Every Monday Beyond The Flag will start the week by allowing our readers to have the opportunity to relive the sights and sounds of the previous weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
With four competitors still alive in the 16-man field, which kicks off the Chase for the Sprint Cup in Sunday’s 2 p.m. 400 race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Not a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered playing basketball just days before the regular-season finale. He and his JGR team didn’t panic, then used a gutsy call not to pit during the final caution to give Hamlin a shot at the victory.
Why he won’t: If Logano makes the final eight or four, he’ll likely be there with more experienced drivers who are more proven against late-Chase pressure. You can catch the race on the NBC Sports Network at 2:30 PM EST, 11:30 AM on the west coast.
His team has tailed off in the dozen races since with just 11 laps led. The only issue this #4 team could encounter is that without finding victory lane things are going to get real hard. Unlike the other 14 drivers in the Chase, they have no experience in racing for the title.
The defense of his title hit a snag on a restart with 132 laps remaining Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
But they’ll have their hands full on Sunday, particularly Hamlin, who will start far back from the rest of the Chase drivers. NASCAR even had a big party for them after the race last Saturday night at Richmond.
Matt Kenseth was 13th fastest, Carl Edwards was 19th and Denny Hamlin was 30th. It is the series’ first visit to the track of the season.
The Joe Gibbs Racing cars will hope that’s the case. If this team gets back in sync, and doesn’t beat itself, no one would count out the 2004 champ.
The question surrounding six-time champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team is if it has been sandbagging since winning four races earlier this year. Tuesday we went to Martinsville, got a parade and got a key to the city and a bunch of cool stuff (as part of NASCAR’s Chase across North America).
We also know that one of the actors had an important role throughout the event. Johnson enters the Chase seeking his seventh title, which would put him in a tie with Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Richard Petty in terms of career championships. Another race win should be the highest they should reach. Plus Johnson holds the best average finishing position at Chicago at 9.2.
Non-Chase drivers can nullify these automatic advancements by making their own visits to Victory Lane.
WILL same approach produce similar results for Newman? He is listed at 60-1 odds to win this weekend and like he has all season, should hover around the top fifteen all day with a chance to pull off an upset win. For the third straight year, Tony Stewart, the only man to win a Winston Cup, a Nextel Cup and a Sprint Cup, is out of the running for another Cup.
Martin Truex Jr. has had a tremendous season and started strong as he finally was able to improve of a slew of top five finishes to grab a victory at Pocono in June.
Talladega notwithstanding, the racetracks in the Chase are squarely in the wheelhouse of Johnson and Chad Knaus, the only crew chief Johnson has ever worked with in the Sprint Cup series (except when Knaus has been forced to serve the occasional suspension).
Last year, the four guys knocked out after the first round of the Chase all struggled at Chicagoland: Kasey Kahne finished 12th, AJ Allmendinger 22nd, Greg Biffle 23rd and Aric Almirola 41st. It’s edgy the second half of the corner.