Forty laps. The action was exciting, the announcers sounded excited, it was NASCAR at its best in Chicago. For 40 laps.
Within those 40 laps, we saw Brad Keselowski shoot through the middle between the dueling Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick to take the lead with sixteen to go. It was a great piece of racing, and once he was through he was gone. Two in a row, fifth of the season, and Keselowski earned himself a berth in the next round of the Chase.
Within those 40 laps, we saw a kid truly emerge as a star. Larson just missed the Chase, but the 22 year old did not miss an opportunity to show the big boys that he is and will be a force to be reckoned with. He led, he fought to keep the lead, and he challenged anyone who attempted to get by him, which helped allow Keselowski to disappear in front. If not for Larson, Harvick or Jeff Gordon might have had a chance to go after Keselowski, but the young man did not give them that chance. His first career Cup win still lies ahead of him, but it does not seem to be that far away.
Within those 40 laps, we saw Gordon come up from fourth to be in the mix at the end. He caught Harvick and then he battled the boy for that runner up spot. When Larson touched the wall with a couple to go, the veteran went by for good. Good racing, with the former champ even offering congratulations and a few words of advice to the newcomer when it was all over.
Within those 40 laps, we discovered that there are times couples should not touch, especially when using their fenders. Danica Patrick got by Tony Stewart, but when she slipped in front of boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. he touched her behind in an unappreciated fashion. Both needed repairs to run the final ten and neither finished inside the Top 15.
Within those 40 laps, we discovered who amongst the Chasers would be snake bit. Aric Almirola looked great, was up there running well within the Top Ten when his engine blew up. He finished 41st and already needs a win if he hopes to advance to the next round as a contender.
Within those 40 laps, Joey Logano benefited from some trash on the grill that really perked up his ride. Perked it to a fourth place finish, but it did not benefit his engine. That blew at the finish line, but those 40 points more than made up for it.
Within those 40 laps, Carl Edwards lost a left rear tire. That left him 20th when the day was done. No good, but not as bad as some, and still leaves him among the top dozen in the standings.
Not as bad as Almirola. Not as bad as Greg Biffle in 23rd. Not as bad as A.J. Allmendinger in 22. Not as bad as the first 227 laps of what had been yet another snore-fest on ESPN until the end. In fact, Edwards sits a point to the good amongst our Chasers, a point up on Ryan Newman.
Sunday, it is New Hampshire holding their fate. That should be welcome news for those who run well there. Among those who have average finishes of 12th or better we have Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, and Keselowski. Maybe we might see the kid once again up front. Larson finished third there in July in his only Cup start on the track.
Not all will be happy. Those who average outside the Top 15 at Loudon include Kasey Kahne and Logano, who after Chicago just need to avoid disaster this weekend. As for Biffle, Almirola, and A.J. Allmendinger, they will have to do more than that if they hope to advance on points. Then again, wins erase sins, so maybe, just maybe.
1 – Brad Keselowski – 1 Win – 2059 Points
2 – Jeff Gordon – 0 – 2051
3 – Joey Logano – 0 – 2049
4 – Kevin Harvick – 0 – 2047
5 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 0 – 2042
6 – Jimmie Johnson – 0 – 2041
7 – Denny Hamlin – 0 – 2041
8 – Kyle Busch – 0 – 2041
9 – Kurt Busch – 0 – 2039
10 – Kasey Kahne – 0 – 2034
11 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 2034
12 – Carl Edwards – 0 – 2030
13 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 2029
14 – A.J. Allmendinger – 0 – 2025
15 – Greg Biffle – 0 – 2021
16 – Aric Almirola – 0 – 2007