This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.
Joe Gibbs Racing put another driver safely into the next round of playoffs as Martin Truex Jr. had too much for the rest of the field in a relatively clean Saturday-night race at Richmond. The win was his fourth of the season and ensures that he can relax this coming week at Bristol as the final 12 championship contenders will be solidified. Teammate Denny Hamlin had the helm early in the race, leading the most laps, and Christopher Bell rounded out the top three as the Toyota teammates flexed their muscle. Kyle Busch also got the result he needed after a rough Darlington race, but has yet to be assured of advancing in the championship fight. Michael McDowell, William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Kurt Busch will enter the third and final race of the round of 16 below the cutline, but less than 20 points separate Chase Elliott in seventh to Kurt Busch in 13th. Bristol is set up to be a thriller of an elimination race.
This week's visit to the high-banked bullring will be the first this season on the normal surface. Joey Logano won at the venue early in the season on the dirt. The Ford-powered machines of Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick took victories at the track last season.
Martin Truex Jr. – A penalty at the start of the race wasn't enough to keep Truex from Victory Lane Saturday. He missed out on a chance to fight for the win two weeks