With the third race completed and Jimmie Johnson once again showing why he’s the master of being clutch, here’s a rundown of the Chase drivers and some analysis.
Matt Kenseth | 1st | 2149 points – Kenseth slipped late and couldn’t become the first to win three races to open a Chase. The seventh place finish would be good for most, but not Kenseth. He knows that as long as Johnson is out there, he has to perform.
Jimmie Johnson | 2nd | 2141 points (-8) – Johnson and crew announced to the NASCAR world, “we’re back!” He led 243 of 400 laps to get his fifth win of the season. Nothing short of dominance out of him and his team. I thought the call for two tires would bite him on the last pit stop, but his car seemed to excel with them.
Kyle Busch | 3rd | 2137 points (-12) – Busch gained points on Kenseth, but then ended up losing a position with Johnson leap frogging him. Busch led 30 laps and looked poised to finish in the top-3, but two tires were not his friend late in the going.
Kevin Harvick | 4th | 2110 points (-39) – Harvick had a quiet and sold sixth place finish. There were issues on pit road, but he was able to overcome them thanks to the final caution. He was able to jump from 6th to 4th in points.
Jeff Gordon | 5th | 2110 points (-39) – Gordon had the winning strategy by stretching his fuel, the problem was the late caution that came out. Instead he finished fourth, which is a good start as he was able to chip away a little bit in the standings.
Greg Biffle | 6th | 2108 points (-41) – Biffle turned in another Biffle like finish. You didn’t heard much about him, until ESPN talked about how a Roush Fenway Racing car won’t win the title, and he finished in the top-10 in ninth. Like Newman’s note a few below, story of Biffle’s season and career, good, but not good enough.
Ryan Newman | 7th | 210 points (-48) – It wasn’t flashy, but Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team just kept working and got an eight place finish out of it. The problem is the rest of the top-10 was Chase drivers as well. This might be story of Newman’s season, just not good enough.
Clint Bowyer | 8th | 2098 points (-51) – Bowyer was going to go for it like Gordon on fuel, but the last caution ruined that. Bowyer was quick at times, but relatively invisible out there. Bowyer did jump up two positions thanks Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards struggling.
Kurt Busch| 9th | 2094 points (-55) – Busch has been all but knocked out of the title talk. He finished 21st after a loose wheel caused him to pit and lose three laps. Then the caution came out and he was stuck those laps down. What Busch can control, they’re golden, but every time they pit it’s a rap shoot to whether he’ll lose time or not.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. | 10th | 2092 points (-57) – Earnhardt wishes he could mulligan his first Chase race. He finished second at Dover and was able to go from 11th to 10th in points. If he can keep rattling off top-5 finishes and hope for trouble with some of the others, Earnhardt might be back in it. I’m definitely feeling better about his chances than Kurt’s.
Carl Edwards | 11th | 2084 points (-65) – Edwards was the worst finishing Chase driver, coming home in the 35th place after a hub issue. That dropped him from 4th to 11th in the points and might be the death blow for Edwards’ championship hopes.
Joey Logano | 12th | 2083 points (-66) – Logano is saying the same thing as Earnhardt, “can I have Chicago back?” Logano was on point and was able to use a four tire stop on the last pit stop to get to third in the final run down.
Kasey Kahne | 13th | 2071 points (-78) – Kahne was one of three drivers in the Chase not to finish in the top-10. He came home in the 13th position, too little too late. After last week’s race he’s just trying to see how high he can get in the standings, the problem is it won’t be first.