One race into the Chase and fists are already flying. The incident between Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson might have been unintentional, but the results could take Harvick out of Chase contention after the first round… unless he wins within the next two weeks, of course. Then will all be forgiven?
Denny made the “spin-and-win” famous once again after bringing out the first caution. Although he didn’t lead a large number of laps (nine), pit strategy during a late-race caution gave him the track position he needed. A stout restart put Hamlin in clean air and he was able to pull away from fresh tires to win the race, securing his place in the second round. Chase drivers dominated the race taking eight of the top 10 finishing positions. Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola spoiled the party finishing seventh and 10th, respectively.
Drivers outside the top 12 after race 1:
Next up is the flat, but fast, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We’re sure to see more sparks, and perhaps fists, fly. But before drivers take to the track, see if your favorite made the top 15 in this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Power Rankings.
How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football. Our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first-place driver, 19 for second, and so on. In the end, Mike Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and… here you go!
A win at Chicago automatically advances Hamlin to the next Chase round and if it weren’t for the torn ACL he could tee it up and play 18 for the next two weekends. He gambled on worn tires to win, but take note that it was his fifth consecutive finish of sixth or better. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
First Place Votes: 3
Quite simply, Mr. Kenseth got lucky. His car was out to lunch for most of the race, yet he brought it home with a top 5. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 2
Edwards took that late-season momentum and parlayed it into a runner-up finish to JGR teammate Denny Hamlin at Chicago. In the first half of the season, you couldn’t find him around the top 10 and now he is – as expected – a legit contender in the Chase. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
It was a good afternoon for Logano. He recorded a solid finish and was not in Kevin Harvick’s cross-hairs for once… despite Jimmie Johnson’s best efforts to drag him there. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 1
Kyle and brother Kurt seemed like the drivers to beat through the early stages on Sunday, but the younger brother faded back to ninth over the final run. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch.com
It appeared the field had returned to Fontana in the Chase opener, as the elder Busch brother surrendered the lead following a late-race caution. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch.com
Keselowski is flying under the radar since he has not found his way to Victory Lane since California in March. But keep an eye for the former champ. He finished eighth at Chicago for his 10th consecutive top 10 finish. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
Ryan Newman’s car is as loud as any competitor, but like last year he quietly snatched another top finish in the Chase. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Well, we didn’t even get 300 miles into the Chase before Harvick lost his cool. Now, he has to buckle down so that he can make up the points necessary to advance. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
If Jimmie Johnson can survive Kevin Harvick’s bumping throughout the Chase, he may be poised for another championship result. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. takes legions of fans on every lap. They are ready to roar if Earnhardt runs out front on any final lap in the Chase. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Truex seems to have no luck. He was the first driver off pit road with just a few laps to go, and in position to potentially steal a win. What happens? He slips to 13th. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
Despite a strong afternoon where he led more laps than any other non-restrictor plate race combined this season, Gordon still finds himself on the edge of elimination. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
Top-10 finish at Chicago was one year too late for the 43 team after a blown engine ruined its chances of a solid finish and Chase advancement in 2015. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
Subpar performance from McMurray in his Chase debut, as he ultimately ended the day in 16th. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch.com