Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. in the running for the playoffs

There will be a battle within the biggest battle in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (2:30 PM ET on NBC).

Entering the 200-mile race on Indy’s 2.4-mile road course, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. occupy fifteenth and sixteenth positions on the potential Cup Series playoff list. Fourteen drivers earned playoff places by winning races; Blaney and Truex currently qualify on points.

With five races remaining in the regular season, it is possible that a new winner (or more than one) could join the list by reaching the victory lane. If not, Blaney, Truex and the drivers just below the dividing line (currently Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola) will shoot to qualify for points.

Blaney and Truex have had disappointing seasons. Blaney had seven top five finishes but none of the top two. Truex did not reach the top three. The only top five of him are a couple of quarters and a fifth.

OTHER: starting lineup of the Indianapolis Cup

Truex, 16th in the standings, gained over Blaney last week and starts Sunday’s race 22 points behind the Ford driver. Truex is 83 points ahead of Harvick, the first driver off the playoff list.

“Obviously, that’s not where we want to be,” Truex told NBC Sports Saturday. “We would love to have a win by now and feel we should have, but it was just one of those seasons where when we have good enough cars to win, we haven’t done all the other things well. We also had some bad luck. But this is part of racing.

“We just have to take advantage of opportunities when we have them and we haven’t been able to. (Sunday is) it will be a tough day, but we will fight each other and try to get the best out of what we can. “

Truex was not happy with his qualifying run. He will start on the 25th. Blaney was in the last qualifying session on Saturday and will start sixth.

“Our race with Martin – he bridged the gap pretty well,” said Blaney. “The simplest but hardest thing to do is win, and I could stop talking about it, but we’ve been trying all year. Hopefully, we can do it and not have to worry, but you just have to be in the back of your head to realize you’re still doing a points race with Martin – and we are. … You don’t want to be on the bubble if there are no new winners, and of course you want to try to win the race, so it’s a balancing act, especially the two road routes we have. “

The pit strategy could decide which teams to reach the playoffs, and sometimes there is a bet between the race for victory and safe play to rack up more points.

“Do the pit? Do you take the stage points to try to keep a good gap from (Truex), or if you think your car can win, do you try pedaling up to the lead? Blaney said, “So, it’s kind of a situation, it seems to me. We talk about all of these scenarios during the week and in our pre-race meetings, but at the end of the day the main focus is on trying to win the race and doing everything possible to make it happen.

“At the end of the day, it’s the call (from crew chief Jonathan Hassler) and the one he thinks is the best, but he trusts me enough even where I have input. If I think: “Hey, I don’t know if we can win this race, let’s maybe try to get all the possible stage points.” He trusts me and I trust him. A lot of these discussions are during the race about what’s going on right now, but you make all these plans during the week – him, me and our engineers – about what we’re basic thinking, and then you can tweak the plans out of that.

Truex, who won the Cup championship in 2017, got tired of answering the “When will you win?” request.

“We try to win every week,” he said. “And you know, if you can’t win the race, if you can run second, third or fourth, you do. You try to always maximize your day. This is just what we do. This is what you need to do in professional sport. So yeah, hell, I’d like to win a race. I would like to win (Sunday). And hopefully you can, but worrying about it doesn’t make it happen.

“You know, we just have to do our job. We need to be smarter about the things we do and make decisions. And we must be perfect: perform. So no mistakes and I have to do my job. And we all have to do our job, in the best possible way. And hopefully it’s good enough to win before the playoffs ”.

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