Usually, the wackiness of the Chase is reserved for Talladega. But as has been the case for the entire 2010 season, we have learned to expect the unexpected.
We all knew going into this race that the team that would be tough would be the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson. This track is, at least according to Johnson, his "house." But early in the race, it didn't seem that way.
An early spin put him back in the pack and it seemed as though he would be out of the running.
Unfortunately, the incident happened early and gave the team an opportunity to recover. Johnson came back to lead later in the race, and would finish a very respectable third.
The top-five run added another five points to his lead, and coupled with some of his competition having trouble, narrowed the possible contenders to derail his fifth consecutive title opportunity.
This week, our writers' picks were all over the board. Unfortunately for many of them, it was a night that they would much rather forget.
All but three writers had top-five picks, as it was not a good night for many of the top contenders. Kurt Busch had an early spin that he was never able to recover from, eventually finishing 30th. Pole-sitter Jeff Gordon had a tremendous run at the front, and was on track to get his first win of the year.
However, his car had other ideas as the alternator went bad, putting him a lap down and to a very measly 23rd-place finish.
But, among all the Chase drivers that had a bad night, it was a non-Chaser that would steal the show.
The only thing that Jamie McMurray did not do this entire season was make his way into the 2010 Chase. But, there is no way that his campaign this year has been unsuccessful. Saturday night, he ran down the top car all night long in Kyle Busch, passed him on the track and cruised to his third win of the season.
This year, McMurray has shown that when NASCAR visits one of the big tracks, he's on the radar. He won at Daytona to start the year, then nearly won Talladega in April. He won the Brickyard in July and now has a win at Charlotte.
This really has been a dream season for McMurray and the entire No. 1 Bass Pro Shops team. Considering how he first left Ganassi, and the unfortunate circumstances of how he left Roush last year, he has come back with a vengeance.
One of our writers made the right pick this week in picking McMurray to win. That makes a streak of six straight weeks where at least one creature chooses the winner.
Here's how the points now shape up following the Bank of America 500:
Rob Tiongson (5,804) Jeff Gordon finished 23rd (2)
Dustin Parks (5,803) Kurt Busch finished 30th (5)
Christopher Leone (5,798) Jimmie Johnson finished third (5)
Misan Ayuka (5,746) Jamie McMurray WON (3)
Kara Martin (5,706) Kyle Busch finished second (3)
James Broomhead (5,701) Ryan Newman finished 36th (4)
Alan Wade (5,654) Kurt Busch finished 30th (2)
Kyle Brandt (5,552) NO PICK SENT (2)
Billy Fellin (5,535) Kasey Kahne finished 38th (4)
NEXT RACE: Only one point separates first and second, and less than 100 separate the top-five.
With such close competition, it is appropriate that the next stop on the season is a short track. It's the last short track race of the season as NASCAR heads to the "paper clip" in Martinsville, VA. Two fast straightaways, four tight corners and 500 laps of twisted sheet metal and tire rubs.
Creatures, the second half of the Chase begins this coming Sunday. Have your picks in by Thursday, Oct. 21, by 7 p.m. for the Tums Fast Relief 500.
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