Charting the Chase field after Chicagoland

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The first race in the 2016 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is in the books. Martin Truex Jr. won the first race in the 10 race Chase Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.  It was a race full of surprises that saw a few of the pre-Chase favorites struggle and a few rise to the top. A total of 13 of the top 16 finishers were Chase contenders, and Truex made the strongest statement of all.

Here’s how the Chase field stacks up after the first race of the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

(Driver/positions gained-lost/points)

1. Martin Truex Jr. (+5) 2050. Truex overcame losing a lap to rally back. He scored his third win of the season and the sixth of his career.  His Toyota did fail the LIS Sunday night, but officials confirmed that he will keep the win to guarantee advancement to the next round.  He may lose some points, and the top spot, but the way he has run on 1.5 mile tracks this year, don’t expect Truex to be down long.

2. Brad Keselowski (0) 2049. Keselowski looked strong most of the race Sunday. He led three times for seven laps, but never really contended for the win. He finished fifth, but holds his spot at number two.

3. Kyle Busch (-2) 2046. He came into the Chase as the top seed. Sunday he led the first 21 laps but struggled the rest of the day. A pit road speeding penalty didn’t help his cause although he did rally back for a 8th place finish.

4. Denny Hamlin (-1) 2045. Hamlin ran a smart race Sunday.  He didn’t have a winning car but was able to salvage a decent 6th place.

5. Joey Logano (+4) 2043. Logano only led one lap Sunday. He ran a quiet race though avoiding trouble and nearly pulling off the upset at the end. Logano finished second Sunday and remains a contender moving forward.

6. Chase Elliott (+8) 2039. Elliott nearly pulled it off. The rookie looked strong late in the going and led 75 laps. A late race pit stop doomed  him however, setting up Truex for the win and leading Elliott with a third place finish. Despite the loss, Elliott showed that despite what some critics might say, he is a definite contender to go far into the Chase.

7.  Matt Kenseth (0) 2038. Kenseth never contended for the win, and dropped deep in the field at one point. He rallied back and with a car that should have been there, finished inside the top 10, with a 9th place.

8.  Jimmie Johnson (0) 2037. Johnson led a race high 118 laps Sunday. He looked to be the car to beat, but a late race pit road speeding penalty took away his chance for a win. Still, the way the six time champion looked Sunday, he may emerge among the Chase favorites in the coming weeks.

9. Carl Edwards (-4) 2032. Edwards never found enough speed to contend for the win Sunday. He had one chance for a good finish late, but staying out on old tires was a gamble that he lost. Edwards finished 15th.

10.  Kurt Busch (+2) 2031. Busch never led a lap, but did appear briefly inside the top 10. He couldn’t stay there however and settled for a 13th place finish.

11. Jamie McMurray (+5) 2030. McMurray never had the speed he needed to make it inside the top 10. He could only manage an 11th place finish at the end of the day.

12. Tony Stewart (-1) 2028. Stewart was disappointed all weekend. He qualified 11th and never could find the speed he needed to contend for the win. Stewart finished 16th Sunday.

13. Austin Dillon (+2) 2027. Dillon started 15th, avoided trouble and finished one spot ahead of where he started, 14th.

14. Kevin Harvick (-10) 2027. Harvick was having a bad day even  before the race started. NASCAR officials sent him to the rear of the field prior to the start for unapproved body modifications.  Harvick was able to charge through the field and was inside the top 10 by lap 65. An ill timed caution while he was pitting under green however, put him a lap down . He did make his laps up later, but in the closing laps while running ninth, Harvick was forced to put under green. Harvick finished 20th, one lap down.

15. Kyle Larson (-5) 2026. Larson was also forced to start at the back of the field thanks to a transmission change. He too charged through the field, but a late race tire issue sent him to the pits and left him with an 18th place finish.

16. Chris Buescher (-3) 2016. Buescher wasn’t expected to do much in the Chase. He did win to make it into the Chase field, but with an underfunded team, wasn’t among the favorites.  Sunday only added to that story. Buescher started 13th and struggled all day long finishing 28th two laps down.

The full updated Chase points can be found here.

The second race of the 10 race Chase comes at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  The New England 300 will get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET next Sunday with love coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.

About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.