The interesting stat of the night came late: the drivers who won the Chase opening race at Chicagoland Speedway went on to win the whole enchilada in 2011 with Tony Stewart and 2012 with Brad Keselowski. You have to like that factoid if your Matt Kenseth, who just grabbed his series high sixth victory of the season.
That Kenseth and teammate Kyle Busch finished 1-2 says a great deal about Coach Gibbs’ chances. While Busch has been forecast as the 2013 Chase winner here, there’s no denying that the steady 2003 champion should be in the mix the whole way. We’ve sais a lot on these pages over the years about equipment related issues at JGR. On a night where numerous top contenders got k.o.’ed by engine failures, it says a lot of positive things about the team that two of their top guys hung on until the end.
Kenseth and Busch were just about the only top finishers to avoid adversity. Kevin Harvick started 17th and really didn’t come on until the end (as is his custom) to finish third. Watch out for this guy. It’s obvious Happy is not looking to play out the string in his voyage at RCR. Kurt Busch overcame a penalty to finish fourth. Jimmie Johnson overcame two bizarrely bad pit stops to streak his way to fifth. Jeff Gordon had his woes, but made the most of a nighttime run to finish sixth. 12th place for Kasey Kahne isn’t horrible when you consider how beaten up his car got on pit road.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano will have holes to dig themselves out of. Poor Joey fell victim to engine failure, while Junebug was in the wrong place at the wrong time on pit road. Dale Jr. takes 35th and Logano winds up 38th.
You know, for Chicago, this wasn’t a bad race. This fan is thankful NASCAR persevered and got the whole shooting match in for the duration. The durability of cars and the ability of teams to adjust came into play.
Four of those top five finishers were guys I said would be the top contenders for 2013. Kurt Busch may well prove to be a dark horse if we can get that elusive win somewhere.
It’s good to be talking about racing again. Sunday’s race sets the stage for another interesting affair at New Hampshire next Sunday.
Are we there yet?