Prior to last Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Race in New Hampshire, a couple of penalties were handed out to playoff drivers that affected their points or their entry into the race.
Chase Elliott’s second-place finish at Chicagoland was ruled encumbered because of a modification of components that affected the aerodynamic properties of the vehicle. As a result, Elliott lost the playoff point for winning Stage 2, and was also docked 15 driver points.
Joey Logano and his team failed pre-qualifying inspections four times. As a result, Logano missed qualifying and then was forced to sit in his car on pit road without being able to practice. NASCAR routinely holds cars for allotted periods of time during practice for various infractions. But NASCAR said it was the first time a Cup driver was benched for the entire practice.
Once the race started, it was business as usual with Martin Truex and Kyle Busch dominating the field. Busch led 187 laps while Truex led 112 laps of the 300-lap race. Truex won Stage 1 while Busch won Stage 2, plus the race.
Truex was running away with the second stage until he was swallowed up by a track-blocking crash on the last lap of the stage. After Kevin Harvick spun out, he created so much smoke no one could see where to go to dodge the crash.
Harvick’s teammate, Kurt Busch, came through the smoke only to see his teammate sitting in front of him and after plowing into Harvick, both playoff contenders were forced out of the race. Kyle Busch was one of the fortunate drivers who managed to avoid the crash. After so much bad luck this year, he deserved some good luck. Truex suffered damage to his car while trying to avoid the crash and restarted the race in 18th place. He managed to finish fifth.
Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led the rest of the green-flag laps to record his third victory of 2017. Kyle Larson finished where he started, second. It was his 8th second-place finish this year. Sunday’s race in Dover is the last race in the round of 16. Four drivers will be dropped out of Championship contention.
With wins in the first two races in the round of 16, Truex and Kyle Busch have automatically advanced to the round of 12. Larson and Keselowski will also advance because of their points standing. Sixty points are available in each race; 10 points for each stage win and 40 points for the race victory. Larson and Keselowski are more than 60 points ahead of the fifth-place driver, Denny Hamlin. The four teams below the cut line are Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne.