The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Martin Truex Jr. raced his way into the second round of ­NASCAR’s playoffs with a victory Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the opening round of the postseason.

The win is Truex’s series-best fifth of the season and again cemented Joe Gibbs Racing as the team to beat in this 10-race playoff series. JGR has 14 wins in its Toyotas this season through 27 races.

Truex chased down Kevin Harvick to cut into Harvick’s lead and eventually make the pass for the win — and the automatic second-round spot — on the outside with 20 laps remaining.

“I was able to hustle the car there at the end and get the lead and drive away,” Truex said. “These next two weeks are all about bonus points. This is big today to get six (points). Those are really important to get to (the finale).”

Las Vegas was a brutal opener for a handful of title contenders, including Kurt Busch, who crashed when his tire went flat and he finished last in the field.

The top 10 finishers were all playoff contenders as Truex was followed by Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, reigning series champion Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

Also Sunday:

Beckman tops Force for 1st NHRA Funny Car victory of season: MOHNTON, Pa. — Jack Beckman raced to his first Funny Car victory of the season, beating 70-year-old John Force in the Countdown-opening Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals to take the points lead. Beckman had a 3.958-second pass at 330.07 against Force at Maple Grove Raceway. Richie Crampton won in Top Fuel, Jason Line in Pro Stock, and Jerry Savoie in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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