first_imgKANSAS CITY, Kan. – With two wins in his last three starts at Kansas Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. enters Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination race – the Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – among the favorites to win at the 1.5-mile track.Add in his position just above the cutline to advance to the Round of 8 at 18 points to the good and the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota is sitting in a good, albeit tenuous, spot in the playoff picture.RELATED: Playoff standings | Clinch scenarios for Kansas“A lot can happen,” Truex told “We are not in a great spot but +18 is about as good as you can ask for being the last one in. We’re just go race hard and see what we can do.”One of his fellow playoff drivers – Ryan Blaney – sits 22 points outside the cutline to Truex and is well aware of how strong Truex has been here of late. “The 78 is lights-out here” was Blaney’s description of Truex at Kansas when he was asked about the drivers he was around on the cutline. He expects the veteran driver to be tough to match on Sunday.Truex has been in this spot before. He was +13 and in sixth place in the standings heading into the 2016 Round of 12 elimination race at Talladega Superspeedway. The New Jersey native won the pole for that race before an engine issue 41 laps in ended his postseason.RELATED: Past playoff heartbreaks in elimination formatWith the advent of playoff points in 2017, Truex used a bushel of those stockpiled in the regular season to put himself in great playoff position entering each round. In 2018, he has accumulated 38 playoff points entering Kansas that should he advance would carry over to the Round of 8. Yet, Truex knows that guarantees nothing.“I always said that it doesn’t matter how many playoff points you have, there’s potential for things to happen out of your control,” Truex said.Last fall, Truex won this race as one of his four playoff victories — among his total of eight in the season – as he went on to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.Through the first five playoff races in 2018, the defending champ does not have a win, although he been on the cusp of a victory – even yards away from one. He led the most laps at Las Vegas and finished third. At Richmond, he led the most laps again but it was a pit road penalty after two stage wins that set him back – although he rallied back to finish third. He was leading going into the final chicane of the Charlotte Roval until contact from Jimmie Johnson sent him spinning.“We just keep getting faster it seems like,” Truex said. “I don’t know what we got to do. It’s definitely not been our lucky year. We’ve faced a lot of challenges on that front. We’ve got a great team and we’ve got speed. I’m excited to be here in Kansas and I know we can win here. Now, it’s just a matter of not focusing on where we’re at, just trying to get our job done.”last_img