Friday, September 19, 2014

TV Schedule: Sept. 19-21

New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
The Chase is underway, and New Hampshire marks the second race in the playoffs.

The Sprint Cup Series and the Camping World Truck Series descend on the Magic Mile, while the Nationwide Series has a standalone race in Kentucky.

The following is a handy guide to track events and television coverage at New Hampshire and Kentucky. All times are in Eastern Standard Time. Events without a channel listed will not be televised.

Friday, Sept. 19:                        
Noon NSCS Practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NCWTS Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3 p.m. NCWTS Series Final Practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1
6 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
6:30 p.m. NNS Final Practice, FS1
7:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1

Saturday, Sept. 20:
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
9 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
10 a.m. NCWTS Qualifying, FS1
11:30 a.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
1 p.m. NCWTS at New Hampshire: UNOH 175, FS1. Green flag: 1:19 p.m.
4:10 p.m. NNS Qualifying
7:30 p.m. NNS at Kentucky: VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300, ESPNEWS. Green flag: 7:45 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 21:
12:30 a.m. NCWTS at New Hampshire: UNOH 175 (re-air), FS2
Noon NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ESPN
2 p.m. NSCS at New Hampshire: SYLVANIA 300, ESPN. Green flag: 2:15 p.m. Re-airs at 12:30 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, September 18, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire



Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway  Darlington Raceway • Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway •  Kentucky Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.058 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 3 - Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman
All with 2 - Brian Vickers, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurray

By Track
All with 6 - Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman  
All with 5 - Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski 

Recent Pole Winners:  
2013 Ryan Newman
2012 Jeff Gordon

The Likely Suspects: As we enter Chase race #2 one driver, last week's winner Brad Keselowski, has secured his spot in the next round, leaving 11 spots waiting to be filled. Traditionally the following drivers have performed well at New Hampshire. We'll have to see if that continues to hold true as the pressure of the playoff heats up. They are Chase drivers Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman (currently on the bubble at 13th), Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. Non-Chase drivers who run well at "The Magic Mile" include Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray.

My 2 Cents: Many of the same drivers who ran well last week, including Keselowski and Gordon, also run well at New Hampshire. When making final picks this week think top 10, Chevy and Ford and Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway.

Jeff Gordon ranks #1 for my no-brainer pick this week, closely followed by a three-way tie between Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. I will round out my team with Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon. If you have any Kyle Larson starts left pull Danica and go with Larson and Dillon.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Every Driver Matters, Every Race Counts

Kyle Larson challenges the leaders at Chicagolang, Sept. 14, 2014.
Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

For the first time in series history, the Chase has an elimination format, with three cut-offs in which four drivers are dismissed from championship eligibility. But unlike other major sports, the journey to crown a NASCAR champion still has a unique feature: Drivers who drop out of contention still get to race each week.

In fact, a full field of 43 drivers keeps racing each week, with every non-Chaser vying for the checkered flag, too, even though he or she isn’t eligible for the championship.

This is great news for the folks in firesuits. It means that even drivers and teams who aren’t in the Chase play a part in the choreography of each race. Every driver matters. And every race counts.

Kyle Larson certainly mattered at Chicago on Sunday. Although Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon finished at the front, there was another battle behind them. Rookie Kyle Larson gave Kevin Harvick a run for his money as they battled for third.

“The 42 was better than us,” Harvick said in a post-race interview when asked about the hard racing with Larson. “He passed us the run before and was able to get track position and restart on the bottom.”

On the closing restarts, Harvick was forced into what he called “defensive mode” against Larson. Even though he wasn’t chasing a championship, Larson challenged a veteran who was and snapped up a third-place finish.

In a race, there’s only one winner, so everyone else plays lesser roles and receives tiered rewards. But the winner can’t run a race alone; the competitors are essential. After it’s over, you can look back and see what role each driver played. Larson led 20 laps and challenged the leaders. Jamie McMurray led three times for 32 laps and logged a top-10 finish. Runner-up Jeff Gordon kept Keselowski on his toes.

Real life mimics racing. Lots of people -- with different goals, diverse abilities and colorful backgrounds -- scurry around “doing their thing” at the same time. But for the body of believers in God, each person runs a unique line, pursuing tasks appointed exclusively to him or her.

You may think you’re unimportant at work or in other situations, and that others have better talents and loftier roles in life. But that’s not true. The Bible illustrates this point in 1 Corinthians 12:16-17 using an analogy of the human body:

If the ear says “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear?

Both ears and eyes are important for proper functioning of the body, and they have different roles. It’s silly for ears and eyes to be jealous of each other. Likewise, it’s foolish for us to be envious or competitive with each other. The beauty of the body of humanity is its variety of useful parts.

Just like in NASCAR, where every driver matters and every race counts, you matter to God. He has special things for you to do in every nook and cranny of life – home, work, play, church, hobbies, and more. Have you thought about what your God-given purposes might be?

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.    ~ I Corinthians 12:12 (NLT)
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“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Follow on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fast Facts: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

New Hampshire Motor Speedway
credit: Getty Images/Chris Trotman
This weekend, NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH, for the Sylvania 300. Learn more about this New England track, known as the “Magic Mile,” in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Ground was broken for the former New Hampshire International Speedway on Aug. 13, 1989 on the site of what was the Bryar Motorsports Park road course. The Bahre family redeveloped it into a multi-purpose facility, adding a 1.058-mile oval to the 1.6-mile road course. In addition to hosting NASCAR events, the facility hosts the Loudon Classic motorcycle race annually.
  • NASCAR’s Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) made its debut at the track in July 1990. In July 1993, the Cup Series made its debut at the track, with Rusty Wallace heading to victory lane. That race would be Davey Allison’s last race, as he was severely injured the next day in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway; Allison would later die from his injuries.
  • From 1992-1998, the track hosted open wheel racing – CART from 1992-1995 and the Indy Racing League from 1996-1998. The IndyCar Series attempted to make a comeback to New Hampshire in 2011, but poor attendance and controversial decisions by race officials left it off of the 2012 schedule.
  • Following the 1996 season, owner Bob Bahre and Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith purchased North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina and moved one of its Cup Series dates to New Hampshire.
  • The 2000 season at the track was shrouded in tragedy, as two up-and-coming drivers lost their lives in separate practice accidents. In May, fourth-generation driver Adam Petty lost his life after his throttle stuck exiting Turn Two while practicing for the Busch Series event; less than two months later, Kenny Irwin Jr. died of similar complications while practicing for the upcoming Cup Series race. The accidents led track owners to run restrictor plates for the Cup Series race in September 2000, which Jeff Burton led wire-to-wire.
  • Prior to the 2008 season, Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchase the track from the Bahre family, renaming it New Hampshire Motor Speedway to coincide with other SMI interests.
  • In addition to the Cup Series, NHMS hosts NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series, K&N Pro Series East and the Whelen Modified Tour.
  • Learn more about NHMS at www.nhms.com

Monday, September 15, 2014

Travel Tips: New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Sept. 19-21, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH for the second race in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Sylvania 300. The race weekend, scheduled for Sept. 19-21, will also feature the Camping World Truck Series, the Whelen Modified Tour and the American-Canadian Tour (ACT).
credit: NASCAR Media

On Thursday, Sept. 18, WOKQ FanFest at NHMS begins at
5:30 p.m. ET, with the NASCAR Hauler Parade getting underway at 6 p.m. ET. In addition to driver autograph sessions and celebrity Q-and-As, there will be a concert from Dylan Scott beginning at 9 p.m. ET. FanFest is free and is located in the
S2 Display Lot outside the infield tunnel.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Sept. 19 –
  • Whelen Modified Tour practice – 8:30 and 11 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3 ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour qualifying – 5:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, Sept. 20 –
  • ACT practice – 8 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9 and 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 10:10 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 – 1 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour F.W. Webb 100 – 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Bond Auto Parts ACT Invitational – 5 p.m. ET

Sunday, Sept. 21 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 – 2 p.m. ET

To purchase tickets for the Sylvania 300 weekend, or to learn more about NHMS, visit www.nhms.com.

Travel Tips: Kentucky Speedway – Sept. 19-20, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
The Nationwide Series has a stand-alone race this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 19-20, at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. The ARCA Racing Series is also on the racing schedule this weekend.

There will be a Nationwide Series autograph session on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET– check the Kentucky Speedway website later in the week for more information.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Sept. 19 –
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 1 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series practice – 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 5 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series Zloop 150 – 8 p.m. ET

Saturday, Sept. 20 –
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 4:10 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 – 7:30 p.m. ET

Check out the fan guide for Kentucky Speedway here. Information on coolers and what can be brought into the track can be found here.


For additional information on Kentucky Speedway, and to purchase tickets and Fan Zone passes, visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com

Friday, September 12, 2014

Risk It for the Biscuit: Five Questions for Chicagoland

Credit: Brian Kersey/NASCAR via Getty Images
Come one, come all to the greatest event in racing history!

Yeah, I’m exaggerating. So what? This weekend kicks off the Chase, which has a brand spankin’ new format. I’m thrilled to see how it turns out and how it affects the racing. Things are bound to evolve even during the first race.

NASCAR won’t get off easy; I have questions involving Richmond, the Chase, and champions in this week’s column. I’m serving it up with a fresh side of sass as well. Enjoy.

Do the races at Richmond have bigger implications? OK, aside from The Catch Fence Man, both races at Richmond International Raceway SUCKED. That’s the cold, hard truth. I wasn’t expecting it to be the full-blown circus it was last season, but SOME action would’ve been nice. There’s something we can learn from this: Goodyear needs a better tire. If the tires actually had a fall-off quality, then someone could’ve rivaled Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. I was unaware I was watching the REGULAR SEASON FINALE. C’mon, Richmond. Pack a punch next time.

What should we expect during the Chase? First, I fully expect NO Richmond-esque lulls in excitement (sorry, I’m still bitter). The Chase is in a new playoff version, and we anxiously wait to observe how this actually works. Everything is going to be different; the motto has gone from “risk it for the biscuit” to “protect ALL the biscuits.” Conserving your strength and preserving your ranking is the game plan. Let’s all hope some excitement comes from it.

Who’s D.O.A in the first round? After the first four races, four people will be cut from running for the championship. It’s like a twisted version of "America’s Next Top Model." After much thought, I’ve decided the first bunch to be cut will include Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman. The last two got in on points, and I highly doubt they can knock out victories in the finals. As much as I love underdogs, Almirola and Allmendinger’s respective teams aren’t up to par with the Hendricks and the Penskes. If this were ANTM, though, Allmendinger’s hair would make it to the final four, and we all know who would win the grand prize (I’m looking at you, Kasey Kahne).

And our three champions are …? It’s difficult to predict everything that’s going to happen, so I’m just hitting the big point: who’ll be eliminated first, and who will be crowned champions. Sounds easy enough, right? Eh. Let’s start with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Matt Crafton is currently at the top, and he will stay there. Since the Trucks have fewer races, not much is going to change. Crafton’s been consistent all year. For that, he will be rewarded. The NASCAR Nationwide Series is a bit trickier, with both Regan Smith and Chase Elliott both putting up strong performances throughout the season. Does experience beat out fresh talent? Or vice versa? I’m sorry, Smith, but Elliott’s just too strong. He hasn’t had the miscues the No. 7 team has suffered. It may be a stretch, but that’s one I’m willing to take. Now, for the grand finale, I’m going to select a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Drum roll … OK, no drum roll, whatever. This is a difficult decision to make because two drivers stand out in my mind. No, three. No, two. The talent is just too good. If my life depended on a correct guess, then my life is in Brad Keselowski’s hands. There’s something about his attitude and mindset that sticks out to me. Penske power has been the prince to Hendrick’s king-like rule, but it will overthrow them in the end.

A TRIPLE-HEADER WEEKEND?! Can’t you tell that I’m excited?! Many people know my displeasure with the number of races the Trucks put on. Not only are they racing, but IT’S A NIGHT RACE TONIGHT!! I do have some reservations about this deal, though. The events this weekend are at Chicagoland Speedway, which isn’t the most exciting place. However, I’m choosing to remain positive. It’s the beginning of the Chase, the trucks are under the lights … this weekend won’t be anything like Richmond (thank goodness).

TV Schedule: Sept. 12-14

Chicagoland. Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
16 drivers. One championship.

The Chase - and its new format - gets underway at Chicagoland. All three series get back on track at the 1.5-mile intermediate track.

The following is handy guide to track events and television coverage at Chicagoland. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Sept. 12:                              
11 a.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at Kern (re-air), FS1
Noon NNS Practice, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3 p.m. NCWTS Qualifying, FS1
4:30 p.m. NNS Final Practice, FS1
6::30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, ESPN2
8 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
8:30 p.m. NCWTS: Lucas Oil 225, FS1. Green flag: 8:49 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 13:
10 a.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at Kern (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
Noon NNS Qualifying, FS2
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS2
2 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS2
3:30 p.m. Jimmy John's Freaky Fast 300 Powered by Coca-Cola, ESPN2. Green flag: 3:46 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 14:
9 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
Noon NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ESPN
2 p.m. NSCS: MyAFibStory.com 400, ESPN. Green flag: 2:16 p.m.
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
11:30 p.m. NSCS: MyAFibStory.com 400 (re-air), ESPN2

Thursday, September 11, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Chicagoland ushers in Challenger round



Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Darlington Raceway  Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway • Kentucky Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway  • New Hampshire Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Clint Bowyer - 5
Both with 4 -  Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman  
All with 3 - Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 4 
All with 3 - Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman  

Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Joey Logano
2012 Jimmie Johnson

The Likely Suspects: Race fans will get to see a new Chase format this year which opens with the Challenger round in Chicagoland. The not-so-sweet 16 drivers will be looking to bolster their chances to move to the next round three weeks from now. This first race is an awesome time for Chase-spoilers to show that they still have it even though they can't contend for the championship. The top of the spoiler list for Chicagoland is Clint Bowyer who sits in 17th place. In addition to Bowyer, look for these drivers to run well this week: Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, and Kevin Harvick. This has traditionally been a stellar track for Tony Stewart. Can Stewart and Bowyer make some noise this week or will it be the Chasers? Stay tuned.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick is a three-way tie among Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Mr. Top Seed Brad Keselowski. My next picks are Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fast Facts: Chicagoland Speedway

Nationwide Series at Chicagoland Speedway in July 2014
credit: Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel
Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL hosts the first race in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. The 1.5-mile D-shaped tri-oval will host all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series – Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks – this season, and over the years has hosted other series as well. Learn more about this week’s host in Fast Facts.
  • Discussions for a race track in the Chicago area began in late 1995. Spearheaded by Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George and International Speedway Corporation CEO Bill France Jr., a jointly-held company called The Motorsports Alliance was formed, and the search for a site began. Route 66 Raceway, a drag strip that hosts the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, was already built in the Joliet area; after impact studies were conducted, the Joliet city council unanimously approved the speedway to be built adjacent to Route 66 Raceway in Jan. 1999. Ground was broken for Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 28, 1999.
  • The speedway officially opened in July 2001, hosting NASCAR and the IndyCar Series. The IndyCar Series raced at the track from 2001-2010, recording five of the series’ 10 closest finishes in their 10-year stay, including the closest finish ever in 2002 (0.0024 seconds, Sam Hornish Jr. over All Unser Jr.). In addition to NASCAR’s top three series, Chicagoland also hosts the ARCA Racing Series, and hosted the Traxxas TORC (The Off Road Championship) Series until 2013.
  • The inaugural Cup Series pole was won by Todd Bodine in 2001; Jimmie Johnson currently leads all competitors with two poles. The inaugural Cup Series race in 2001 at Chicagoland was won by Kevin Harvick – he also won the 2002 race, currently the only driver to post consecutive wins there. Tony Stewart leads all drivers with three victories.
  • Chicagoland Speedway is home to Champions Park, an interactive fan display in a park-like setting. Monuments honoring each of the track’s Sprint Cup and IndyCar winners can be seen throughout the area, located next to the grandstands.
  • Find out more about Chicagoland Speedway at its website, www.chicagolandspeedway.com

Monday, September 8, 2014

Travel Tips: Chicagoland Speedway – Sept. 12-14, 2014


credit: NASCAR Media

The 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup is on! NASCAR’s annual Chase for the championship takes center stage for the next 10 weeks, and it kicks off this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 12-14 at Chicagoland Speedway, home of the MyAFibStory.com 400 on Sunday, Sept. 14. The Camping World Truck Series kicks off the action on Friday, Sept. 12, and the Nationwide Series hits the track on Saturday, Sept. 13.

credit: NASCAR Media
Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 10-11 are busy days away from the track, as Chase Grid Live hits Chicago’s Tribune Tower Plaza, 401 N. Michigan Ave. along the Chicago River. The free fan fest will feature a free concert from Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (Wednesday at 5 p.m. CT) as well as a Q-and-A with the rising stars of NASCAR (Thursday at 3 p.m. CT). Learn more about Chase Grid Live here.

On Thursday, downtown Joliet hosts the 14th annual Race Fan Rally from 4 to 10 p.m. CT. Taking place on Chicago St., the free event features the NASCAR Hauler Parade as well as live entertainment, driver appearances and more. Get more information on the Race Fan Rally here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Sept. 12 –
  • Nationwide Series practice – 11 a.m. and 3:30 CT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon CT
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 2:05 p.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 5:35 p.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 – 7:30 p.m. CT

Saturday, Sept. 13 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 11:05 a.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 – 2:30 p.m. CT

Sunday, Sept. 14 –
  • Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 – 1 p.m. CT

For a complete schedule of events at the track, click here.

For more race information and to purchase tickets for the MyAFibStory.com 400 weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, visit http://www.chicagolandspeedway.com/.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brad Keselowski dominates Richmond closer, earning top seed in the Chase

                                          Credit: Carol D'Agostino/Skirts and Scuffs

Like many times in this NASCAR season, what was expected wasn't delivered at Richmond on Saturday night, but what we got was unpredictable and sometimes bizarre.

The regular-season closer was billed as THE race where winless drivers racing to get into the playoffs would take no prisoners. However, from the green to the checkered flags, what we saw was a dominant win from pole sitter, and now the top seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Brad Keselowski. In fact, Keselowski led 383 laps, the most in a scheduled 400-lap Richmond race.

Wait? Isn't that a rerun from Friday night when pole sitter Kyle Busch gave a primer on speed and dominance in the NASCAR Nationwide Series? Correct. Well at least last night's Sprint Cup race did feature four lead changes as Kevin Harvick, who was the favorite going into the race, tried to keep up with Keselowki on the track. Although the No. 4 showed good speed, it was off the track in the pits that hurt Harvick the most, an issue that has plagued the No. 4 team consistently this year.

For Keselowki, he went into the race expecting to chase Kevin Harvick, but it ended up the other way around.

"I pulled into victory lane and I pinched myself once to make sure I wasn't dreaming. These are nights you don't forget as a driver and you live for. The Miller Lite Ford Fusion was just flying. I couldn't ask for a better way to enter the Chase than to win and take the first seed. We're ready. We want to run for another Cup.  We really feel like this team has it. Team Penske is really clicking," said Keselowski.

Last night's Richmond win was his fourth win of the season, his 14th victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the 400th win for team owner Roger Penske.

"For me it's a special time. To compete at the level we are. It's so close, this thing can go any way. To me, the pit stops are important. We obviously have put a lot of effort into that," said Penske.

That effort showed as the No. 2 team scored the best pit road times at Richmond with a total average of 39.171 seconds, edging out Joey Logano's No. 22 team, who came in at 39.266. Comparably, Harvick's team had the eighth fastest time with 39.859 seconds.

Finishing ninth and 19th respectively, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle locked up the final two spots in the Chase. The 16 contenders, in order by seed, are Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Logano, Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Biffle and Newman.

Last night's race wasn't without weird and scary moments though. A caution was called at lap 331 when a shirtless spectator climbed the Turn 4 catchfence.

In addition, six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Johnson had to be taken to the infield care center after the race to be treated for dehydration. Johnson was able to climb from his car, but began cramping. He sat in the pits briefly while being treated by medical personnel, but was later transported by golf cart to the care center where he received IV fluids. He is conspicuously missing from the "Sweet 16" group photo of the playoff contenders.

                                         Credit: Richmond International Raceway

As the playoffs unfold in Chicagoland, next weekend we will find out if the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase will be unpredictable and crown a new champ or tried and true and reward a previous champion. Stay tuned.

Here are the official results of last night's Federated Auto Parts 400:

1. Brad Keselowski
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Clint Bowyer
4.  Jamie McMurray
5.  Kevin Harvick
6.  Joey Logano
7.  Kurt Busch
8.  Jimmie Johnson
9.  Ryan Newman
10. Aric Almirola
11. Kyle Larson
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
13. Brian Vickers
14. Kyle Busch
15. Tony Stewart
16. Danica Patrick
17. Kasey Kahne
18. Paul Menard
19. Greg Biffle
20. Austin Dillon
21. Denny Hamlin
22. Carl Edwards
23. AJ Allmendinger
24. Reed Sorenson
25. Martin Truex Jr.
26. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
27. Marcos Ambrose
28. Justin Allgaier
29. David Gilliland
30. Cole Whitt
31. Casey Mears
32. Josh Wise
33. David Ragan
34. Landon Cassill
35. Mike Bliss
36. David Stremme
37. Michael Annett
38. Alex Bowman
39. Travis Kvapil
40. Joe Nemechek  
41. Matt Kenseth
42. Ryan Truex
43. JJ Yeley