When the checkered flag flies in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, there very well could be just two Toyota’s left standing among the 12 eligible championship participants.
Toyota drivers have won 12 of the 28 races this season, trailing over Ford (15) in terms of victories for 2018 in the Cup Series. To have just two drivers left heading into the Round of 12 would be shocking to say the least.
But, that’s the reality that we’re in now.
Daniel Suarez didn’t make the playoffs. Erik Jones (-21) and Denny Hamlin (-29) are in the bottom two of the standings with just one race remaining in the opening round of the postseason. With where they are, they need a lot of help in order to make it into the next round. They’re likely in a win or go home scenario.
The good thing for both, they can win what should be a wild yet highly entertaining race on Sunday.
Hamlin, has just one top five finish in his last 15 starts on the year but has four top four finishes in his No. 11 Toyota in his last six road course starts. While I get that we’ve never raced on this course before, the Virginia native has been superb on road courses lately.
Jones has been actually even better more recently. The second year driver has three straight top 10 finishes including a 10th place run at Watkins Glen last year and a fifth place run this past August. Sandwiched in between there is a fifth place finish back in June at Sonoma.
Unless some drivers crash out early and don’t get any stage points, these two need a win.
Martin Truex Jr.
He has to be the favorite right? He’s led the most laps in each of the last two races, leading 96 of 272 laps in Vegas and 163 of 400 laps in Richmond. Unfortunately, despite 368 laps led in the playoffs alone, he finished third each race.
On road courses, Truex has three straight top two finishes including two of which wins. With how fast he’s been in his No. 78 Toyota lately and how good he’s been on road courses, he has to be the favorite in the race.
He’s already clinched a spot into the next round, so he has nothing to lose.