A new era is underway, even if Sprint Cup fans saw a similar result.
The first race of the new Chase format saw a familiar winner in Victory Lane, with Brad Keselowski securing a spot in the quarterfinals of sorts with his fifth win of the 2014 Sprint Cup season. Keselowksi wasn’t the only winner this weekend. Here’s a Nascar recap of the winners and losers from Chicagoland.
Win: Kyle Larson
Larson isn’t in the Chase. He didn’t win the race. Every year, there is a driver who fails to make the Chase and proceeds to use the next ten weeks to build a case for 2015. Larson’s third place finish puts him out in the early lead. The respect he earned from Jeff Gordon during and after the race suggests the lead might last.
Cool to see Larson taking in what elder Gordon had to say. I’m old enough to remember Gordon doing the same. #NASCAR
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) September 14, 2014
Lose: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The 17th place finish is better than normal for Stenhouse Jr. Making headlines for wrecking with girlfriend Danica Patrick might not be the best way to spend a Sunday.
The greater issue is Stenhouse Jr.’s future. The points and finishes haven’t substantially grown in his second full-time Sprint Cup season. There’s no Nationwide Series schedule to get Stenhouse Jr. more experience. Carl Edwards is out the door in nine more races. The spotlight will shine on Stenhouse Jr. in 2015. Let’s hope he makes progress over the next nine races.
Draw: New Chase Format
The good news is only one driver finds himself in hot water after the first Chase race, and it’s not like Aric Almirola was the lead horse in most people’s minds.
The bad news is the same names found themselves at the top, with six drivers (Keselowksi, Gordon, Harvick, Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. and Logano) looking like the only Sprint Cup favorites. That could make the next nine races exciting, though predictable as the Chase proceeds.
Let’s see how New Hampshire impacts the Chase as crews prepare for the Sylvania 300. Enjoy the new Chase, and insert a random catchphrase here.