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2017 Season in Review: Martin Truex Jr.

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Martin Truex Jr.

CREW CHIEF: Cole Pearn

TEAM: Furniture Row Racing

POINTS: 1st

WINS: 8 (career-best; previous high was four in 2016)

LAPS LED:  2,253 (career-best and series-best; previous high was 1,809 in 2016)

TOP 5s: 19 (career-best; previous high was eight in 2015-16)

TOP 10s: 26 (career-best; previous high was 22 in 2015)

POLES: 3 (New Hampshire I, Dover II, Kansas II)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Truex dominated the Cup Series from start to finish. He led the series in wins, top fives, top 10s, laps led and stage wins (19) … Truex set the record for wins at 1.5-mile track in a season with seven. His only win at a different type of track was Watkins Glen … His points total allowed him to advance to the Championship 4 after the second race in the third round of the playoffs. The third round was the only one Truex didn’t earn a win in … Truex clinched the title with his win in the championship race, where he led the final 51 laps to beat out Kyle Busch.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Truex earned six DNFs, including five for wrecks and one engine failure (Sonoma) … Truex missed out on consecutive wins at Darlington and Richmond to close out the regular season. At Darlington, he cut a tire and hit the wall while leading with three laps to go at Darlington. At Richmond, a late caution allowed Kyle Larson to assume the lead on an overtime restart. Denny Hamlin made contact with Truex entering Turn 1 on the last lap, sending Truex into the wall. … Crashed out of three of the four restrictor-plate races … At Indianapolis, Truex crashed out on a Lap 111 restart with Kyle Busch while they were racing for the lead.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Furniture Row Racing returns to a single-car operation with the departure of Erik Jones for Joe Gibbs Racing. Truex returns for his fifth season with the team coming off the best campaign of his 12-year Cup career.

2017 Truck Series Season in Review: Christopher Bell

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Christopher Bell

CREW CHIEF: Ryan Fugle

TEAM: Kyle Busch Motorsports

POINTS: 1st

WINS: 5 (career-best and series-high)

LAPS LED: 875 (career-best)

TOP 5s: 15 (career-best)

TOP 10s: 21 (career-best)

POLES: 5

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Won from the pole once, at Atlanta … Captured his championship by finishing second at Homestead-Miami Speedway … Earned his way into the championship race for the second year in a row. Made it despite his only playoff win coming in the opener at New Hampshire … Earned eight stage wins.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Earned just two DNFs, for a crash (Dover) and an engine failure (Bowmanville) … A dirt racing veteran, Bell was the favorite to win at Eldora before he was involved in a Lap 36 crash. He finished ninth. … Went without a stage win in six-straight races at one point.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Bell makes the move to the Xfinity Series, where he’ll race the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Bell already has one Xfinity win. He won at Kansas in October in one of his eight series starts this season.

2017 Season in Review: Kyle Busch

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Kyle Busch

CREW CHIEF: Adam Stevens

TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing

POINTS: Second

WINS: Five (Pocono 2, Bristol 2, Loudon 2, Dover 2, Martinsville 2)

LAPS LED: 2,023

TOP 5s: 14

TOP 10s: 22

POLES: 8 (Dover 1, Pocono 1, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Pocono 2, Watkins Glen, Chicago, Loudon 2)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Busch was the winningest and most successful driver in the JGR camp in 2017. Had Martin Truex Jr. not won the season finale at Miami, Busch could have been anointed champ, given he finished second in the race and championship battle. … Busch’s 8 poles was a single-season high for him (previous high was 3 in both 2013 and 2014). … With his eight poles, Busch had the best single-season starting average of his career (7.2). … Overall, Busch has finished 1st through 4th in the final standings four of the last five seasons: 4th (2013), 10th (2014), first (2015), third (2016) and second (2017).

WHAT WENT WRONG: Try as he may, Busch just couldn’t overtake Truex for the championship. As much of a cliché as it sounds, every time Busch had a chance to draw even with Truex, the driver of the No. 78 was able to hold him off. Still, it’s nothing to be ashamed of to finish second in the championship battle. … It took a while for Busch to get going in the season, struggling to finishes of 38th (Daytona), 16th (Atlanta) and 22nd (Las Vegas).

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Busch is at his best when he loses an important race by a close margin. Expect him to come back in 2018 and prove he’s a more dominant driver than Truex and potentially will go on to win his second Cup championship since earing his first crown in 2015.

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2017 Xfinity Season in Review: Justin Allgaier

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Justin Allgaier

CREW CHIEF: Jason Burdett

TEAM: JR Motorsports

POINTS: 3rd in Xfinity Series

WINS: 2 (Phoenix 1, Chicago)

LAPS LED: 495

TOP 5s: 10

TOP 10s: 17

POLES:  (Charlotte 1)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Allgaier earned the most wins (two) in a single season in his Xfinity career. … After leading just 34 laps in 2016, Allgaier also led a single season high of 495 laps (his previous best was 222 laps led in 2010). … While he had a good chance to win the championship, Allgaier finished third for the second consecutive season. He has never finished lower than sixth in his seven full-time Xfinity seasons to date.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Very little went wrong for Allgaier in 2017. However, there were a few points to note. First, he earned 17 top-10 finishes in 33 races, 10 top-10 showings less than the 27 he had in 2016. … He couldn’t finish higher than 12th in the championship deciding race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as JR Motorsports teammates William Byron (won the championship) and Elliott Sadler (finished second) ended up ahead of Allgaier in the final standings.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Allgaier is one of the most consistent drivers in the Xfinity Series. He’s carved out a very comfortable home in the series, but he still hasn’t been able to finish higher than third in a season. With William Byron promoted to NASCAR Cup, 2018 may be Allgaier’s best shot at an Xfinity championship.

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2017 Season in Review: Denny Hamlin

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Denny Hamlin

CREW CHIEF: Mike Wheeler

TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing

POINTS: Sixth

WINS: 2 (Loudon 1, Darlington)

LAPS LED: 710

TOP 5s: 15

TOP 10s: 22

POLES: 2 (Charlotte 2, Homestead-Miami)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Hamlin had a strong second half of the season. He made the playoffs and looked like a potential Championship 4 contender. … With his win at Darlington and fifth-place finish at Richmond 2, he went into the playoffs with strong momentum. … Tied previous bests for most top-fives (15) and most top-10s (22) in a single season.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Hamlin struggled too much in the first half of the season, including four finishes of 20th or worse in the first 11 races, and just one top-five and three 4 top-10s in that time. … But what really sank him was his 35th-place finish in the next-to-last playoff race at Phoenix (due to a crash). Had it not been for that wreck, Hamlin potentially could have reached the Championship 4, but didn’t.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Hamlin is a perennial favorite to be a championship contender. Yet he still hasn’t won his first Cup crown. He’s finished sixth the last two seasons and has four top-5 season finishes and seven finishes from sixth through 10th in 12 full-time seasons. At 37 years old, he only has a limited number of years left in his driving career. Will he ever get that elusive first championship? Time is running out. He has to elevate his game in 2018, lest he’ll likely be relegated to yet another good – but not great – season.

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