By Ethyn Reasoner
Denny Hamlin won the MyAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, September 20. This victory guarantees Hamlin a spot in the Contender Round of the Chase that begins at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.
Carl Edwards, a native of Columbia, Missouri, finished second after overcoming multiple issues early in the race.
Kurt Busch, who was the race leader when the final caution came out, finished third in the event.
Other Chase drivers, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, finished fourth and fifth respectively, meaning that championship-eligible drivers filled out the entire top five.
While many Chase competitors performed well at Chicagoland, defending champion Kevin Harvick had a poor finish and found himself in a controversy with Jimmie Johnson.
On a mid-race restart, Harvick and six-time champion Johnson made contact at the entrance of turn one. The contacted eventually resulted in a blown left-rear tire for Harvick, and the damage his car sustained relegated him to a 42nd-place finish.
Johnson confronted Harvick in the drivers’ motorhome lot after the race ended. When Harvick emerged from his RV, he immediately punched Johnson in the chest.
Johnson did not retaliate, and both drivers argued with each other for a moment while Harvick’s public relations manager restrained the 2014 champion.
A firestorm brewed on social media about the reasoning for Harvick’s physical aggression, but neither Johnson nor Harvick were penalized for their on-track actions or their altercation in the infield.
With that said, NASCAR did hand out penalties to one Chase team on Wednesday, September 23.
Clint Bowyer’s team at Michael Waltrip Racing was penalized for a major infraction during technical inspection on Friday, September 18 at Chicagoland.
NASCAR officials discovered an issue in the rear suspension of the car with a part known as the track bar, and inspectors believed that
The track bar, which is known as the panhard bar in most of the automotive industry, is a part on the car that centers the rear axle and prevents it from moving freely.
As a result of this violation, Bowyer was docked 25 driver points, co-owner Rob Kauffman was docked 25 owner points, and crew chief Billy Scott was suspended for three races and fined $75,000.
Bowyer is now 31 points behind the 12th-place cutoff, so Bowyer will either have to win at New Hampshire or Dover or finish a total of 31 positions ahead of whoever is assumed to be 12th in the standings over the next two races in order to advance to the Contender Round of the 2015 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The second race in the Chase’s Challenger Round takes place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire.
This 1.058-mile, low-banked oval has been a staple on the Sprint Cup Series schedule for over 20 years, and it has been a part of the Chase schedule every season since its inception in 2004.
Race coverage of the Sylvania 300 begins on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The race can also be streamed through NBC Live Extra.