Blog Entry

Charting the Chase: Chicagoland Speedway

Posted on: September 20, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:58 pm
By Pete Pistone

A quick look at how the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers fared in Monday's Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kevin Harvick (Chicago: Second)
Fuel Strategy allowed crew chief Gil Martin to take the reins off at the perfect time for a run to the front and with a few more laps may have eventually ran down Tony Stewart for the Chicagoland win.

Chase Chatter: “If you can come out of here with a second … during the year it was all about trying to win races. Now it's about accumulating points.”

Tony Stewart (Chicago: First)
Three weeks ago he said he wasn’t a championship-caliber threat. While he’s still not buying it yet his performance Sunday puts him right there in the title picture.

Chase Chatter: “You couldn’t pick a better weekend to get that first win of the year."

Carl Edwards (Chicago: Fourth)
Nothing spectacular but he didn’t need it to stay in the hunt and came home with a fourth place finish in the middle of all the fuel strategy nuttiness.

Chase Chatter: “It was a really good day at the beginning and we showed a lot of speed, and then we struggled a little bit but came back with great fuel mileage at the end and that was huge for us.

Kurt Busch (Chicago: Sixth)
Very fast at the beginning and faded some Sunday but still didn’t do himself any harm with a solid sixth place performance.

Chase Chatter:  To get a sixth-place finish to start the Chase is a good step.  We still want those race wins.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chicago: Third)
Junior was the first to admit that the fuel strategy biting others helped him to a third place finish but the bottom line is he rocketed from tenth to fifth in the standings.

Chase Chatter: “Obviously we gained a lot of spots there at the end with guys that were short of fuel, but we were running really well at the end."

Brad Keselowski (Chicago: Fifth)
If you’re waiting for him to fade you’ll probably have to wait a little longer. Got a Top 5 Monday in the face of adversity and stayed right in the Chase picture.

Chase Chatter: "We tried some different strategy, got moved to the back, but kept plugging away and got fifth out of it.  Our fuel mileage was awesome.   It was a good first step for us in the Chase."

Ryan Newman (Chicago: Eighth)
He just made it across the finish line before running out of gas but backed up his boss’ win with a Top 10 run of his own.

Chase Chatter: 'It's about confidence, consistency and momentum and that's what we have right now," noted Newman. "Yes, I look forward to New Hampshire -- it's a track where I've had plenty of success."

Jimmie Johnson (Chicago: Tenth)
Optimists who think Johnson can be toppled this year in the championship point to the fuel mileage miscalculation Monday as an example the 48 team has the door open this season.

Chase Chatter: "Not what we wanted. We certainly had a great race car and it’s just too bad. We ran out (of fuel) coming to the white flag.”

Kyle Busch (Chicago: 22nd)
Oh oh. Busch must have thought the calendar rolled back to 2008 after the way his Chase began this time around on Monday.

Chase Chatter: "I saved as much fuel as I could but I guess it just wasn’tenough and we ran out with two to go.  Just really disappointing day." 

Matt Kenseth (Chicago: 21st)
Has never been a fan of fuel mileage racing. After Monday there’s no reason to ask why. 

Chase Chatter: "It is really frustrating to be a race-car driver and they drop the green on the last run of the day when you are supposed to put on a show for the fans and you have to run half throttle and can’t floor it or you will run out of gas.” 

Jeff Gordon (Chicago: 24th)
All that talk of momentum coming into the Chase went away in a hurt after a miserable day Monday ended with Gordon falling down the standings.

Chase Chatter: “We were just off. We didn’t qualify good. That got us behind right there. It was just one of those days, you know."

Denny Hamlin (Chicago: 31st)
A microcosm of his season wrapped up into one race Monday at Chicagoland Speedway and Hamlin’s championship hopes appear to be over before they even started.

Chase Chatter: “Every point matters right now. You can lose by one point and … right off the bat you put yourself into a hole.”

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