The Cup Series regular season came to an end at Daytona International Speedway on August 28 with Austin Dillon winning his way into the playoffs. He punched his ticket while two other drivers saw their long-running streaks come to an end.
For the first time in nine years, neither Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. nor RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski will be part of the playoff field. Both have made the postseason every year since 2014 when NASCAR introduced the elimination format. They have also had multiple appearances in the championship four.
Keselowski finished fourth overall during the 2017 season while Truex won the championship for Furniture Row Racing. The Michigan native then finished second in 2020 while Chase Elliott won the championship.
Truex, for comparison, has been a perennial contender for a spot in the championship race. He finished fourth in 2015, first in 2017, second in 2018 behind Joey Logano, second in 2019 behind Kyle Busch, and second in 2021 behind Kyle Larson.
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A Wreck Ended Keselowski’s Streak at Daytona
Keselowski had a strong car during the first stage of the Coke Zero Sugar 400. He ran inside the top 10, and it appeared that he would be a factor as the race progressed. However, the situation changed on Lap 31. A multi-car incident started by Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Blaney. Keselowski was stuck on the outside lane as Bell hit Blaney before they both slammed into the wall.
The No. 6 team could not make repairs, so Keselowski’s day came to an end under the Damaged Vehicle Policy. He headed to the garage while some of the other drivers were able to continue battling for the checkered flag.
Keselowski was in a must-win situation for two reasons. The first is that his team had issues early in the 2022 Cup Series season. NASCAR announced on March 24 that RFK Racing had received L2-Level penalties for the violation of Sections 14.1 and 14.5, the modification of a single source supplied part, in the NASCAR Rule Book.
These penalties included the loss of 100 driver points and 100 owner points, as well as a $100,000 fine to crew chief Matt McCall. The loss of 100 points dropped Keselowski outside of the top 30 and forced him to fight for strong finishes during the regular season.
The second reason is the number of new winners. The 2022 season featured 15 winners heading into the Daytona weekend. Though Kurt Busch ultimately withdrew while continuing to recover from concussion-like symptoms. The number of new winners meant that there were only two spots remaining.
Truex Missed the Playoffs by Only 3 Points
The 2022 season has featured some extremely strong performances by Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 19 team. The 2017 Cup Series champion has seven stage wins, the most in the entire series. He also has 12 top-10 finishes and three top-fives in the first 26 races.
While he has achieved considerable success, Truex also has dealt with some near-misses. This includes the trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he won the pole before ultimately finishing fourth overall while teammate Christopher Bell won.
Another example is the trip to Dover Motor Speedway. Truex started 18th overall in the No. 19 Toyota, but he secured points during both Stage 1 and Stage 2. He was in position for another top-five finish late in the race, but he lost control on the final lap and hit the wall.
The replay showed the incident and revealed that another driver was involved. Truex had attempted to pass Ross Chastain, but the driver of the No. 1 moved up and blocked him. The two cars made contact before the No. 19 got loose and went into the inside wall. The officials scored Truex as the 12th-place finisher while he went and confronted Chastain on pit road.
If Truex had not hit the wall, he would have walked away with at least 40 points instead of 38. This would have been enough of a difference that Truex could have potentially taken the final spot in the playoffs instead of ending the regular season three points behind Ryan Blaney.