Tag Archives: myAFibRisk.com 400

From Junk to Gold, Denny Hamlin Wins the Chase Race at Chicagoland

The first NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup race is in the record books. Denny Hamlin has won the myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway capping off a weekend that didn’t start out the way it was intended.

On Friday, the number eleven FedEx Ground Toyota hit the track for the first practice full of hope but unable to get out of its own way. Dave Rogers, Hamlin’s crew chief, made wholesale changes to the car prior to qualifying. Qualifying was canceled due to rain and his troubles in that one practice were magnified because the field was set by practice speeds. Denny Hamlin would have to start the race today 29th, the last of the Chase drivers.

Rogers said, “We did have a lot of adversity.  You know in the Chase you’re going to have adversity, it’s going to strike.  We’ve been talking about it, been trying to mentally prepare for it.

In Saturday’s practices it was apparent that the team was able to fix whatever was wrong with the No. 11. Hamlin was the second fastest in the first practice and seventh fastest in the final practice. A great improvement but he still had his less than desirable starting position to contend with.

Indeed, his starting position became a problem right from the start. On lap two, the No. 47 AJ Allmendinger car got into the right front of Hamlin’s car, sending him for a spin. He was able to save it and not get hit by any other cars so there was little or no damage. He did go a lap down.

On lap 130 just after a restart on lap 128, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin used strategy to try and get their laps back by staying out and not pitting. This was a risky strategy given the lack of caution flags in the beginning of the race and record pace the leaders had been setting. That strategy paid off on lap 137 when Kevin Harvick hit the wall hard after cutting down a tire; this put both of them on the same pit strategy and tires with the other lead lap cars.

There was a caution flag with ten laps to go and Hamlin’s team had confusion whether to pit or not. He ended up staying out, what at the time looked like a disastrous move. Denny Hamlin restarted third and drove it like he stole it taking Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon three wide. It stuck and he held them off for the three laps even though he had older tires.

It was ballsy, but I’d been stuck so many times three-wide in the middle. The front cars almost have a disadvantage to the back cars the way it all plays out.”  Hamlin added “We got a great restart and I just held it wide open through (turns) one and two and it stuck. We were able to get in that clean air and take off.

Denny Hamlin has tied Chicago Area Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen for 27th on the all-time wins list with 26 wins.

Carl Edwards finished second followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

Denny Hamlin has now punched his ticket straight to the next round of the Chase, The Contender Round. The team can now use the next two races to continue to get better for the next two rounds.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312813 Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images

NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying is Rained Out at Chicagoland Speedway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came to Chicagoland Speedway to kick off the Chase to the Sprint Cup. With the weather man predicting rain at the end of the day prior to qualifying many of the teams cut practice short to run qualifying runs. Unfortunately the weather man and the teams were correct and the rains did come.

In practice, Kevin Harvick was the class of the field in his mock qualifying run posting a time of 28.675; 62/100 faster than Joey Logano. Harvick was the only driver to get into the 188 MPH level. Since qualifying was canceled the lineup will be started according to the rule book and Kevin Harvick will lead the field to green this Sunday with Joey Logano alongside.

As expected most of the sixteen Chase Nation drivers were fast and at the front of the leaderboard. Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. will be in the second row. The other Chase drivers are as follows: Ryan Newman 6th, Kyle Busch 7th, Kurt Busch 10th, Jeff Gordon 11th, Jimmie Johnson 12th, Matt Kenseth 13th, Jamie McMurray 14th, Carl Edwards 15th and Paul Menard 17th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin had trouble during practice and will start 20th, 27th and 30th respectively. Of those three, Denny Hamlin appeared to struggle the most. When Hamlin’s crew got him ready for a mock qualifying run it did not help. He remained 30th quick. Later in the garage they were making wholesale changes to the car, even changing the rear axle. Fortunately for those teams there is another practice on Saturday to work on making those cars better.

Ryan Blaney and the #21Wood Brothers Ford will miss the race for a third time due to rain. Blaney would most likely made the race on time had there been qualifying. Michael McDowell #95 and Travis Kvapil #30 will also miss the race.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312735 Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images

The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway

The regular season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is over. 26 races with 11 individual winners, eight who won multiple times, the Chase Contenders have been decided. The first of the three elimination rounds in the NASCAR playoff format begins at Chicagoland Speedway.

There are 16 contenders for the Championship. Their standings in the points have been reset based on the number of races they have won during the regular season. Those drivers with no wins start with 2000 points. Those drivers with wins get an additional 3 points for each win.

1 Jimmie Johnson 2012
2 Kyle Busch 2012
3 Matt Kenseth 2012
4 Joey Logano 2009
5 Kevin Harvick 2006
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr 2006
7 Kurt Busch 2006
8 Carl Edwards 2006
9 Brad Keselowski 2003
10 Martin Truex Jr 2003
11 Denny Hamlin 2003
12 Jamie McMurray 2000
13 Jeff Gordon 2000
14 Ryan Newman 2000
15 Paul Menard 2000
16 Clint Bowyer 2000

The Challenger Round begins at Chicagoland Speedway then moves on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway the next week and then Dover International Speedway the week after. The four Chase contenders who are lowest in points after Dover will be eliminated from the Chase.

The “Rub” as they say is that any of these drivers who win a race regardless of their point standings gets a pass on this round. If that driver happens to be one of those lower in points then it is possible to be 12th in points and still miss the next round. It is highly unlikely but can happen that the three races could be won by a driver at the bottom of the standings so 10th place may not be safe either.

Looking at the reset points Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer really are starting in a hole even though it is only three points. Three points equals three positions on the race track. There are no bonus points for leading laps, only for winning races. It makes these races much easier to follow.

The new Chase Format puts an emphasis on winning but in reality due to the elimination feature teams must be on top of their game each and every week. Brad Keselowski put this feeling into perspective.

We are ready to go. We have some momentum with the top-10’s lately but we need to turn some of those into wins and we know that. We have 10 weeks though to make that happen. We want to be in the Chase and we want to not take that for granted but on the other side we aren’t just happy with just being in it. We want to do more than just that. That is what we are here to do, to make some noise and hopefully bring home a second championship.

Keselowski knows how it works as much as anyone. He opened the Chase at Chicagoland last year with a three wide pass to win and guarantee himself into the Contender Round. He followed that up with a win in the last race of that round at Talladega to move himself into the Eliminator Round. He wasn’t able to back that effort up in that round and was seven points shy and eliminated from the Championship.

Click on this link to read more on Strategies to Win the Championship.

None of these drivers are going to win the Championship at Chicagoland Speedway but they can dig themselves into a hole. A big hole, one of which the only way to crawl out of is by winning one of the next two races.

Let the Challenger Round begin. It is going to be a great one.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312197 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Brad Keselowski Samples the Best of the Windy City

The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off with the Contenders spreading out across North America. Brad Keselowski visited Chicago to do his part to spread the word about the Championship battle that will be kicked off this Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Keselowski started the day on the air with The Carmen and Jurko Show on ESPN 1000 in downtown Chicago. He then moved on and did what most of us do more often than we should. He made stops at three iconic hot dog locations to try out our Chicago-style fare. The Weiner Circle on N. Clark St., Franks ‘N’ Dawgs on N Clybourn Ave. and finishing up at Portillo’s on W. Ontario St.

The 2012 series Champion found something he liked that was more like home. The Reuben Pulaski, a polish sausage with potato cake, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. “Just how grandma made it,” Keselowski said.

Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III (Wearing white)
Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III (Wearing white)

The Chase for the Sprint Cup starts right here at Chicagoland Speedway this Sunday with the myAFibRisk.com 400.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312573 NASCAR IMC

Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III
Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III