Chicagoland Speedway

NASCAR America: Scan All from Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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“I sure as (expletive) hope that’s all out of our system.”

That’s what Kyle Busch had to say over his radio after he finished 15th, a lap down in the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch’s day went south after the first stage thanks to two pit miscues the sent him two laps down.

Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. dominate the field to win his fifth race of the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

In the latest “Scan All,” True and crew chief Cole Pearn recap their day, which saw them bounce back from their own pit road mistakes.

Here are other highlights from this week’s “Scan All.”

  • “Can’t drive in a straight line. Something’s not right with the front end.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just before he made contact with the outside wall. A commitment line violation resulted in Stenhouse finish multiple laps off the lead.
  • “Tell the 1 (Jamie McMurray) I don’t know what happened there but we both got the short end of the stick.” – Ryan Newman after contact between him and McMurray sent McMurray spinning on a restart.
  • (Expletive), that 24 (Chase Elliott) can be so much (expletive) faster than us.” – Kasey Kahne after being told he was two laps down.

Watch the above video for more.

Cole Pearn on questions about team’s success: ‘Sad sign of the times’

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Amid talk last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway that Toyotas had an advantage entering the Cup playoffs, Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s race to give the manufacturer its fifth victory in the last seven events.

Truex, who advances to the second round with the Chicagoland victory, has scored two wins and four top-five finishes during that stretch. Kyle Busch has two wins for Toyota during that stretch and Denny Hamlin has one win.

Tuesday, Truex’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, was asked on “The Morning Drive’’ about his reaction to those who suggest his team’s success is due to some sort of impropriety instead of hard work.

“I think that maybe just comes with the territory,’’ Pearn said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s a little bit sad sign of the times. You do a lot of hard work and a ton of people put a lot of effort into it and then people try to take the wind out of your sails a little bit. That’s just the world we live in, unfortunately.

“I don’t know I remember racing being that way when I was growing up, but that is the way it is now, and unfortunately that just comes with the territory and you just deal with it.’’

Ford driver Brad Keselowski has been vocal in recent weeks — and was so again last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway — about Toyota’s advantage and NASCAR needing to even the competition. In his comments, though, Keselowski has not accused Toyota teams of achieving their success due to improper methods.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, was asked Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about NASCAR’s reaction to Keselowski’s comments.

“I think we look at it as just a competitor,’’ O’Donnell said. “Certainly our job is to put a level playing field out there. We’ve got a submission process that each of the (manufacturers) goes through and kind of witnesses, so we believe they are on a level playing field. For us, I look at it as a little bit of posturing. Brad certainly ran well this weekend (finishing sixth).

“At the end of the day, you’ve had that car all year long, you’ve got to go out there, it’s playoffs and you’ve got to deliver. You’re seeing drivers who are going to be on the top of their game. We’ll get to the end of the year and see where we’re at and evaluate things for ’18, but when we look across the board for the entirety of the year … multiple teams have been able to win, so we’ll see how that plays out here.’’

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After Chicago, Larson, Harvick lead winless drivers in first round

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For the second year in a row, Martin Truex Jr. won the playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway to advance to the second round of NASCAR Cup Series postseason.

With his win, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick are the top-two drivers among the 15 still competing for the remaining 11 spots in the second round.

There are five drivers primarily in danger of being among the four eliminated following the next two races at New Hampshire and Dover.

Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch are tied with 2,026 points, though Dillon is listed as 12th and Busch in 13th on the grid.

Following them are Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is four points back from Busch/Dillon, Kasey Kahne (-5) and Ryan Newman (-7).

Below is the full playoff grid following the first race of the first round.

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A quiet moment among a chaotic scene

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JOLIET, Illinois — Amid the celebration, there was a moment of reflection for Martin Truex Jr.

A day after former NASCAR modified champion Ted Christopher died in a plane crash, Truex won the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Christopher, 59, and a pilot were killed when their plane went down in a wooded area near Guilford, Connecticut. They were the only people onboard.

Truex, who is from New Jersey, raced against Christopher and credited Christopher with helping him.

“I definitely thought about him,’’ Truex told NBC Sports. “It was such shocking news to hear it. I initially thought back to the days racing with him and thought of the respect I had for him and what he means to short track racing in the Northeast where I grew up and where I cut my teeth.

“Racing with guys like him is what gave me the opportunity and skills to move to North Carolina and get hired to drive cars for a living. I flashed back to my Busch North days initially and remembered racing with him at Stafford and New Hampshire and Thompson and all those places we got to race with him.

“Even before I started racing, watching him race modifieds and knowing how much he meant to Northeastern motorsports and the kind of driver he was. He was definitely a hard-nosed driver and somebody you had to respect on the race track or he would show you. Definitely cool to win and say that we were thinking about his friends and family, and hopefully they can find some peace and celebrate him as a person.’’

STEADY AS THEY GO

While a number of playoff teams and drivers had mistakes or misfortune, reigning champion Jimmie Johnson drove a steady race and finished eighth.

It tied for his best finish since his June 4 win at Dover.

Johnson’s run Sunday was not spectacular but it wasn’t hurt by some sort of issue that plagued so many of his competitors (Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon had pit road penalties, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall and had a commitment line violation, Jamie McMurray spun.) He ran between eighth and 12th much of the day and scored the finish he needed. For that, it was a win for Johnson, who is 20 points ahead of the cutoff with two races to go.

“Playoff pressure gets everybody at some point (but) we’re usually not as sensitive as others,’’ Johnson told NBC Sports.

His finish Sunday was his best at Chicagoland Speedway since a fifth-place result in 2013 — when he won the sixth of his seven titles. Johnson finished 12th last year on the way to winning the crown.

HALF FULL AND HALF EMPTY LOOK

Jamie McMurray said he thought he had a fifth-place car.

He finished 10th.

So a loss there, but McMurray spun after contact with Ryan Newman’s car with just under 100 laps left.

“The backstretch is curved here and I think I just didn’t leave Ryan enough room,’’ McMurray said. “I really wasn’t racing anybody. It was a restart and you’re just trying to get all situated. I knew he was there, I could see him. I guess I didn’t leave him enough room.’’

After falling back to 16th for the restart, McMurray scored his third top-10 result in the last five races.

So, it was a win in that sense.

It helped that there weren’t many cars on the lead lap after his spin and that McMurray said he had a good car on restarts.

By gaining six spots — and six points — McMurray is five points ahead of the cutoff with two races to go. He has 2,031 points. Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch each have 2,026 points after Chicagoland.

That’s significant for McMurray, who has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs and entered this year’s postseason with the fewest playoff points (three) of the 16 drivers.

PIT STOPS

Landon Cassill’s 20th-place finish was his first top-20 at a non-restrictor-plate track this season. In the last three races, Cassill has finished 21st (Darlington), 39th (Richmond) and 20th (Chicagoland) … Seven drivers were caught speeding on pit road Sunday: Corey LaJoie (twice), Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Matt DiBenedetto, Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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Kyle Larson gets ‘quiet top five’ in playoff opener (video)

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Kyle Larson‘s 2017 playoff experience is already better than last year’s, when Larson didn’t even feel like he was a part of the postseason. 

Last season, a cut tire in the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway relegated Larson to a 18th-place finish. Two races later he was eliminated from the playoffs.

But Sunday, Larson took heart in a “quiet top five” after Larson finished fifth. It is his 12th top five of the year.

“We weren’t very good in the beginning,” Larson told NBCN. “Just didn’t have the balance that I needed or really what I had in practice. Still a solid day for us to get some stage points and then finish top five heading into Loudon. Get some more solid finishes and advance to the next round, we should be OK.”

The top five comes after Larson closed out the regular season with a win at Richmond Raceway. He entered the playoffs seeded second to Martin Truex Jr. Larson earned 10 stage points by finishing eighth in Stage 1 and fourth in Stage 2.

“I’m excited,” Larson said. “These tracks are some really good tracks for us in the playoffs. Obviously, the 78 (Truex) is really good. He could probably win nine out of 10, but if we get to Homestead we’ll have a shot.”

Watch the video for the full interview.