Last Sunday was the first race in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase. Martin Truex Jr. won the race in Chicago and will be moving on to the next round, but he is only one of four drivers to keep an eye on going forward.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has been one of the fastest and most consistent drivers all season. His win in Chicago last week might only be the first of a few that propel him to the championship this season. Truex has been strong on the track, has had a good car, and has had some of the best pit stops among the field this season. These are all key parts of a winning team. Even though Truex has already punched his ticket into the round of 12, look for him to keep making adjustments. This team will look to improve their car this weekend in New Hampshire and next weekend in Dover. Look for Truex to make another push in Charlotte, the first race of the round of 12. Truex has done very well on mile and a half tracks and looks to continue that run.
Last week, Jimmie Johnson proved he was still Jimmie Johnson. Although he finished 12th, Johnson led 118 of 270 laps and if it weren’t for a few late mistakes, Johnson would have likely finished first. Jimmie doesn’t make the same mistakes twice. He and crew chief Chad Knaus will make the necessary adjustments and will do what it takes to move on to the round of 12. Johnson was dominant on Sunday and looked like he had the race in the bag until he had a pit road speeding penalty with only about 30 laps to go.
When Johnson wasn’t in control of the race, it was Chase Elliott. Elliott led 75 of the 270 laps last Sunday and until some back luck got to him on his final pit stop. After coming off pit road third and with two other drives staying out and not pitting, Elliott started fifth and got stuck on the bottom line during the restart. This rookie is fast. If his pit crew can shave a second or so off his stops, Chase could be a serious contender in his first Sprint Cup Chase.
Denny Hamlin is a my dark horse candidate here. He finished sixth in the race in Chicago, but didn’t really have a great race. Going forward, Denny could keep advancing by finishing top 10 of each race. Denny has been doing relatively well and if he continues, the Cup this year could be his.
Other drivers to watch are Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Busch is one of the best drivers in the entire series. A few good races and Busch is back on the top. Larson on the other hand as one of the hottest drivers at the end of the season. While he did not have a good race last weekend in Chicago, look for him to bounce back at New Hampshire.
After week one, my pick to win the chase is none other than Chase Elliott.