Jimmie Johnson broke a 24 race winless streak Sunday. He was the only driver among the 12 Chase drivers to avoid issues Sunday. Here’s how the Chase field ended up after a wild afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
1. Jimmie Johnson 3045 (+10). Johnson led 105 laps, and unlike some of his races this season, had no issues on the track or in the pits. For the first time since the knockout format was introduced, Johnson has secured a spot in the next round of the Chase. If Johnson can keep it together, that elusive seventh title will in reach.
2. Matt Kenseth 3040 (+2). Kenseth started in the back of the field, was sent back after a pit road penalty, yet rallied to lead five laps, and contend for the win near the end of the race. He came up just short finishing second, but showed he can’t be counted out.
3. Kyle Busch (3036) (0). Busch had several issues; he had a flat tire early and had to pit under green, falling back to 31st; then later hit the wall. Despite all the adversity, Busch came home with a nice sixth place finish.
4. Brad Keselowski (3034) (+3). Keselowski was contending for the lead at one point. But on lap 70 he was penalized for his team going over the wall too soon. He fought his way back through the field and came home with a decent seventh place finish.
5. Kurt Busch (3033) (+3). Kurt never had the speed to run inside the top five, and struggled to stay inside the top 10. He received some damage during the big crash on lap 260. His crew was able to repair the damage, and he worked his way forward and finished 8th.
6. Carl Edwards (3029) (+4). Edwards ran up near the front for a short time, but never really had the speed to contend for the win, or a top five finish. Edwards was also caught up in the lap 260 crash and held on for a 12th place finish.
7. Martin Truex Jr. (3028) (-6). Truex had the same car Sunday that he drove to a dominate victory at Charlotte in May. That same car didn’t act that way Sunday. He struggled much of the race, but near the end was inside the top five and had a shot at the win. Sadly pit road issues came back to haunt him again. On the last stops of the day, Truex stalled on pit road. He rejoined the field 16 and could only make up three spots, finishing 13th. If the bad luck for Truex has returned his future Chase hopes may be in jeopardy. If not, and it was just a bad race, Truex could be on top of the world again soon.
8. Denny Hamlin (2012) (+1). Hamlin looked to be in good shape part of the race Sunday. He led 52 laps and held off Johnson several times. It wasn’t to be however as a late race engine issue sent him to the garage, left him 30th and with a DNF. Any more issues that leave send him to the garage will spell the end of Hamlin’s championship hopes for 2016.
9. Austin Dillon (3009) (+3). Dillon was running outside the top 10 much of the race, but late in the race a decision by his crew chief to gain some spots ended in disaster. Dillon took only two tires while the rest of the leaders took four. He did make up 9 spots and restart second on lap 260. But on the restart Dillon spun his tires, was hit from behind and a 14 car pileup ensued. Dillon finished 32nd in the garage.
10. Chase Elliott (3009) (-4). Elliott looked like he was on the way to his first career win Sunday. He would lead 105 laps but was caught up in the lap 260 crash. Elliott was scored with a DNF in 33rd. Elliott is still one of the hottest drivers in the Chase, and if he avoid further trouble, can still be a contender.
11. Joey Logano (3006) (-6). Logano was the defending winner of the race, but Sunday he didn’t have the car to contend. He hit the wall twice, the second time hard enough to be sent to the garage. He would return but finished 36th, 80 laps down. Logano will have to win or have stellar races in the next two if he hopes to advance.
12. Kevin Harvick (3004) (-10). Harvick went from hero to zero. He led from his first career Charlotte pole, and looked to be a contender for the win. Mechanical issues on lap 153 however, sent him to the garage and left him with a 38th place finish. If anyone is going to dig themselves out of a hole in the next two races, it would be Harvick; that is if he avoids further trouble.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Kansas Speedway for next Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the second race in the Round of 12. Live coverage will be on NBC with the green flag coming around 2:15 p.m. ET.
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