Fast Pit Crew Motivates Martin Truex, Jr. to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 Victory
A late race caution flag changed the complexion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday. Just when it looked like Chase Elliott was on his way to his first win for the third time this season, the unfurling of another yellow flag with four laps to go abruptly changed his day, assisting Martin Truex, Jr. to his third 2016 victory, sixth of his career and his very first Chase win.
With NASCAR, extending the race into overtime put all the decisions into the hands of the crews. Sacrificing track position for quicker tires and first off pit road was Truex, narrowly getting by Elliott by scant feet. That was all it took for the Furniture Row No. 78 Toyota to get around on the restart to pass Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Blaney, blazing his way to the lead in the two-lap Green-White-Checkered finish.
“We have more races to win—the more we can win, the better,” said Truex, who holds the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings for the first time in his career. “What can I say? This is how we want to start off. This feels awesome.
“We did what we came here to do. That always feels good, when you accomplish your goals. We had a good weekend here with our Toyota. Worked really hard on our car throughout practice, on race runs. Tried some new stuff this weekend and really felt like throughout the weekend we were getting the car feeling really good for race trim.”
On the other hand, Chase Elliott rallied back to third in the overtime restart after leading the race for 75 laps. He had a ‘matter of fact’ outlook about the outcome of the race, accepting the loss and moving on to New Hampshire.
“There is no easy outcome,” said the 20-year old driver from Dawsonville, Ga. “You know, it’s unfortunate. You hate to have it happen. As you get faced with these situations more than once, I think you learn. You learn from situation to situation. You can’t control when a caution is going to come out. We played the cards we were dealt and came up short. That’s just a part of life, part of racing.”
The overtime finish shook up the finish with Joey Logano jumping from sixth to second, Elliott sprinting past Ryan Blaney for third, and Brad Keselowski finishing fifth.
As the first race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship came to a close, Truex was set to advance to the Chase of 12, despite his Toyota failing post race laser inspection along with the race’s lap leader, Jimmie Johnson. Both could be deducted 10-points and Truex’s win would not be considered an encumbered victory, since the margin of the infractions is just thousandths of an inch off.
The following are the unofficial Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship standings: No. 1, M. Truex Jr. – 2,050; 2, B. Keselowski – 2,049; 3, Kyle Busch – 2,046; 4, D. Hamlin – 2,045; 5, J. Logano – 2,043; 6, C. Elliott # – 2,039; 7, M. Kenseth – 2,038; 8, J. Johnson – 2,037; 9, C. Edwards – 2,032; 10, Kurt Busch – 2,031; 11, J. McMurray – 2,030; 12, T. Stewart – 2,028; in the elimination positions are 13, A. Dillon – 2,027 (-1); 14, K. Harvick – 2,027 (-1); 15, K. Larson – 2,026 (-2); 16, C. Buescher – 2,016 (-12).
The New Hampshire Motor Speedway will host the New England 300 on Sunday, Sept. 25, airing on NBCSN. It’s the second race of three before the last four positions are cut at Dover International Speedway.
Opportunity Knocks for Erik Jones in Drive for Safety 300 NASCAR Xfinity Race
The only way to stop Kyle Busch in the Drive for Safety 300 was a cut tire of his own doing late in the race that left the door wide open to a hungry pack of drivers, headed by his Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity teammate, Erik Jones. He led the final eight laps after starting sixth on the final restart, collecting his fourth win of his rookie season and rocketing to the top seed in the NASCAR Xfinity Chase of 12, which starts next weekend in Kentucky.
“It was tough,” said Jones. “I knew we were in a good spot on tires, but we were pretty far back – think we restarted sixth there.
“I didn’t know if my Camry was going to have enough time to get back up to the front, but we had a really good restart and got clear to third and then just had to go chase Elliott (Sadler) down. It was a matter of time before we got around him. What an awesome day!”
Kyle Larson followed Jones in second place, nipping him with a margin of victory of .392 of a second. He recovered from a pit road speeding penalty to earn his eighth top-five finish in 12 Xfinity starts in 2016.
“I knew I could get the top (lane) going, but I knew when I got the top going, Erik would move up just when I got to him,” Larson said. “He did, and I tried to carry a lot of throttle off of (Turn) 2 and maybe get a run on him, but I got into the wall.”
After Jones and Larson, it was Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez and Justin Allgaier rounding out the top five. Busch finished 13th after leading for 154 laps, rebounding from his cut tire and spin with 14 laps to go.
The full Chase field, in order of seeding, consists of Erik Jones (2012), Elliott Sadler (2006), and Daniel Suarez (2003), each earning three points for every victory. Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Darrell Wallace Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Ryan Sieg, Ryan Reed, Brandon Jones, and Blake Koch all start with a clean slate at 2,000 NASCAR Xfinity points.
Now that the NASCAR Xfinity series’ regular season has officially ended, everyone’s thoughts move on to the Kentucky Motor Speedway for the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 next Saturday night, Sept. 24, igniting the Chase of 12 Xfinity championship on NBCSN.
Kyle Busch Cruises to Chicagoland Truck Win; Championship Chase of 8 Set
Friday night at the American Ethanol E15 225 at Chicagoland Speedway may have been another Kyle Busch runaway, but with this race being the last of the regular season it placed immense pressure on many NASCAR Camping World Truck series regulars as their last stand to make the Chase of 8.
Drivers like Cole Custer, Cameron Hayley, Spencer Gallagher and Tyler Reddick all had eyes on knocking Timothy Peters out of the eighth position with a win. At the end of the night, there were plenty of dejected racers who came close but couldn’t close the deal, despite a record 10 cautions that slowed the pace in the race.
This was mainly because Busch dominated the lead all night, leading for 95 of the 151 circuits, and the rest of the potential candidates were left looking for redemption in the 2017 Chase of 8. It signified Busch’s second Truck win of the season, fifth at Chicagoland and 46th of his career for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“This has just been a really good place for us and for KBM over the years,” said Busch, who relied on Erik Jones to set up his truck while he was on the Sprint Cup media tour. “We’ve been really fast here, so it was really nice to come out here and keep that speed going. I really appreciate Erik Jones being out here (Thursday) and working it in for me and everything that he did.”
One contender having an solid night was Cole Custer, who battled from the rear three times, ending up in ninth with his championship hopes dashed after rebounding from a pit road speeding penalty and later a left rear tire rub, placing him back in the pack after changing tires and repair to his left rear quarter panel.
“We really had a great truck, probably the best truck we’ve ever brought to a mile and half and I was real happy with that,” said Custer. “I made a mistake and put us in a bad spot and when the 23 got in the fence; I was trying to miss him and I guess I came down on Grant (Enfinger) and he got in our left rear causing the rub. I had to fight from the back all the time and it wasn’t our night. We have fast trucks and we’ll win some races.”
Runner up to Busch was Daniel Hemric; third through fifth were Cameron Hayley, Christopher Bell, and Johnny Sauter.
The eight Chase drivers in order of seeding are William Byron, two-time champion Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, Ben Kennedy, Daniel Hemric and Timothy Peters. Byron, with his five wins, starts the Chase with 2015 points with Crafton and Nemechek each receiving 2006 points for their two wins. Only Hemric and Peters made it in on points.
The Chase of 8 begins in New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the UNOH 175 on Saturday, Sept. 24, airing on FOX Sports 1.