JOLIET, Ill. (AP) -- Martin Truex Jr. backed up his regular-season dominance with a victory Sunday in NASCAR's playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.
Truex again proved he'll be the driver to beat over the final nine races as he chases his first Cup championship. Truex raced to his fifth victory of the season and earned an automatic berth in the second round of the playoffs, earning even more points in his bid to compete for the title in the finale at Homestead.
Truex had a nearly 7-second lead over Chase Elliott in the final laps and won at Chicagoland for the second straight season.
Elliott was second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.
Truex's No. 78 Chevrolet needed four tries through pre-race inspection before the car was cleared. By the end, there was no doubt the path to the NASCAR championship goes through Truex.