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NASCAR results at Chicagoland: Martin Truex Jr. claims playoffs opener

NASCAR's playoffs began Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway and the race looked like a replay of the sport's regular season.

The regular season champion, Martin Truex Jr. took the lead in the third stage of the Monster Energy Cup race and was never challenged, winning the Tales of the Turtles 400.

The victory, his career-high fifth of the season, guarantees Truex a spot in the second round of the playoffs. It's his 12th career victory.

"This is awesome, man. I'm so excited," Truex told NBC Sports afterward. "This is the playoffs — this is what it's all about."

Truex didn't have a perfect day — his car had a tough time getting through tech, and he picked up a pair of penalties on pit road — but in the end, he ran away from the field in the closing stage. He led 77 laps on the day.

Not surprisingly, playoff drivers dominated the action, occupying 10 of the top 11 spots in the finishing order. Chase Elliott, still seeking his first NASCAR Cup victory, finished second, with Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounding out the top five.

But none of them had anything for Truex in the closing laps.

"I didn't have anything for Martin," Elliott said afterward. "But we had just a solid day all the way around."

When NBCSN asked Truex after the race if he'd made a statement with the victory, Truex said, "I don't really care about statements. I'm just having fun, and I'm proud of this group."

Kyle Busch led 78 of the first 80 laps to win Stage 1 of the race. Elliott came on to win the second stage.

The second race of the NASCAR playoffs comes Sept. 24 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The top 12 drivers after the first three races of the playoffs advance to the Round of 12.

A few playoff drivers dug themselves a bit of a hole in Chicago. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall and got a commitment-line violation in the first stage that dumped him back in the field. He battled back, but later got caught speeding on pit road. He finished 25th. Ryan Newman finished 23rd and Kasey Kahne was 21st.

Final order for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Chase Elliott
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kyle Larson
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Joey Logano
8. Jimmie Johnson
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Jamie McMurray
11. Ryan Blaney
12. Daniel Suarez
13. Clint Bowyer
14. Paul Menard
15. Kyle Busch
16. Austin Dillon
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
18. Danica Patrick
19. Kurt Busch
20. Landon Cassill
21. Kasey Kahne
22. Trevor Bayne
23. Ryan Newman
24. Aric Almirola
25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
26. AJ Allmendinger
27. Chris Buescher
28. Ty Dillon
29. David Ragan
30. Michael McDowell
31. Matt DiBenedetto
32. Reed Sorenson
33. Erik Jones
34. Jeffrey Earnhardt
35. Cole Whitt
36. Corey LaJoie
37. Brett Moffitt
38. Gray Gaulding
39. Timmy Hill
40. Ray Black II

NASCAR Playoffs Standings

Driver Points (Points behind)
1. Martin Truex Jr. 2,102 (N/A)
2. Kyle Larson 2,075 (-27)
3. Kevin Harvick 2,067(-35)
4. Brad Keselowski 2,061 (-41)
5. Kyle Busch 2,061 (-41
6. Chase Elliott 2,059 (-43)
7. Denny Hamlin 2,058 (-44)
8. Jimmie Johnson 2,046 (-56)
9. Matt Kenseth 2,039 (-63)
10. Ryan Blaney 2,034 (-68)
11. Jamie McMurray 2,031 (-71)
12. Austin Dillon 2,026 (-76
13. Kurt Busch 2,026 (-76)
14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2,022 (-80)
15. Kasey Kahne 2,021 (-81)
16. Ryan Newman 2,019 (-83)


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