• You hear a lot of drivers say they will do anything to win a race, but in reality there are only some who really will do anything to win. If anything, NASCAR’s new Chase format encourages that philosophy, especially for drivers who are in the Chase but unlikely to advance to the next round based on points. This is the second time in the Chase Brad Keselowski has faced a win-or-get-eliminated position. I don’t see anything wrong with drivers electing to do whatever it takes to win. But by the same token, making moves that anger other drivers is likely to come back to bite you at a later time. The question then becomes one of risk vs. reward. Given the prestige of a Sprint Cup Series championship and the money involved, is there any wonder drivers would risk everything to win it?
• There was no secret Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have had issues this season but it would have been silly to think their pairing was on the verge of coming to an end. In fact, what Johnson and Knaus have shown during their tenure is they perform best when they need to overcome adversity. Sunday’s win was just another example.
• Anyone who thinks any of the eight drivers left in the Chase are “out of it” isn’t paying attention to the standings. No drivers are locked into Homestead right now and at the least three berths will come based on points. Kevin Harvick is last among the eight but trails first-place Joey Logano by 18 points – a margin that can made in one race.
How the remaining Chase drivers fared:
1 . Joey Logano (4,072 points)
Coming into the race, Logano was in good position in the series standings to have the opportunity to compete for the championship in the season finale at Homestead. And he ended Sunday’s race in even better position.
In between, however, he fought through a lot of adversity, including a bad pit stop when the lug nuts on his right-rear tire came off and a flat tire that caused him to spin late in the race.
2. Denny Hamlin (tied)
A mid-race pit strategy decision got Hamlin the lead in the second half of the race but it was short-lived. He remained in the Top 10 and out of trouble during the two two-lap overtimes to come away with a 10th place finish.
“We had a bad car. We made the best of it. Other guys made mistakes. We weren’t really that good,” Hamlin said. “Luckily other guys had problems.”
3. Ryan Newman (-2)
Newman and Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 team continue to save their best for the end of the season. Newman ran in the Top-10 the entire race but slipped to 15th during the scramble in overtime. Yet with the trouble by other drivers, he remains firmly in contention for a chance to race for the championship at Homestead.
4. Jeff Gordon (-12)
Gordon worked hard to get in position late in the race to overtake his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, for the lead. Johnson retook the lead in the first overtime when Gordon and Keselowski made contact on the track, ending Gordon’s hope for a win.
None too pleased with Keselowski, Gordon confronted him after the race on pit road but the two drivers’ crews – and some others – ended up in a brawl.
5. Matt Kenseth (-13)
Kenseth started from the pole and remained in contention for the win most of the race until problems on a pit stop on Lap 252 dropped him back to 18th on the restart.
He and Newman also were forced to pit late in the race after he received damage from the Gordon/Keselowski incident. He ended up 25th.
6. Carl Edwards (-13)
At one point, Edwards was two laps down but as the race went into two overtimes, Edwards had worked his way back to the lead lap. He ended up finishing ninth in a race that could have virtually ended his championship hopes.
“We get to move on to Phoenix now and we will know what we have to do there. We will take it,” he said. “My guys didn’t quit and I know they won’t quit.”
7. Brad Keselowski (-17)
Keselowski qualified poorly and had a difficult time gaining track position in the first half of the race. Late in the race, he elected to remain on the track while other lead-lap cars pit for tires and took over the race lead.
As the race went into overtime, Keselowski made contact with Gordon in his attempt to get to leader Johnson and Gordon spun out.
“It was just a battle for the win,” he said.
8. Kevin Harvick (-18)
Not one of Harvick’s best tracks, he still managed be in the hunt late in the race for the win, which was what he likely needs to guarantee a chance to compete for the championship at Homestead. His second place finish did help him gain ground in the points race, however.
Chase drivers already eliminated:
9. Kyle Busch
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. A.J. Allmendinger
13. Greg Biffle
14. Kurt Busch
15. Kasey Kahne
16. Aric Almirola
Five key moments
1. Matt Kenseth started from the pole and led the first 53 laps before Jimmie Johnson moved into the lead for the first time.
2. Trouble on a pit stop on Lap 254 relegated Kenseth to 18th place and he never was able to regain track position.
3. Jeff Gordon moved into the lead on Lap 325 and appeared headed to victory until Clint Bowyer wrecked on Lap 331, sending the race into a two-lap overtime.
4. Brad Keselowski and Gordon made contact while racing Johnson for the lead on Lap 335, knocking Gordon out of contention for the win.
5. Johnson got a jump on the field in the second overtime and had little trouble holding off Kevin Harvick for the win.
Unofficial results and points standings
|6||12||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevy||341||38||$165,840|
|19||8||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevy||341||25||$134,723|
|23||18||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||341||21||$141,390|
*Reason out: 1-accident, 2-engine.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 132.239 mph. Time of Race: 3 hours, 52 minutes, 5 seconds. Margin of Victory: 0.513 seconds. Caution Flags: 13 for 61 laps. Lead Changes: 23 among 7 drivers. Lap Leaders: M.Kenseth 1-53; J.Johnson 54-91; K.Harvick 92-93; J.Johnson 94-137; J.Gordon 138-139; J.Johnson 140-175; J.Gordon 176; J.Johnson 177-205; J.Gordon 206; J.Johnson 207-216; J.Gordon 217-224; D.Hamlin 225-227; J.Gordon 228-243; J.Johnson 244-252; B.Keselowski 253-265; J.Gordon 266; B.Keselowski 267-275; J.Gordon 276-286; J.Johnson 287-296; M.Kenseth 297-302; Ku.Busch 303-317; J.Johnson 318-324; J.Gordon 325-333; J.Johnson 334-341.
Line at Chase for the Championship cutoff:
|10||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2234||-1838|
|24||Martin Truex Jr.||798||-3274|
|27||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||708||-3364|
|48||Juan Pablo Montoya||47||-4025|
|53||Nelson Piquet Jr.||18||-4054|
|58||Sam Hornish Jr.(i)||0||-4072|