In the next 10 weeks NASCAR Lugnuts will follow up each race with a series called Chasing the Chasers.
The marathon day that was Chicagoland Speedway saw a delayed start to the race, five hour rain delay and exciting finish that saw the Championship standings shaken up.
Matt Kenseth-Maximum bonus points
Kenseth is the odds on favorite to win the title and who wouldn’t pick Kenseth? Five wins coming into the Chase and a stellar intermediate program, Kenseth was already going to be hard to beat. All he did on Sunday was go out there, lead laps, and pull into victory lane. He extended his points lead and sent a message to the field that the title will go through him.
Kyle Busch-Sweep No?
Busch nearly pulled off another weekend sweep in NASCAR but it just wasn’t meant to be. Later restarts hurt Busch’s attempt at history, but his solid second place effort at Chicagoland should bode well as half of the chase races are on intermediate tracks. Even though there were no brooms involved in their celebration last night they are only eight points behind teammate Kenseth.
Jimmie Johnson-It really wasn’t their fault…
All that kept a fast Johnson out of victory lane was a bad call on pit road and errant jack that took Johnson out of contention. At times he had the fastest car on the track but track position ruled supreme and Johnson was forced to settle for a fifth place finish. It was a Johnson type start to the Chase and keeps him right in the hunt for his sixth title.
Kevin Harvick-Stealth warrior
Harvick is normally the guy who runs mid pack or just outside the top 10 for much of the race and then when it counts he shows up in the top five. Harvick and his team had a strong car when it mattered and earned a top five finish to start off the Chase. It was a Harvick type run that we have all grown to expect. I think one more restart and Harvick might have been the driver in victory lane.
Carl Edwards- Need just a little more
I thought for sure Edwards would be more of a factor and after winning at Richmond the week before he carried all the momentum coming into this race. They started off strong in the eighth position and actually made a move to the front but once again this team was unable to make up any ground on restarts and they finished 11th.
Kurt Busch-The Outlaw rebounds
The elder Busch's race didn’t start out exactly as they hoped as they were running top 10 and a pit road speeding penalty dropped them off the lead lap as the rains came. Busch battled back and wound up with a solid fourth place finish. This single car team is the still out there proving they are the engine that can.
Jeff Gordon- Battle tested and ready…
Gordon and his team never make it easy on themselves it seems. They like a little battle not only with their competitors but also with forces of nature, law and gravity. Gordon ran top 10 all day and in fact had one of the best cars all night. A flat tire cost them valuable track position but a caution while leading under green flag stops saved their day. What looked like a deflating start to the Chase turned into a solid top six finish and suddenly the “Drive for five” doesn’t seem so foolish.
Ryan Newman-Hello Newman!
The two drivers that found their way into the Chase after RIR were Gordon and Newman. Newman looked like he might have a top five car but restarts and handling saw Newman finish just inside the top 10. Solid start to another driver whose Chase hopes got a second life last Monday.
Clint Bowyer-Rebel rouser
Bowyer was the center of controversy all week long. The green flag on Sunday was a welcome sight for Bowyer but the race didn’t exactly go as they hoped. Struggling with an ill handling race car, Bowyer and his team never really had a car to contend with Kenseth, Busch and Johnson but a ninth place finish on Sunday was a solid start to the Chase. Bowyer and his team might not have ever been happier to leave a racetrack than they were last night.
Kasey Kahne-Pit road problems
Kahne seemed the most frustrated post race after pit road contact forced them to play defense all night long. The track changes after the rain plus issues on pit road saw Kahne’s chances diminish quickly. Kahne said post race after finishing 12th, "I don't know, we do this (making pit stops) a lot. We do this pretty often." Once again Kahne had a fast car but not the results to show for it.
Greg Biffle- Sticking with the Bif
Biffle is attempting history himself this Chase. He is looking to be the first driver to win a title in all three of NASCAR top touring series. It didn’t exactly get off to a roaring start with his 16th place finish. They battled an ill-handling race car and engine gremlins as they race wore on. Not exactly what they had hoped at Chicago but I still wouldn’t rule out Biffle.
Joey Logano-For some first is the worst…
Logano was making his first Chase race appearance, in his first Chase after starting first and he was the first Chaser to have an issue on Sunday night. After leading laps early in the race and heading into the rain delay in a solid top 10 position Logano got back to green after the red flag and quickly experienced engine issues. He rode around for much of the second half until his engine expired. Championship hopes are on the brink and there are still nine races to go.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. –Up in smoke…
It was a rough night for Hendrick Motorsports on pit road. All four drivers experienced some issue on pit road that cost them on the race track. For Earnhardt after running top 10 much of the race contact on pit road coupled with an engine issue finds his title hopes on the brink. Consistency got this team into the Chase and now they must finish top five or better if they want a shot at the title in 2013.