt Kenseth was eliminated from the race and advancing in the playoffs when seven crew men went over the walls on a pit stop, violating NASCAR’s damaged vehicle policy.

NOTABLE: When Truex climbed out of his car, he looked up to the sky and then paid tribute to Furniture Row Racing crew member Jim Watson, who died Saturday night in a local Kansas City hospital from a heart attack at the age of 55: “We were racing with heavy hearts and just wanted to do good for him and know he’d love to be celebrating here with us today.”

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I can’t believe how this day went. That’s why you never give up, because you never know what can happen.” – Race winner Martin Truex Jr., who overcame the death of a team member, as well as a restart penalty and a vibration in the race, to win Sunday.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sunday, Oct. 29, First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray eliminated from race after massive Lap 198 crash

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Matt Kenseth and fellow playoff driver Jamie McMurray were involved in a 14-car crash on Lap 198 of the elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The crash began when Erik Jones got loose, spun and began collecting cars.

The crash caused a red flag.

Kenseth was ruled out of the race after too many crew members went over the wall to repair his No. 20 Toyota. That effectively eliminates the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the championship. McMurray is also eliminated from contention.

“I don’t know what any of the rules are,” Kenseth told NBCSN. “It seems like we’ve got a lot of stuff that kind of gets changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins, from putting lug nuts on out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it to be honest with you. I really don’t have a lot good to say right now. I’m more than disappointed.”

The crash involved Jones, Kenseth, McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski.

Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliffe, blamed the mistake on miscommunication and simply not counting the number of crew members who were over the wall.

“We missed a head count there. It’s a shame that that’s a rule that takes competitors out of an opportunity for the championship,” Ratcliffe said. “Somebody just missed the call there or I didn’t communicate properly. Typically it boils down to communication and I think that’s what happened there.”

Said McMurray: “I was really looking forward to just getting to the end of the race. Like I said earlier, we just needed the pit stops to go our way or the strategy to get shook up, and it was kind of happening right there. You just hope that you’re going to be on the right end of the strategy. And then if the race would have gone long, we had one of the best cars on the long runs. But, you just don’t know. You race all day to the end, and we just didn’t make it today.”

Martin Truex Jr., Sherry Pollex receive National Motorsports Press Association Spirit Award

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Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. and long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex have been voted the third quarter winners of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Pocono Spirit Award.

The Spirit Award recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports.

The couple was nominated for their “Drive for Teal & Gold” campaign to raise awareness and funds for ovarian and childhood cancer. They received 45 percent of the vote. Also receiving votes were the NASCAR Foundation, Joey Logano and nominated as a group were Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

In its second year, Truex and Pollex’s campaign included 29 NASCAR drivers participating by using custom teal and gold steering wheels produced by Max Papis Innovations (MPI) and driving gloves. The autographed steering wheels and gloves were auctioned off at the end of September.

Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014 and was in remission by early 2016. But she underwent a procedure for a recurrence last July. Pollex was not present for Truex’s win at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago as she recovered from a chemotherapy session.

Artist Sam Bass and The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America won the Spirit Award earlier this year.

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Leavine Family Racing makes crew chief change

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Leavine Family Racing announced Monday that Todd Parrott is no longer crew chief. Jon Leonard will be the interim crew chief for Michael McDowell.

Parrott took on crew chief duties with the team in Oct. 2016.

In its statement, Leavine Family Racing said that Parrott had been “relieved of crew chief duties for the remainder of the 2017 season effective immediately. After careful consideration and numerous discussions regarding the position of crew chief, we have decided to go in a different direction.”

Kasey Kahne will drive for the team next season. No crew chief for Kahne has been named.

Brad Keselowski wins Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

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Brad Keselowski survived three major wrecks in the final 16 laps to win the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and advance to the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Keselowski passed Ryan Newman on the final turn of the last lap to secure the win.

The Team Penske driver beat Newman, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola to the finish line.

“I survived,” Keselowski told NBC. “What a special day. We haven’t been as good a we want to be on the mile-and-a-halfs, so we knew we needed to come to Talladega and get it done. This is a great track for us and one we really enjoy coming to. It’s great to get a win here. No. 5. I never thought I would win at all at Talladega, but five times. Oh my gosh.”

The win was Keselowski’s third at Talladega since 2014, his fifth overall at the 2.66-mile track, and it came in his 300th Cup start.

Keselowski took his No. 2 Ford to victory lane despite having radio problems in the middle of the race that hampered communication with his team.

“You’ve got to have a little bit of luck in these races and you’ve got to be able to execute at the end,” Keselowski said.

Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh in his last Cup start at the speedway.

The paint scheme on Keselowski’s car was a tribute to Earnhardt. It was based on Keselowski’s paint scheme when he won his first two Xfinity races for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Earnhardt.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: The 13 cars that finished on the lead lap. … Ryan Newman’s second-place finish is his best result in 32 Talladega starts, … Gray Gaulding finished a career-best ninth in his 26th start. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished in the top 10 in two of the last three races. They are his only top 10s in the last 15 races. … Joey Logano finished fourth despite suffering major damage in one of the three major wrecks late in the race.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Jamie McMurray was eliminated after a multi-car crash on Lap 26 as he and other Chevrolet drivers attempted to enter pit road. He finished 37th. …. Clint Bowyer finished 35th after being involved in a multi-car wreck on a restart with 33 to go …. Playoff contenders Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were in a 17-car wreck with 16 laps to go. Kenseth and Harvick continued, but Harvick was eliminated in another wreck with 10 to go along with playoff contender Ryan Blaney and Danica Patrick. … Johnson was ruled out of the race by NASCAR for his team working on his car under the first red flag. He finished 24th … A third red flag was issued with five laps to go for a wreck with Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher and Kasey Kahne.

NOTABLE: Keselowski is the seventh driver to win in his 300th start … Team Penske has won four of the last five Talladega races. … The 17-car wreck with 16 laps to go brought out the red flag, which lasted 12 minutes and 30 seconds … The multi-car wreck with 10 laps to go caused a five minute and 45 second red flag. … The third red flag with five laps to go lasted 17 minutes and 14 seconds.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m glad I don’t have to do that again.” – Brad Keselowski after surviving three major wrecks and radio issues to win.

WHAT’S NEXT: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Oct. 22 on NBCSN.