The first race of the Chase The Chicagoland Geico 400 turned into a fuel mileage win for one Chase driver and a nightmare for 4 of the other Chase drivers. Despite the fact that Chicagoland has lights and no curfew, Sunday's race was rescheduled for Monday because of the rain that just wouldn't stop. NASCAR mandated a Competition Caution at lap 30 for every one to come in and change tires, fuel and make adjustments. When NASCAR does this no fueling up is permitted before then. Tires yes but fuel is a no no.
Our Chasers started Matt Kenseth - Pole position - Kurt Busch 3rd - Ryan Newman 4th - Carl Edwards 5th - Brad Keselowski 6th - Kyle Busch 9th - Jimmie Johnson 12th - Dale Earnhardt Jr 19th - Jeff Gordon 23rd - Tony Stewart 26th - Denny Hamlin 27th - Kevin Harvick 30th.
JEFF GORDON At the Competition caution at lap 30 the issues for Jeff Gordon began. The tire changer for Jamie McMurray's team dropped a tire in front of Gordon as he entered his pit stall. If not for his being slow to enter because he wasn't sure how many tires Jamie was taking he'd have hit the tire. At lap 110 Gordon goes in on a green flag stop for 4 tires. Good thing because one of his tires is shredding. A couple more laps and disaster would've struck. As it is he's 1 lap down in 26th hunting for that lucky dog pass that will allow him a free pass to the lead lap but he has to be the first car a lap down and not be the reason for the caution. At lap 158 he's in position and at lap 164 gets his lucky dog because Jamie McMurray's motor has just gone up in smoke while in 9th. At 10 laps to go Gordon is in 15th and looking good but at the white flag with one to go the fuel runs out and he comes in at 24th - 2 laps down. Major hit in the points.
DENNY HAMLIN Starting in 27th is no picnic but he's doing well till the lap 70 debris caution. Comes in for 4 tires and fuel. Comes out complaining of a vibration. On lap 86 he's in the pits under green for 4 tires. Comes out 37th and the 7th car 1 lap down. His crew chief never seems to find the set up for the car and Hamlin struggles to a 31st at 3 laps down to end his first chase race. Major hit in the points. Maybe the death blow in his Chase hopes.
KYLE BUSCH Got 2 tires on the competition caution to come out of the pits first and lead at the restart. His brother Kurt took it from him at lap 42. Kenseth slid up into Kyle on lap 48. Didn't seem to leave any damage. A caution for debris at lap 70 saw Kyle loose 3 spots because his pit crew dropped a wrench during their stop putting him in 8th but he fights his way back up to 5th and then 3rd after green flag pit stops on lap 118. On lap 145 a caution for debris and Kyle's team has a slow pit stop putting him in 19th. Not a happy camper. Two cautions later Kyle is in 10th with 50 laps to go. With 10 laps to go he's in 8th but at the white flag his tank goes empty. He ends up 22nd at 1 lap down. He drops like a stone in the points.
MATT KENSETH Starts out in the pole position. Was in top 10 most of the day. Leading laps and having awesome pit stops. At 10 laps to go he's in 2nd and knows to try and save fuel but at the white flag he runs out. JJ Yeley pushes him a long down the back stretch and thru turns 3 & 4. He comes in 8th but NASCAR says FOUL. You may not get a push on the last lap of the race. Penalty? Kenseth is put as the first car a lap down in 21st. He too drops like a stone in the points.
JIMMIE JOHNSON Ran in the top 5 most of the day. Got to lead laps taking the lead from Keselowski who stayed out after a caution on lap 164 to get bonus points for leading. With 10 laps to go he's in 3rd but waiting for Chad to say go get 'em. The engineers and Chad feel he has enough fuel and give him the go ahead. He runs out during the last lap and comes in 10th. Great save and not too bad of a day considering how bad it could've been.
RYAN NEWMAN Was in the top 10 all day, led some laps, had great pit stops and stayed out of trouble. No banging into other drivers. With 10 laps to go he was 4th. At the last lap he ran out coming in at 8th. Not a bad day on the track or the points.
KURT BUSCH Was in or hovering around the top 10 all day. Had some bad pit stops and was doing his usual ranting about that after the last one. Guess he better shut up cause at 10 laps to go he was 11th and came in at 6th because of all the fuel tanks going empty around him. Such a waa baby. Great day on the track and in the points.
BRAD KESELOWSKI WOW!!!!! What a day for the under dog and youngest member in the Chase. Hanging in the top 20 most of the day. Did lead laps when he chose not to go in the pits with every one else. Was in 10th with 10 laps to go and came home 5th. AWESOME day on the track and in the points.
CARL EDWARDS Spent the day quietly in the top ten. Leading laps and great pit stops. At lap 10 he was 9th. Came home in 4th. Great day on the track and in the points.
DALE EARNHARDT JR This guys performance was a jaw dropper for me. His attitude has not been one of a hungry racer so I'm shocked at his coming in at 3rd. Spent most of his day close to 20th and finally worked his way to 6th with 10 laps to go. Still can't believe he came in at 3rd. Good day for him on the track and in the pits.
KEVIN HARVICK Starting out in 30th is no big deal for him. He does that quite a lot and makes a great finish out of it. Harvick was in the top 10 way before we got to 100 laps through great pit stops on the cautions. At 10 laps to go he was 5th and Gil told him he wasn't sure if they'd run out but just go for it. Stewart was way too far ahead for Harvick to catch him but he brought it home in 2nd and ran out of fuel entering pit road after the race. Shew...that was close. Keeps his spot in the points due to a great finish.
TONY STEWART Starting in 26th isn't a big deal for Stewart either. He's got loads of driving and chase experience. He too was in the top 10 before 100 laps were in where he stayed the rest of the day. Stellar pit stops and a great set up kept him there. With 10 laps to go he was 1st and saving fuel by pushing in the clutch to coast every so often. This method secured him the first win of the Sprint Cup Chase and a jump in the points.
Where our Chasers are now. Kevin Harvick 2054 no change - Tony Stewart 2047 up 7 spots - Carl Edwards 2044 up 2 spots - Kurt Busch 2043 up 3 spots - Dale Earnhardt Jr 2041 up 5 spots - Brad Keselowski 2040 up 5 spots - Ryan Newman 2040 up 1 spot - Jimmie Johnson 2038 down 2 spots - Kyle Busch 2035 down down 9 spots - Matt Kenseth 2030 down 6 spots - Jeff Gordon 2029 down 8 spots - Denny Hamlin 2013 no change.
We still have 9 races to go and ANYTHING can happen and will. NASCAR for some reason chose not to save the drivers about to run out of fuel by having a debris caution to bunch up the field and have a 3-5 lap shoot out. I love this. For once they kept their fingers out of it. For once things played out organically.
Next week it's on to Loudon New Hampshire for the Sylvanis 300. New Hampshire Speedway is a 1.058 mile track. Very little banking. There's 7 degrees of banking in the turns and 1 degree on the straight away. You can walk on this track easily. Last week I gave Jeff Gordon the win because of his average finish at Chicagoland. This week Denny Hamlin has the best average with 7.2 at New Hampshire. Johnson has 9.2 and Gordon a 11.0. Don't think this will be a fuel mileage race so I'm going with Denny Hamlin to redeem himself. But of course in my heart it's Tony. Look for more of that Brad Keselowski. He's on a roll. Harvick will be protecting the lead so don't panic if he's not in the top 10 most of the day. And Kyle Busch will most certainly be on a tear after this weeks pit road and fuel issues.
You all have a great week and I am off to see my new grandson who arrived this morning weighing in at 10 Lbs 4.7 oz. Hope there isn't too many typos as I am in a hurry......