NASCAR: Daytona 500
Mike Dinovo / USA TODAY Sports

Martin Truex Jr. dominated the first race of the NASCAR Playoffs at Darlington only to crash out in the final 20 laps after colliding with Chase Elliott in a battle for the lead. The win wound up going to Kevin Harvick.

Harvick and Denny Hamlin have earned the lions share of the wins in NASCAR this season, but very few drivers have delivered consistent results at the level Truex has. Truex has finished in the top five in 40.7 percent of races this season while posting 17 top 10-finishes over 27 starts. 

Truex is hoping to advance to the Round of 12 by winning on Saturday night at Richmond, a feat he accomplished in the playoffs last year. The 40-year-old driver is currently seeking his second career championship in the Cup Series. 

CBS Sports caught up with Truex to discuss the playoffs, his driving style and even some NASCAR silly season free agency. Here are the highlights.

CBS Sports: Social media was buzzing after your late-race contact with Chase Elliott at Darlington. Do you ever pay attention to what people say on social media?

Truex: "I really try not to, to be honest with you...I really don't care for most of it, especially in controversial moments like that. I mean there's a lot of guys sitting at home on the couch who think they can drive the racecar and think they have a clue what exactly happens on the racetrack. It's obviously a, if you hadn't done it, you'd have no idea what the heck you're talking about. That's kind of the way I approach it." 

CBS Sports: How do you categorize your driving style as a whole?

Truex: "Aggressively clean. If that's possible. I feel like I drive my car aggressive but I don't necessarily drive people aggressive. I try to respect the other guys on the track. I try to race people the way I want to be raced and because of that I think you've seen over the years that I haven't been in many altercations. I've made a few mistakes, we all do, and I've never intentionally taken someone out for a win. I've never intentionally taken anyone out period I don't think I can remember. Maybe once in 2005 in the Busch series. So I would say I'm a clean driver. You know I drive my car aggressively but I don't race people overly aggressive. I feel like I'm fair."

CBS Sports: You've been delivering top fives almost each and every week. You have one of the best cars on the track. These tracks mostly suit your style. Of course Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have won more, but should you be the championship favorite? 

Truex: "I don't know that we're the favorite. I think it's hard to be the favorite with this format but I definitely think we belong there. I think we absolutely have what it takes to get it done especially if you look at what we've done recently, you know the top three and four finishes that we had in a streak there. We probably should have won a few of those, maybe at least two of them. We made a few hiccups here and there but we weren't really dominating races. We weren't leading a ton of laps, we weren't getting stage wins and we basically said when the playoffs start we have to find a way to reach that next level. To be able to go to Darlington and do what we did, take the last 15 laps out of it, take the finish out of it. To go there and be able to do that it really is a statement that we're here, we're serious and you're gonna have to deal with us."

CBS Sports: Do you think the win comes this weekend at Richmond?

Truex: "I mean I feel really good about it. You never know. A lot of things can happen in these races but yeah I feel very confident that we're gonna be strong and hopefully that's the case. You never know but I mean we'll see. It's been really good for us the last three or four years so hopefully we can continue that."

CBS Sports: There's some news that came out recently, Bubba Wallace is not returning to Richard Petty Motorsports. We still don't know where he'll race next season. We also have free agents out there in guys like Erik Jones and Kyle Larson. Which silly season move would you most like to see?

Truex: "I really would like to see Larson back. I think he's obviously one of the most talented drivers in any racing period and he belongs in the Cup Series with the best drivers in the world. I think he's paid his dues and I know he's done a lot of work to make things right and understand what he did to make up for that. I would love to see him come back. He's a hell of a competitor and I think he makes everybody on the track better when he's there."

CBS Sports: Do you get the sense that (Larson) will get the chance next season? 

Truex: 'My gut feeling is that he absolutely will because of his talent. There's just too many teams that can't say no to that." 

CBS Sports: You have a deer up there on the wall behind you. Do you have any good hunting stories you want to share? 

Truex: "The funniest hunting story I've ever been a part of was, this was years ago, I wanna say it was probably around the '05, '06, '07 range, somewhere in there. Me and Dale Jr, his brother Kerry, Bill Jordan, a bunch of us were on a hunt somewhere and at lunch time they had like a buck decoy. It was a decoy that was made out of real hide from a deer so it looked like a real deer. They set this thing up on this knoll and the guys came in from lunch and they all talked Kerry Earnhardt into, there's this huge buck up the road and he's not moving, he's just hanging out and we can sneak up on him and you can shoot him with your bow. Haha. They put this whole thing together with TV cameras and it was a big joke because it was a fake deer and he got so nervous. He was so excited he actually shot the deer and then when the arrow hit the deer it went whack! And the deer, it never moved obviously because it's a statue and he got so pissed he wanted to fight everybody. That was the funniest thing I ever seen in my life."

Truex is a +350 co-favorite alongside Harvick (odds via William Hill Sportsbook) to win at Richmond on Saturday night.