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posted Sept. 17, 2017
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TRUEX JR. CRUISES TO FIFTH WIN
By Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter
JOLIET, IL.--Martin Truex Jr. had what it took to win Sunday's 267-lap Cup Series race.
   Speed.
   He finished 7.17-seconds ahead of the second-place driver Chase Elliott, and 9.06- seconds in front of Kevin Harvick, who finished third. It was the largest margin of victory of any race this season.
   It was Truex's fifth win of the season and it locks him into the next round of the Chase, when the field is reduced from 16 to 12 drivers.
   “It took everybody to pull this off,” Truex said. “What a win. You wish for days like this. Out of all the things that could have gone wrong, nothing did. We aren't going to let up. I know most of the other races won't be this easy, but we're keeping our heads down and pulling as hard as we can.
   “The entire team wants to win, and you better believe it.”
   Elliott won Stage Two of the race, but near the end he couldn't match the winner's speed.
   “This might have been our best race,” said Elliott. “It shows what our team is made of. We had good pit stops and overall I thought we did good.”
   Kevin Harvick's car seemed to be faster during the early and middle stages of the race. He lost the lead to Truex on lap 197, and was not able to regain it.
   “Everyone on the team was focused on this race, but we knew near the end that we didn't have the speed needed to win,” said Harvick. “ 
   Denny Hamlin was fourth, while Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10.
   Kyle Busch, winner of the First Stage could only manage a 15th-place finish. He was hit with a pit road penalty after one of his crewmembers climbed over pit wall before Busch entered his pit area. Since he pitted under green, he had to make another pass down pit road, which put him two laps down. It was too much for him to make up.
   “Oh well, we'll move on to next week,” said Busch.
   Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to struggle. He was unable to lead a lap in Sunday's race and finished 17th.
   Cup Chase field after 1 of 10: 1. Truex-2102, 2. Larson-2075, 3. Harvick-2067, 4. Keselowski-2061, 5. Kyle Busch-2061, 6. Elliott-2059, 7. Hamlin-2058, 8. Johnson-2046, 9. Kenseth-2039, 10. Blaney-2034, 11. McMurray-2031, 12. A. Dillon-2026, 13. Kurt Busch-2026, 14. Stenhouse-2022, 15. Kahne-2021, 16. Newman-2019.
   After the Dover race on October 1, the field will be reduced to the top-12 drivers. Any driver that posts a win in the next two races (New Hampshire and Dover), will automatically be guaranteed a spot in the Stage of 12.
   Results of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race held Sat., Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway. 1. Justin Allgaier, 2. Kyle Larson, 3. Elliott Sadler, 4. Daniel Hemric, 5. Austin Dillon, 6. Matt Tifft, 7. Cole Custer, 8. Ty Dillon, 9. Blake Koch, 10. Darrell Wallace Jr.
   Here are the 12 Xfinity drivers that will be vying for this year's championship: 1. Byron-2025, 2. Allgaier-2-23, 3. Sadler-2020, 4. Hemric-2009, 5. B. Poole-2006, 6. Reed-2005, 7. Clements-2005, 8. Custer-2005, 9. Koch-2005, 10. Tifft-2004, 11. Gaughan-2003, 12. Annett-2001.
   Results of the NASCAR Truck Series race held Fri., Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway. 1. Johnny Sauter, 2. Chase Briscoe, 3. Christopher Bell, 4. Ryan Truex, 5. Grant Enfinger, 6. Ben Rhodes, 7. John Nemechek, 8. Noah Gragson, 9. Kaz Grala, 10. Myatt Snider.
    The Truck Series Chase field consisting of eight drivers has been set: 1. Bell-2040, 2. Sauter-2025, 3. John Nemechek-2014, 4. Crafton-2014, 5. Briscoe-2009, 6. Cindric-2007, 7. Rhodes-2007, 8. Grala-2005.
DANICA'S OUT, WHO'S IN
   Danica Patrick announced on Facebook last week that she would not return to the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet in 2018. The reason given was no sponsor.
   “It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons,” she said. “Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way. My time driving for them, however, has come to an end due to a new sponsorship arrangement in 2018. Sponsorship plays a vital role in our sport, and I have been very fortunate over the course of my career, but this year threw us for a curve. Our amazing partners, such as Aspen Dental and Code 3, stepped up in a big way on short notice this year and I am incredibly grateful.
   “I wish SHR the best of luck with their new sponsorship and driver. Thanks for the memories. Right now, my focus is on the remainder of the 2017 season and finishing the year strong. I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future.”
   So what's next for her?
   It's unlikely that Patrick, 35, will accept a ride with a lower-level team. She told USA TODAY Sports last month she would consider racing for another team, but would not consider a part-time ride.
   A return to IndyCar racing, where she started her major-league motor sports career, seems extremely unlikely.
   Perhaps anticipating her departure from driving, Patrick has developed other ventures. Early this year, she began an athletic clothing line called Warrior by Danica Patrick, and has written a book – scheduled for release next year – on health and fitness.
   Although Patrick has not been regularly competitive, her departure from NASCAR will eliminate one large and diverse source of star power. And this comes on the heels of the sport losing four-time champion Jeff Gordon, three-time champion Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and 14-time most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is leaving at the end of this season.
   While she might not have set NASCAR racing on fire, she isn't leaving the sport as a poor girl. According to Forbes Inc., her net worth at the end of the 2016 season was in excess of $100-million dollars, which includes a $4.06-million home in Scottsdale, Arizona.
   The big question is who, if any current SHR driver will replace her. Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 SHR Chevy has been told he won't be back in 2018, because of lack of sponsorship. The team does not have any sponsors lined up for Clint Bowyer either.
   While Patrick and Busch have received their pink slips, another sponsor has signed on with SHR. Smithfield Foods announced they will abandon Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the 2017 season, and switch their name to one of the SHR cars. Aric Almirola has been the regular season driver at RPM, but it is not known if he will transfer over to SHR with Smithfield.
Weekend Racing: The Cup and Xfinity teams are at the 1.5-mile New Hampshire Speedway, while the Trucks race at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.
Sat., Sept. 23, Truck Series race 17 of 23; Starting time: 1 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Sat., Sept. 23, Xfinity Series race 27 of 33; Starting time: 8 pm ET; TV: NBCSN.
Sun. Sept. 24, Cup Series race 28 of 36; Starting time: 2 pm ET; TV: NBCSN.
   Racing Trivia Question: What state was Matt Kenseth born in?
   Last Week's Question: What year was the first race held at Chicagoland Speedway? Answer. The first race was run July 15, 2001. It was won by Kevin Harvick.
   Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR writer and author. His books may be viewed and ordered online at Amazon.com. You may contact him by e-mail at: hodges@race500.com.
Truex Jr. Cruises To Fifth Win
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