Martin Truex Jr. an oldie but goodie with Las Vegas win


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The start of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs brought us more of what we’ve been getting in the regular season: Joe Gibbs Racing victories.

And although a lot of the discussion has been around Kyle Busch’s misfortune, rise and then run-in with a lapped driver, we’ll focus on the Gibbs driver who got to Victory Lane on Sunday night — Martin Truex Jr.

It’s the third time in the past four years Truex has tasted victory in the playoff opener. One of those years, he went on to win the championship. In the other, he didn’t finish in the top 10 in points. So just about everything’s in play here.

Also impressive is that with nine races to go in the season, Joe Gibbs Racing has matched its team record for single-season wins, with the modern era record (since 1972) in its sights. But we’ll hit that up when JGR gets a little closer to the mark.

Here are the three stats I was most impressed with for the week.

Quik-e-Martin

It was the 24th career win for Truex, but most of those have come later in his career. Twenty-one of those victories have come since Truex, now 39, turned 35.

That’s the 10th most wins between the ages of 35 and 39 in Cup Series history, just one behind Jimmie Johnson’s total, and more than notable drivers such as Tony Stewart (14) and Jeff Gordon (nine).

Truex won only three times before turning 35, and the plus-18 differential between his age 35 to 39 wins and pre-age 34 wins is tied for the third-largest differential in Cup Series history, tied with Hall-of-Famer and all-time great Cale Yarborough.

The record’s likely out of reach before Truex’s 40th birthday next June. It belongs to Bobby Isaac (plus-35), followed by Buck Baker (plus-27).

A rare pole for Clint Bowyer

Quick, who remembers what they were doing 12 years ago at this time? Chances are your memories might be a little blurry.

For Clint Bowyer, it was the last time before last week that he sat on a Cup Series pole. He also won the pole for the 2007 playoff opener, then at New Hampshire. It was a solid day for Bowyer, as he led 222 of 300 laps and won by about 6½ seconds over Jeff Gordon.

According to NASCAR’s Twitter account, that’s the second-longest span between poles in Cup Series history, trailing only Bowyer’s former car owner, Michael Waltrip, who went 456 races from 1991 at Michigan to 2005 at Pocono.

This time, it didn’t go quite as well for Bowyer as his last start from the pole, as he led just one lap and finished 25th. It’s the fifth time this season a pole sitter has led one or fewer laps, but the first time that driver also has finished 25th or worse.

To find the last time that happened before Sunday, you have to go back almost exactly one year, to last year’s playoff opener at Las Vegas, when Erik Jones finished 40th from the pole.

In fact, three of the past four Las Vegas pole sitters led one lap or fewer. Along with Bowyer and Jones, Ryan Blaney did it in last year’s spring race.

Xfinity Series youth movement

Tyler Reddick stretched his fuel and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season finale at Las Vegas, holding off a dominant 24-year-old Christopher Bell.

It was the fifth victory of the year for the 23-year-old Reddick, going along with the six for Bell and six more from 21-year-old Cole Custer. If you think that seems like a lot of wins by young drivers, you are correct.

The series, once criticized by not doing enough to develop young drivers in advance of the Cup Series, has now seen 20 of its 26 races won by drivers younger than 25 this season.

With seven races remaining, the series already has broken the record for most wins in a season by drivers younger than 25, set in 2012 and tied in 2017 with 17 wins.

However, the series is doing it with more non-Cup drivers than in recent memory. Of the 24 weekends this season with both Cup and Xfinity races, 19 have been won by drivers who didn’t run the Cup race.

Again, with races still left on the schedule, that’s still two more than last year, six more than 2017, nine more than 2016 and 11 more than in 2015.

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