In a remarkably quiet race at the Monster Mile, Martin Truex Jr showed once again why he is the favourite for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship by comfortably winning the concluding race of Round 1 of the Chase.
Unusually, the race ran caution-free for the final 208 laps, meaning that by the end, just 6 drivers remained on the lead lap. Kyle Busch finished over 7 seconds behind in 2nd, whilst Chase Elliott leapfrogged Brad Keselowski in the final pit cycle to finish in 3rd. Rounding out the top 5 was Matt Kenseth, whilst Joey Logano was the only other driver to complete all 400 laps in 6th.
Jimmie Johnson had looked like the man to beat for the first half of the race, but a crucial pit road penalty for his crew jumping over the wall too quickly put the 48 car a lap down and therefore he could only recover to 7th.
Austin Dillon sealed his place in the second round by finishing 8th, but the pressure on him was somewhat relieved when both Chip Ganassi drivers, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, suffered reliability failures which put them out of contention.
Completing the top 10 were Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Gordon, who got his first top 10 finish since returning to the sport part time to fill in for the still recovering Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tony Stewart missed out on a chance to compete for the championship for the final time after finishing 13th, and he joins Larson, McMurray and rookie Chris Buescher in the elimination zone for Round 1.
Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick was relieved to already have sealed his spot in Round 2 last weekend, as early gremlins left him several laps down, finishing back in 37th place.
Next week, all the points are reset, giving the top 12 drivers a level playing field for the next 3 races, starting at Charlotte for the Bank of America 500 on Saturday.
Image – NASCAR.com
|Top 10 Results||2016 Chase Grid – Contender Round|
|1. Martin Truex Jr
2. Kyle Busch
3. Chase Elliott
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Joey Logano
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Austin Dillon
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Jeff Gordon
|Martin Truex Jr