Who’s in the headline – Martin Truex, Jr. overcame a tire issue under green flag conditions to put himself in position to make a run at the race win. A late-race caution and a strong pit stop resulted in Truex restarting outside the second row. An aggressive move to the outside allowed him to clear the cars who stayed out on old tires and take the victory in round one of the Chase.
What happened – Kyle Busch started on the pole due to qualifying being rained out. He led the first 21 laps before Truex grabbed the point for the first time of the day with an on-track pass for the lead. Jimmie Johnson was first off pit road under the first caution of the day and dominated the race for the next 124 laps, leading 118 of them. A speeding penalty resulted in a pass through for Johnson that ended his hopes of winning the race.
Chase Elliott led 74 of the next 87 laps and looked to be headed to his first career victory. Unfortunately, Michael McDowell blew a right front tire to bring out a caution with three laps to go in the event. Elliott’s crew lost one spot on pit road, and that probably cost him the race, having to restart fifth after the final caution of the race. Truex swung to the outside after crossing the start/finish line and cleared Ryan Blaney as the field hit the back straight, leading the final two laps for the victory.
Why you should care – There are several reasons to care about the results of this race. People have been writing Hendrick Motorsports off for weeks. The two dominant cars of the race Sunday were Johnson and Elliott. The strength of Johnson has to make teams nervous, knowing the six-time champion is looking sporty on intermediate tracks again.
Kevin Harvick looked strong early in the race, but a bad break on an untimely caution flag for the No. 4 team put him back in the pack and he seemed to lose the handle on the car, which prevented him from getting onto the lead lap and contending the rest of the day. His car was still strong, and that bodes well for the coming events.
The Joe Gibbs Racing teams, outside of the race-winning affiliate of Truex, weren’t as dominant as they have been. They will most likely be fine but it was an inauspicious start for the Chase for the organization.
What your friends are talking about – NASCAR clarified how rule infractions will be enforced in the 2016 Chase. The lug nut rule, which has caused several crew chiefs to miss races this year, will be enforced differently when it comes to suspensions. A car will need to have two missing lug nuts for a crew chief suspended. The other clarification of the rules is an “encumbered” win. Should a team win a race but fail post-race laser inspection, they will lose the automatic advancement to the next round. The win will also not be considered for tie breaking scenarios.
During post-race inspection, the No. 78 failed the LIS inspection by .01 inches on the left rear toe. NASCAR clarified that it is not an egregious enough offense to justify calling the win encumbered. It is certainly frustrating for fans to see a large amount of press dedicated to rules enforcement and then the first race of the Chase sees a rules violation that doesn’t result in enforcement as was described in the clarification.
The father of former NASCAR race winning driver Robby Gordon was found dead in his Southern California home on Wednesday. “Baja” Bob Gordon and his wife Sharon Gordon were both found dead during a welfare check after a relative requested a neighbor check in on them. Gordon’s father died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. His wife died from strangulation. Police are reporting, at this time, that it was an apparent murder-suicide.
Betty Jane France split her assets evenly between Lisa France Kennedy and Brian France, her two children. She had two different trusts and gave control of one to each of her children. The information is based on her will filed with Volusia County Florida last week. The will was signed the same day, November 4th, 2004, as Bill France, Jr.’s will. She held 24.7% of the outstanding shares of NASCAR, including her portion of the France Family Group’s shares. According to a 2016 proxy filling, Kennedy and her uncle Jim France hold primary control of the organization.
The Harley J. Earl trophy and the Martinsville grandfather clock are iconic trophies in NASCAR. The trophy awarded to Truex after Sunday’s event does not fall in the same category. The cartoonish characters on top of the Chicagoland trophy looked like something handed out at a school festival for the most balloons popped throwing darts. You’d think that a track spending millions of dollars to put on a race would spend more than $39.95 on the trophy.
NASCAR called a caution in the middle of green flag pit stops for a loose wheel on pit road early in Sunday’s race. While there is certainly a need to get the tire back to the pit stall and off of the grass infield, the urgency of the caution seemed a bit much. It would have been fairer and less chaotic for the running order of the race to let the pit stops play out and then throw the caution. Unfortunately some team would try and take advantage and stay out so NASCAR’s hand is forced.
Who is mad – Harvick is mad for a couple of reasons. He was forced to start at the tail end of the field when NASCAR officials felt like his left rear wheel opening was altered after inspection. He then charged from shotgun on the field to eighth place before the unfortunate caution that put him a lap down. In 2015, he started the Chase with a 42nd-place finish (remember when we had 43 cars in the field?). In the end, he had to win at Dover to advance. He isn’t that far behind after this weekend, but had a car that looked to be better than where he ended,
Johnson was dominating the race before a set of tires that wore oddly cost him the lead. Once those tires were off of the car, he looked ready to run for the win, but was caught speeding off of pit road. He maintains that he was driving conservatively on pit exit but was penalized. While they felt like they were a top 5 or better car, they certainly wanted more than the 12th place finish they settled for.
Richard Petty Motorsports made organizational changes to try and improve performance. It will obviously take more than a week for the changes to show results, but when the checkered flag flew Sunday, its cars finished 31st and 32nd. RPM is looking to climb back into the upper echelon of teams in the sport, but it is a long row to hoe.
Who is happy – Blaney rolled the dice on the final caution and stayed on the track with old tires. While he didn’t contend for the win beyond the first two corners, he held onto the track position and wrangled a fourth place finish out of the gamble. The depressing thing for him is that Elliott finished one spot ahead of him to claim Rookie of the Race honors.
Like Johnson and Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Alex Bowman also reaped the benefits of the improved performance of the HMS cars. Kahne rolled the dice like Blaney and managed to stay near the front over the final two laps. Kahne was in the top 10 for the vast majority of the race. Bowman ran long before pitting on the final green flag stops and parlayed that into a 10th place finish substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. It bodes well for the entire organization going forward with all four teams running strong on Sunday.
Jamie McMurray averaged a 12th-place finish over the first three races of the Chase last year and failed to advance by one position thanks to Earnhardt Jr. passing him late at Dover. He ran 11th at Chicago to put himself in a similar position with two races to go in the first segment this year. He’s not contending for wins but he is turning in solid performances that has worked for years for Ryan Newman in the Chase.
When the checkered flag flew:
Martin Truex, Jr. scored his third win of 2016. That doubles his career victory total to six in 396 career starts.
This was his first career triumph in 11 career starts at Chicagoland Speedway.
Truex is alone in 70th on the all-time wins list.
Joey Logano came home in second place for his first career top 2 run in Chicago.
Logano’s runner-up run was his fourth finish of first or second this season.
The finish is Logano’s seventh career second place run. That ties him for 75th on the all-time list with Lennie Pond, G.C. Spencer and Michael Waltrip.
Chase Elliott’s third place result is his first top 3 at Chicagoland.
Elliott has four podium runs in 2016.
On the all-time podium list Elliott is tied for 153rd with Ralph Earnhardt and Wendell Scott among others.
Elliott was Rookie of the Race thanks to his strong run.
Truex is guaranteed a spot in the next round of the playoffs thanks to his win.
The remaining Chase drivers and their point position:
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch
- Denny Hamlin
- Joey Logano
- Chase Elliott
- Matt Kenseth
- Jimmie Johnson
- Carl Edwards
- Kurt Busch
- Jamie McMurray
- Tony Stewart
- Austin Dillon
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Larson
- Chris Buescher
What is in the cooler – The start to the Chase is always filled with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. The racing was far from stellar but there were a handful of on-track passes for the lead. There was also a late race caution that was legitimate that set up a full on scramble Green-White-Checkered finish. The aged surface of Chicagoland afforded multiple racing grooves and a variety of options for drivers. The result is a rating of four cold Full Lemonty Golden Ales from Pollyanna Brewing Company.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – Round two of the 2016 Chase will be held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday September 25th at 2:00 PM. The race will be televised on NBCSN. It can also be heard on local PRN affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90. The race will also be streamed live on NBCSports LiveExtra.