During the NASCAR Sprint Cup series opener, with all the drama leading up to the race, NASCAR implementing new rules that ban digital communication with spotters and all drivers and teams must give ‘100% effort, their best effort, and to complete a race and race as hard as they possibly can,’ according to NASCAR president Mike Helton.
“On the spotter’s stand there will only be one spotter allowed per team on the stand. That spotter will only be able to have two analog radios. No digital radios,” said Robin Pemberton vice president of competition for NASCAR. “They’ll be able to have scanners and Fan Views. We’ll also install a camera that will be piped into a replay system that we can monitor the actions that go on in the spotter’s stand.”
With the new rules there was no foul play while at the 1.5 mile oval at Chicagoland Speedway, Sunday.
But there was no lack of drama among the 13 Chase contenders as problems plagued several drivers running for the title of champion. Jimmie Johnson, after having a problem with an official thinking that there was a loose lugnut that dropped him from the lead, had repeated slow pit stops. Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon had a tire going down on the restart, causing him to go down a lap, a lap that took much of the race to gain back. Kurt Busch received a speeding penalty and Greg Biffle was caught speeding in the pits, these four drivers overcame difficulty to carve out solid finishes. Kurt Busch, Johnson and Gordon finished fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively. Biffle finished 16th.
For others that weren’t so lucky it was a night filled with irritability especially for two of the Chase drivers, starting with Joey Logano, who started on the pole this past weekend. The Penske Racing driver, is driving in his inaugural Chase race for his career. Logano led the first 32 laps until the competition caution and was third when the race was red flagged for rain. When the race resumed, after 5 hours and 10 minutes on lap 110, the engine in the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford went south not long after the green flag and finally died on lap 176. Logano finished 37th.
“I am pretty angry,” Logano expressed. “That was such a fast race car we had. You have these every once in awhile. It is a bummer to have it in the Chase when you are running for a championship. I feel like Chicago was one of those tracks we could win at. Everyone was doing the right thing. We have a really fast race car and we put it on the pole and led laps today. It just wasn’t our day I guess.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also experienced a blow to his Chase hopes when the engine in his #88 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet failed with about 40 laps remaining. Earnhardt Jr. rebounded from a pit road collision just past the halfway mark of the race that damaged the nose of his car, to take the lead momentarily before his third engine failure of the season. With the caution for Earnhardt Jr. his teammate Gordon was the beneficiary and was able to remain on the lead lap. Gordon did not pit with the leaders and took the lead briefly before Earnhardt Jr.’s engine expired resulting in the caution before Gordon needed to pit.
“We were going to get that patched up and maybe be able to make something out of it,” said Earnhardt Jr. who finished 35th. “But something broke there in the motor. It’s tough.”
Chase drivers took the top six positions at Chicagoland, The Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway is on Sunday, September 22.