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The Art of Racing
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After so many years of watching NASCAR on television or in person, I listened to the Sprint Cup race on the radio while driving through Virginia. You get a whole new perspective on a race this way and I will say the announcers on MRN radio did a great job.
This was the first race of the three-race Challenger Round and the result was surprising. All 16 Chase drivers knew they had to do well in order to advance to the Contender Round and the announcers remarked several times that the three lowest Chase drivers in the 2014 Chicagoland race failed to advance to the Contender round. 
On lap 2, Denny Hamlin spun out and went a lap down. He restarted the race in 43rd place but he and his crew did not panic. Taking advantage of some well-timed cautions, he eventually got his lap back and worked his way through the field. The team stayed on track during the final caution and he took the lead with four laps to go, winning the race. He led just 9 of the 267 laps. With the win, Hamlin automatically advances to the next round of the Chase.
Hamlin’s teammate, Carl Edwards, had to overcome a speeding penalty, which put him a lap down, eventually finishing second. With all four Joe Gibbs Racing teams making the Chase, everyone knew they would be tough to beat and they didn’t disappoint. They left Chicago with first-, second-, fifth- and ninth-place finishes.
Not so lucky was Kevin Harvick, one of the hottest drivers this year. Harvick and Jimmy Johnson made contact on a Lap 135 restart, causing Harvick’s fender to rub a tire. Rather than coming to the pits to fix the fender, Harvick stayed out, spinning his car and crashing into the wall.
Needing to spend time in the garage for repairs, Harvick finished in 42nd place. He will have to win one of the next two races or have two exceptionally good races. Then he has to hope other Chase drivers have his type of luck in order to qualify for the Challenger Round.
With only 12 drivers advancing to the Challenger Round, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer join Harvick outside the top 12.
The second race in the Contender Round is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.