Martin Truex Jr. has clinched the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular-season title at Darlington Raceway. The No. 78 earned the necessary points by sweeping both midrace stages Sunday at the South Carolina oval. It the first career regular season crown for the 37-year-old New Jersey native as well as his team, Furniture Row Racing, which is based out of Denver, Colorado.

Truex Jr. came out of nowhere and passed Kyle Larson at the last second to win Stage 1 and then won Stage 2 under caution after taking the lead from Denny Hamlin. Truex has a remarkable 17 stage wins to go along with his four race victories this season. The regular-season champion also gets 15 more playoff points added to his total, bringing it to 52. That is more than double second-place Kyle Busch’s 20 and third-place Kyle Larson’s 18.

Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were among playoff contenders to run into early trouble. Just five laps into the race, Blaney went hard into the wall and was forced to pit. The No. 21 missed the entrance on the way in and had to come back around. Stenhouse slammed the outside wall on lap 41 after getting loose at the exit of Turn 4. Both drivers went multiple laps down, however Blaney was able to climb his way back to the lead lap.

Playoff hopeful Clint Bowyer had to take his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to the garage early after his No. 14 suffered a broken valve. Bowyer was on the bubble heading into the race and will need to win at Richmond in order to clinch a shot at the title. Fortunately for Bowyer, he has two career wins there and an average finish of 12.87.

Rookie Daniel Suarez suffered heavy damage in Stage 2, ending his day early as well. Suarez has had a similar season to Bowyer, notching eight top-10 finished. Like the No. 14 however, Suarez will need to win at Richmond if he wants to be in the playoffs. The pressure will be on next week especially after news surfaced that Subway dropped their sponsorship of his No. 19.

Before the race, Richard Petty took his famous 1967 No. 43 Plymouth Belvedere, which won 10 consecutive races, for a spin around the track. The King had to be black flagged onto pit road as he stayed out a little longer than expected. Another No. 43 remained on the track however as Aric Almirola started 15th in a car paying tribute to Petty’s 200th career victory.

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff point totals

POSITION

DRIVER

CAR #

PLAYOFF POINTS

STAGE WINS

RACE WINS

1.

Martin Truex Jr.

78

52

17

4

2.

Kyle Busch

18

20

10

2

3.

Kyle Larson

42

18

3

3

4.

Jimmie Johnson

48

16

1

3

5.

Brad Keselowski

2

14

4

2

6.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

17

10

0

2

7.

Ryan Blaney

21

8

3

1

8.

Kevin Harvick

4

8

3

1

9.

Denny Hamlin

11

7

2

1

10.

Kurt Busch

41

5

0

1

11.

Ryan Newman

31

5

0

1

12.

Austin Dillon

3

5

0

1

13.

Kasey Kahne

5

5

0

1

14.

Matt Kenseth

20

3

3

0

15.

Chase Elliott

24

2

2

0

16.

Clint Bowyer

14

1

1

0

17.

Daniel Suarez

19

1

1

0

18.

Joey Logano

22

1

1

0


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