The first race at New Hampshire during the 2014 Sprint Cup season might provide some foreshadowing for what's to come near the end of the year. After 19 races this season, Brad Keselowski now adds his name to the list of drivers with three wins, along with Jimmie Johnson.
Along with the victory, the Penske driver also took over the lead on the Chase Grid with his third trip to Victory Lane and a sweep at New Hampshire. With another race scheduled during the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Keselowski's early success bodes well for NASCAR's postseason.
Just a week after Aric Almirola shocked the NASCAR world by earning his first victory, the Camping World RV Sales 301 had a slightly more predictable winner. Keselowski captured the checkered flag at New Hampshire and moved his name up on the Chase Grid.
The win for Keselowski and a top-10 finish for Dale Earnhardt Jr. all but secure a place in the Chase for both drivers, as NASCAR points out:
His victory comes just two races after his second win at Kentucky, where he famously injured himself while celebrating.
Following his huge victory to claim the top spot in the Chase standings, his spotter poked fun at the situation, per Nate Ryan of USA Today:
With the Camping World RV Sales 301 now officially over, here's a look at the full standings and a breakdown of the New Hampshire race.
|2014 Sprint Cup Standings|
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||658|
|2014 Sprint Cup Chase Grid|
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||658||2||9||13|
The start of the race saw issues for a driver who was a clear contender coming into New Hampshire.
Jimmie Johnson, who has three victories in New Hampshire during his career, had tire issues that caused him to exit the race early on Sunday. Ryan passes along Johnson's thoughts on the cut tire:
With both Johnson and Keselowski claiming three checkered flags this season, both now sit atop the rankings and appear to be in championship form. Though Mr. Six-Time had a rough race at New Hampshire, he will look to rebound at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track where he has four victories.
Later in the race, yet another top driver was taken down.
Joey Logano, who has two wins this season, was running well all day before he was involved in an accident with Morgan Shepherd. The Penske driver voiced his thoughts on Shepherd following the wreck, per Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network:
The 72-year-old was well behind the pace when he was collected in the wreck while Logano was competing near the top of the leaderboard. His teammate Keselowski also surpassed him in wins on the season as the teammates have a combined five checkered flags.
While both Johnson and Logano were watching from the garage, a young driver on the rise made a huge statement. Kyle Larson, who has put together an already impressive season, notched his fourth top-five result by finishing third on Sunday.
Ryan notes his thoughts on the rookie driver:
Following the Camping World 301, just a few races remain before the Chase officially begins. The remaining schedule for the Sprint Cup season can be found below.
|2014 NASCAR Remaining Schedule|
|July 27||The John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Aug 3||GoBowling.com 400||Pocono Speedway||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Aug 10||Cheez-It 355 at The Glen||Watkins Glen International||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Aug 17||Pure Michigan 400||Michigan International Speedway||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Aug 23||Irwin Tools Night Race||Bristol Motor Speedway||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Aug 31||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series August Atlanta Race||Atlanta Motor Speedway||7:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sept 6||Federated Auto Parts 400||Richmond International Speedway||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Sept 14||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series September Chicagoland Race||Chicagoland Speedway||2 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sept 21||Sylvania 300||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||2 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sept 28||AAA 400||Dover International Speedway||2 p.m.||ESPN|
|Oct 5||Hollywood Casino 400||Kansas Speedway||2 p.m.||ESPN|
|Oct 11||Bank of America 500||Charlotte Motor Speedway||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Oct 19||GEICO 500||Talladega Superspeedway||2 p.m.||ESPN|
|Oct 26||Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||Martinsville Speedway||1:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Nov 2||AAA Texas 500||Texas Motor Speedway||3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Nov 9||Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500||Phoenix International Raceway||3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Nov 16||Ford Ecoboost 400||Homestead-Miami Speedway||3 p.m.||ESPN|
After a one-week hiatus, the Sprint Cup circuit will now head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27. The Brickyard 400 is always one of the most highly anticipated races of the season.
NASCAR has multiple notable races on the season with the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, but racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is always special for every Sprint Cup driver.
The John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard will mark yet another opportunity for several drivers to secure a spot in the Chase. With names like Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth still looking for their first victory, both have a good history at the track.
But even Stewart's two wins at Indy don't compare to the combined eight checkered flags for Jeff Gordon and Johnson. As the regular season nears an end with just seven races remaining, the pressure is on for several drivers to make the Chase this season.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!