A year ago, following the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. found himself at a crossroads.
The winless 2017 circuit champion failed to qualify for the playoffs. Rumors swirled he was going to retire. Fans wondered if he was washed up.
What a difference this season turned out to be. At the end of the second stage of Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, Truex, who rebounded with three wins, clinched the drivers’ regular-season title. And he recently announced he would return to pilot the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2024.
Entering Sunday’s playoff opener at Darlington Raceway, Truex on Monday earned DraftKings Sportsbook’s best odds to win the Cup championship (+400).
William Byron and Kyle Larson, the 2021 series champ, held the second-best odds at +550 and Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were third at +600.
See the full 16-driver list below.
For added perspective… Martin Truex Jr. won the regular season championship after missing the playoffs last year.
Chase Elliott missed the playoffs after winning the regular season championship last year. pic.twitter.com/eRGn9j28cb
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 27, 2023
Chase Elliott Blocked Out Of Postseason By Fords
In overtime of Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet was held up by a blockade of Fords.
Following Ryan Preece’s dramatic barrel-roll crash at Daytona, Elliott restarted on Lap 162 behind Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola and Joey Logano. The 2020 series champion missed seven races earlier this season and needed a win to qualify for the playoffs. But he never had a chance at the end.
With Harvick at the bottom, Logano on the outside and Almirola blocking the middle, Elliott missed out on postseason action for the first time in his Cup career as Chris Buescher claimed his third checkered flag over the circuit’s past five events. He received a final push to Victory Lane by RFK Racing co-owner and teammate Brad Keselowski, who latched onto Buescher’s bumper in OT and propelled him to the front of the pack. From there, he cruised to his fifth career win.
“That’s as much Brad’s win as ours right there,” Buescher said, as reported by NASCAR.com. “(But) that was the right help, aggressive, sticking with us. (But) I was waiting for him to do something there coming to the finish. Just so thankful for Brad for all those pushes at the right time.”
RFK’s 1-2 finish was the garage’s first since Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. accomplished the feat at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2014.
Elliott just missed out.
“Yeah, I really liked where we were before the caution (for Preece’s accident),” he said. “I couldn’t stay locked onto Kevin like I needed to to surge the bottom lane forward. Yeah, it’s a bummer, for sure.”
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 28, 2023
NASCAR Cup Series Championship Driver Odds
Here is an early look at the championship odds for the 16 drivers who qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook:
|Driver||NASCAR Cup Series Championship Odds||Play|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+400|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||+10000|
*Odds current at time of publication
— Darlington Raceway (@TooToughToTame) August 27, 2023