Challenges in Chicago
The start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was delayed thanks to rain that forced the running of the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway to today. When it was over Joey Logano would lead Joe Gibbs Racing with a 17th-place finish, while Kyle Busch would come up just short on fuel to finish 22nd and two separate tire issues would relegate Hamlin to a 31st-place finish.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 10th position, but tight handling conditions through the center of the turns would cost him to lose several spots on the track during the opening laps of the race. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli would call for the necessary adjustments to help the No. 20 Camry turn better and Logano responded by driving back up into the top 20. Unfortunately as the run got longer the tight handling conditions would return and slow his progress. Logano would restart 16th with 50 laps to go and he managed to conserve enough fuel to earn a 17th- place finish.
Kyle Busch had his No. 18 Doublemint Toyota in the ninth position for the start of today’s race and managed to gain several positions on the track prior to a competition caution on lap 30. Crew chief Dave Rogers made the call for only a two-tire change on that stop which allowed Busch to win the race off pit road and restart the race in first place. He was able to hold the lead for seven laps following the restart before the tires began to fall off toward the end of his green flag run. The Doublemint team continued to make the necessary adjustments to help the car turn better in the corners and Busch was running in the fifth position when the race hit the halfway mark. A caution on lap 144 would bring the leaders down pit road once again, but a slow stop would cause Busch to drop back to the 19th position for the restart on lap 151. He would drive his Camry back up to 13th when the next caution came out on lap 164. Busch restarted 12th with 99 laps remaining and was able to climb back into the top 10 just a couple laps later. A lap 204 caution would bring the leaders back to pit road and Busch would restart the race in the 10th position on lap 208. The team was racing in the eighth position while trying to conserve enough gas to make it to the end, but proved to be a lap short on fuel when he and several other Chase contenders ran out prior to the checkered flag. The 18 car ran dry just before the white flag flew to signal the final lap of the race, forcing Busch to pit road and costing the team a near certain top ten finish as the Doublemint Camry finished 22nd.
Denny Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the 27th position and battled handling conditions through the early going. Crew chief Mike Ford appeared to call for the right adjustments during the first couple of stops however and Hamlin had his No. 11 Camry racing in 18th position when he felt a vibration in one of the tires and had to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 86. The problem with the tire would prove costly, with the 11 team ultimately falling two laps off the pace from the leaders. Hamlin would keep the FedEx Camry on the track when a caution on lap 144 came out to earn one of his laps back. He would race hard on the next green flag run and was nearly set to put himself in the lucky dog position when another caution came out just a bit too early as it turned out on lap 204. Unfortunately as the team continued to fight its way back to the lead lap another tire issue with about 45 laps remaining would dampen those efforts as Hamlin had to bring the car back down pit road to change a flat left front tire. The costly unscheduled stop put him back on the track three laps down in the 33rd position. He would go on to finish a disappointing 31st.
Tony Stewart captured the victory, while Kevin Harvick was second, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. third, Carl Edwards fourth, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five. There were six cautions for a total of 25 laps and 22 lead changes among 10 different drivers over the course of the 267-lap race.
Busch is now ninth in the current NASCAR point standings, 19 points behind the leader, while Hamlin remains 12th and 41 points back.