Yesterday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway provided as wild of a Chase opener as we've ever seen.
From beginning to end, Chase drivers starting mid-pack and working their way up the pack gave us all some exciting moments. Then, a stretch of 23 caution laps in the final 100 evened the playing field, as seven of the 12 Chasers were involved in at least one dust-up.
When the "Smoke" all settled (with one lap to go, he ran out of fuel), Clint Bowyer was your surprise winner. Though, in a way, he wasn't—other than Stewart, he was the class of the field all weekend, and led a race-high 177 laps. Meanwhile, Stewart had to settle for the 24th position as the last car on the lead lap.
Loudon always sets the tone for the little guys and underdogs of the Chase. For the past three years, the winner of this race has mounted an unassuming and somewhat unexpected run at the title. Sylvania 300 victories propelled Mark Martin to a runner-up finish last year, Greg Biffle to third in 2008, and Bowyer to his own third-place run in 2007.
Will this year provide more of the same? And how does the entire Chase field stack up heading into the AAA 400 at Dover?