Martin Truex dominates in NASCAR playoff opener

Published September 18 2017

JOLIET, Ill. — Martin Truex backed up his regular-season dominance with a victory Sunday in NASCAR's playoff opener, the Tales of the Turtles 400, at Chicagoland Speedway.

Truex solidified himself as the driver to beat over the final nine races as he chases his first Cup title. He raced to his fifth victory of the season and an automatic berth in the second round of the Monster Energy Cup NASCAR playoffs, earning more points in his bid to compete for the title in the finale at Homestead. Two races remain before the playoff field is cut to 12.

Truex had a nearly seven-second lead over Chase Elliott in the final laps, winning at Chicagoland for the second straight season.

"I don't really care a whole lot about statements. I'm just having fun," Truex said. "It's important to come here and not let the pressure get to you, and I think we did a good job with that."

Elliott was second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Truex's No. 78 Toyota needed four tries through prerace inspection before the car was cleared and later overcame an early pit-road penalty. By the end, there was no doubt the path to the championship goes through Truex.

Truex won this race last season and again seemed right at home on the 1½-mile track. Truex has wins this season on 1½-mile tracks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.

After Sunday's win, Truex got a shower of green slime, the colored goop often poured over the heads of game-show contestants and A-list celebrities. "It's a lot funner to watch people get slimed than it is to get slimed," a smiling and sticky Truex said. "But it's definitely worth it to get that after the race."

Newgarden wins first IndyCar championship

SONOMA, Calif. — Josef Newgarden won his first IndyCar championship by closing out the best year of his career as the top driver at Team Penske. Newgarden turned in a nearly flawless performance, finishing second in the Grand Prix of Sonoma to win the title by 13 points. The Tennessean, 26, is in his sixth IndyCar season. Simon Pagenaud used pit strategy to win the race by 1.0986 seconds. He opted for a four-stop strategy to Newgarden's three pit stops but made up the time by running faster laps. "I tried to get him, but I also tried not to do anything dumb for the team,'' Newgarden said. St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais, who won the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg before missing part of the season recuperating from a crash, finished 21st.

FORMULA ONE: Lewis Hamilton, starting fifth, won the Singapore Grand Prix and extended his championship lead to 28 points as title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out on the first lap. Vettel, on the pole, seemed to cause the crash that also took out Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso. Six races remain.

NHRA: Doug Kalitta won the Top Fuel final in the Countdown to the Championship-opening Carolina Nationals in Concord, N.C. He beat Richie Crampton in the final round with a 3.775-second pass at 318.39 mph. Robert Hight won in Funny Car and Tanner Gray in Pro Stock.