Gazing into Chase crystal ball


Ten races, 10 predictions and 10 different responses. NASCAR Talk’s Dustin Long and Nate Ryan don’t agree on what is going to happen in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

How would you answer the following questions? Who do you are agree more with? Dustin or Nate?

1 – Tony Stewart went from few people believing he had a chance to win the title in 2011 to winning the crown. Who could be this year’s Tony Stewart – i.e. the overlooked diver?

DUSTIN – Martin Truex Jr. He has the second-best average finish in races at Chase tracks this season (7.4). Crew chief Cole Pearn is aggressive in the style of Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski. The concern is that Truex’s success came early. He has three top-10 finishes in the last 11 races.

NATE – The same driver as last year – Ryan Newman. No one expected him to reach the championship round and finish runner-up in the 2014 points standings. He actually has two more top 10s and top fives entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup this season than last year.

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2 – Which Chase driver intrigues you the most?

DUSTIN – Kyle Busch. His career is littered with disappointments in the Chase. After a tremendous run to make the Chase despite missing the first 11 races, can Busch continue to dominate and score his first title? I want to see how he and his team handle these 10 races.

NATE – Clint Bowyer. He has been performing better since the drama began about Michael Waltrip Racing and its impending shutdown, but can Bowyer maintain that level during the playoffs with an uncertain future still looming for him and much of his crew?

3 – What track other than Talladega do you believe could shake the Chase?

DUSTIN – Dover. Only two Chase drivers finished in the top five (Jimmie Johnson won and Kevin Harvick was second), while four Chase drivers finished outside the top 20 in May. This can be a tough track with it being an elimination race, a problem here could dramatically impact who advances and who doesn’t.

NATE – Martinsville Speedway remains the second-biggest wild card – it effectively eliminated Brad Keselowski last year and nearly knocked out Kevin Harvick. With so much pressure to start the penultimate round, mistakes will be made, and they are magnified on a short track. Keep an eye on Kansas Speedway, too, where problems doomed Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. last year.

4- First driver confrontation among Chase competitors will be between …

DUSTIN – With all this talk about Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske being the dominant teams this summer, I see Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin reviving their feud from a few years ago. There’s a good bit of history there and it will only take one incident to start the pyrotechnics.

NATE – Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. A bookend to their confrontation at Daytona after the Sprint Unlimited. There has been the potential for many sparks in battles between them since then, and the Chase finally will ignite it.

5 – Does Jeff Gordon win a race this season?

DUSTIN – No. Unless Hendrick Motorsports comes out with some special cars, Gordon and his team have not shown that they have a car that can consistently challenge for wins.

NATE – Yes. But after being eliminated from the playoffs.

6 – Brad Keselowski was the No. 1 seed entering last year’s Chase. He won two Chase races but finished fifth in the points. How will Jimmie Johnson, the No. 1 seed this year, do in the Chase?

DUSTIN – Jimmie Johnson will be the lone Hendrick car to make the final four but won’t win the title.

NATE – He will win his seventh championship with his first victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

7 – Who finishes the best among the Chase drivers without a win this season (Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer)

DUSTIN – Jamie McMurray. None of these drivers has show the speed to win on a consistent basis but McMurray has been steadier than the other four. McMurray will advance to the second round but his path to the title likely will end there.

NATE – Newman again will surprise the field by reaching the third round.

8 – There are six crew chiefs in their first Chase – Cole Pearn with Martin Truex Jr., Adam Stevens with Kyle Busch, Billy Scott with Clint Bowyer, Greg Ives with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt McCall with Jamie McMurray and Justin Alexander with Paul Menard). How could they impact the Chase?

DUSTIN – They’ll make an impact only if they have fast cars. With a fast car, a crew chief can dictate the race. Without it, they’re just trying wild gambles to get back up front.

NATE – Aside from Adam Stevens, who unshakably has proven his mettle through incessant adversity, none will reach the championship round. The learning curve will be steep for most.

9 – What’s something most are overlooking about this Chase?

DUSTIN – That if Hendrick Motorsports doesn’t win the title, it will mean the organization will have won one Cup championship in the last five seasons – that’s great for many organizations but that is considered a drought for Rick Hendrick. Should the organization not get a car in the final four for a second year in a row, one wonders if there will be changes with some teams in the offseason.

NATE – That its schedule lays out the same as last year’s (aside from Charlotte and Kansas being flopped in the second round), which will give an advantage to the drivers who endured the first season of the elimination format. The veterans already were tipping their hands at Richmond that they had learned much from Ryan Newman’s successful strategy last year.

10 – Who wins the championship?

DUSTIN – Kyle Busch. The controversial driver will create even more controversy among some fans by winning the title despite missing 11 races. Consider it the gift that keeps giving for critics and talk show hosts to discuss throughout the offseason.

NATE – Jimmie Johnson. His team quietly has been excellent in the past three races, though the results have belied its strengths. He hasn’t gone this long without leading a lap during his career, and the scales will tip the other way as they have before.

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NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.