The first race in the second round of The Chase proved costly for 5 of the 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers that are seeking The Championship.
It seems that the latter half of this year’s season has been plagued with rain delays, and this past weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway was no different. However, this time, instead of waiting out normal rain showers, the track was forced to reschedule all events thanks to Hurricane Matthew as it made its way up the coast, driving heavy rains and high winds inland as well. Normally a Saturday ‘night’ race, the Bank of America 500 instead became a Sunday afternoon race that was directly followed by the Xfinity series.
Joey Logano blew a right front tire on Lap 117 to cause the third caution of the race. On Lap 155, he sustained severe damage from hard contact with the outside wall, lost 78 laps in the garage for repairs and finished 36th.
Right before Logano’s No. 22 Ford hit the wall, Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 Chevrolet simply lost power. Despite shutting down the car in order to let it cycle, power was not restored and Harvick headed for the garage.
After running up front for the majority of the afternoon and leading 101 laps, Chase Elliott in the #24 3M Chevrolet was the next to feel the sting of Charlotte, among a 12-car wreck on Lap 259. Under caution, almost all cars headed to the pits for fresh tires. In a failed attempt to get up front, Austin Dillon in the #3 car took on only 2 fresh tires while all other drivers opted for 4. Dillon’s rush to the front, whereupon he took the inside lane, caused several chase drivers to line up behind him. However, on the restart, he didn’t have the fresh rubber he needed to grab the track and couldn’t get traction. In an effort to push Dillon, Martin Truex Jr. tapped the bumper off-center to the right, turning Dillon’s car into the infield wall.
As Dillon spun, Elliott checked up behind him causing a chain reaction as Kyle Busch, who was behind Elliott, couldn’t avoid contact and turned him into the outside wall. Busch’s car was damaged but was repairable. Elliott; however, wasn’t so lucky and the wreck ended the day’s run for The Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader. In the post wreck interview, Elliott said he was “devastated” and rightfully so after such a strong run that, until that point, had put him in line to finish in the Top 3, if not first. Meanwhile, Truex Jr. expressed regret on his radio, stating that he had ‘turned (Dillon), like a damned idiot’.
Not long afterward, Denny Hamlin felt the hammer come down on his run when his engine exploded with only 26 laps to go. The event left the No. 11 Toyota with a 30th place finish.
Fortunately, as the first race in the round, all of these drivers have the opportunity to make a comeback in the next two races, which will be held at Kansas and Talladega respectively.
In the end, it was six-time champion Jimmie Johnson that claimed the checkered flag after a dry spell that had lasted 24 races. Taking the lead from Matt Kenseth after a restart on Lap 317, Johnson pulled away to win and parked his #48 Chevrolet in Victory Lane for the eighth time at Charlotte and the 78th time in his career.