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NASCAR FIELD ON NOTICE AFTER START OF PLAYOFFS

NASCAR FIELD ON NOTICE AFTER START OF PLAYOFFS

The second verse is the same as the first when it comes to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the start of the playoffs.

Regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr., who dominated the first 26 races of the season, showed why it will be a tall order to knock off his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team this season following a dominating performance this past Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. With a win under his belt and adding to his coveted playoff points, the rest of the field is now on notice.

“We knew that this week was a big one,” Truex Jr. said afterward. “We wanted to come here and just run like we knew we could, not do anything out of the ordinary. Most importantly not let the pressure dictate how we raced or what we did. I think we did that.”

Truex Jr. and his team have remained dominant throughout the season, particularly on 1.5-mile tracks where four of his five wins have come. Of the nine races remaining in the playoffs, four come on 1.5-mile tracks – including the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Texas Motor Speedway.

The opportunity to focus on the championship race sits in front of Truex Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team. Having nearly perfected the 1.5-mile tracks, tallying playoff points will be his goal moving forward.

“Our approach doesn't change from what it was in the regular season,” Truex Jr. said. “We go every single week to try to win both stages and try to win the race, try to get as many of those points as we can in case we have something happen like we did last year at Talladega.”

Truex Jr.’s victory at Chicagoland Speedway set a career high for most wins in a season, with five and counting. He already established a new career high for most top-five finishes, currently with 11, breaking his previous high of eight.

Just how much of a roll has the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team been on? It has led at least one lap in 21 of the 27 races this season.

For Truex Jr., this moment has been built through hard work since his first season at Furniture Row in 2014. That season, the team finished 24th in the standings, winless and with just one top-five finish.

Since that time, the win totals have increased in each season and so has the confidence of Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn, who joined the team in 2015.

“I feel like right now we just have everything,” Truex Jr. said. “We have the right people. We have the right support. We have the right guys behind us. We have the right information coming in. We really just have it all going on for us right now, and things are clicking. We're taking advantage of it.”

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