Home » FEATURE STORY, NASCAR - Sprint Cup Series

Junior’s Win, Kenseth’s Spin Shake Up The Chase

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 27 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. kept Chasers out of Victory Lane at Martinsville on Sunday (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – With Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory Sunday in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the third-generation driver secured the grandfather clock trophy he had wanted since he was a boy. He also provided a twist to the Chase’s Eliminator Round.

With only two races remaining to determine the final four for Homestead, Earnhardt Jr.’s victory means two drivers will now advance on points, no matter what happens at Texas and Phoenix.

“I’ve never felt like you couldn’t think about being consistent in this format,” said Gordon, who noted he lost Sunday’s race because of his mistake on pit road that assessed him a speeding penalty. “Points can still get you through. Your goal is to either win the race or be the highest in points.

“It makes me feel a little bit better about finishing second today to somebody that’s not in the Chase. Had that been somebody in the Chase, it would have been hard to swallow.”

After the season’s final short-track race, Gordon led the standings with Ryan Newman, who finished third in Sunday’s event, just three points behind. Joey Logano was third and Matt Kenseth fourth. Kenseth, who like Newman, is winless on the season, trails Gordon by only five points. Denny Hamlin was fifth, two points behind Kenseth. No doubt those five drivers will jockey for position throughout the next two events.

It’s a different story, however, for Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick who find themselves in a must-win situation if they hope to advance. Mechanical issues and wrecks relegated Edwards to a 20th-place

Kevin Harvick's post-wreck promise; to keep Matt Kenseth from winning the Chase. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

finish, Keselowski to 31st and Harvick to 33rd. Edwards, Keselowski and Harvick trail Gordon by 20, 31, and 33 points, respectively.

“We’ll go to Texas and go for the win,” Edwards said. “We’ll go to Phoenix and go for the win there and that’s all we can do.”

During the 500-lap race on the half-mile track, Harvick climbed from a 33rd starting position to seventh before going to the garage for repairs after a spin by Kenseth collected him and sent him into the wall.

“He won’t win this championship,” Harvick said about Kenseth. “If we don’t, he won’t.”

Kenseth said he didn’t blame Harvick for his feelings about the accident.

“It was a mistake,” Kenseth said after the race that had two red-flag periods for clean-up following multi-car accidents. “He was an innocent bystander and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I totally understand how he feels and I totally understand why he would say that. He knows it was a mistake, too, but that doesn’t really help him. He got taken out of the race for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Hamlin was frustrated about the last restart that occurred with five laps remaining due to the three different tire strategies elected by the teams. Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and David Ragan elected not to pit during the caution period. Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon were among those who took four tires, while Newman was among those who received only two tires. When the race restarted Stewart was leading and the chaos that ensued behind him resembled the Oklahoma land rush.

“I’m really surprised that we made it to the end without another caution,” Newman said. “We were fortunate to make it up from eighth to third there. I got into the back of Clint (Bowyer) a little bit there. I apologize to him, but I had the 22 (Logano) pushing me all the way through the corner. I don’t know there was a whole lot I could have done any different. In the end, it was a crazy restart at Martinsville, which we all expected.”

Hamlin, who placed eighth after leading twice for 68 laps, was angry that he finished behind several cars he outran throughout the race.

“We’re running better than what we’re finishing,” Hamlin said. “Other guys like Newman are finishing better than they’re running. I hate to be down on it because we did have a good solid day going, but it’s frustrating when you don’t get that good finish on that last restart. Eighth place just isn’t going to cut it.”

Keselowski’s mechanical issues in the final 100 laps caused a multi-car accident on the frontstretch that resulted in the race’s first red flag so the wreckage could be cleared.

“They put a gear in this car in 28 laps at Martinsville,” Keselowski said. “That’s pretty phenomenal, but it was just unfortunate the way the day played out. It’s not like we’re just gonna go and guarantee a win at Texas and Phoenix, but it’s also not impossible and we’ve got the team, if there is one, to pull it off. With this format, we’re by no means out.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 27 2014
No Comment

Comments are closed.