What is expected at a short track? Usually a lot of bumping, some tore up body panels, and some tempers that are either angry or frustrated.
Sunday at Martinsville, that certainly was the case.
After 500 laps, everyone in attendance and everyone covering the race got their money's worth. The Chase is not over. In fact, it's only getting better.
Not every story from the race involved the Chase drivers. There was one driver that decided to play spoiler to some of the talk, and we all never anticipated who it would be.
During the early part of the race, Mark Martin spun out and got into the outside wall on the front straightaway. But, the team didn't panic. The crew made repairs, tore off some of the body, and got him back on the track.
At the end of the race, Martin was the fastest car on the track, and drove his way right up to the second spot, which is where he finished. After all that this team endured this season, what a run to the front.
The other Hendrick driver making noise today was the one no one expected. Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove to the front, led a lot of laps, and brought home a seventh-place finish. Incredible run for the No. 88 team, and what a way to bring "Junior Nation" to their feet.
In the end, it was the Chase drivers that took the limelight. One of the favorites of the writers was Jeff Gordon, and early on it looked that way. Despite a bad pit stop, Gordon and crew didn't feel they were out of the running. But, following an accidental bump to Kurt Busch, that evaporated.
Two corners later, Busch got right on the bumper of the No. 24, and turned him into the inside wall. The repairs afterward relegated Gordon to a 20th place finish, and ultimately took his title hopes away for the season.
Another pick among the writers was Kevin Harvick. After he swapped pit crews with teammate Clint Bowyer, his car was up front for much of the afternoon. He led late, but lost the lead and would eventually finish third. But, he's not far out of the points lead.
However, the popular pick was the winner. Denny Hamlin predicted heading into the weekend he needed to win the pole, lead the most laps, and went on to predict victory.
Well, two out of the three came true. He won the pole on Friday, but early on it seemed the No. 11 FedEx Camry was not handling well, actually falling to 15th after the green flag.
But, this team made the changes, and soon found themselves back to battling for the lead. Hamlin did the rest as he drove on to take the victory, sweeping the races at Martinsville. In fact, he has won three of the four races in his home state.
The win, combined with Jimmie Johnson's fifth-place run shrank the points lead from 41 points down to six. In our writer's pool, the popular pick changed a lot of the standings.
What was a one-point lead is now grown much larger. Here's how the points stand following the Tums Fast Relief 500:
Rob Tiongson (5,994) Denny Hamlin WON (3)
Misan Ayuka (5,936) Denny Hamlin WON (4)
Dustin Parks (5,911) Jeff Gordon finished 20th (5)
Christopher Leone (5,906) Jeff Gordon finished 20th (5)
Kara Martin (5,876) Kevin Harvick finished third (3)
James Broomhead (5,856) Jimmie Johnson finished fifth (4)
Alan Wade (5,844) Denny Hamlin WON (3)
Billy Fellin (5,725) Denny Hamlin WON (5)
Kyle Brandt (5,552) NO PICK SENT (2)
Next race: The next track in the Chase is being in the right spot at the right time. But, one lap it could be the right move, but the next it could mean falling backwards.
It's the track that I was at earlier this year, on my birthday no less, and witnessed 88 lead changes plus all three green-white-checkered attempts. It's the one race in the Chase that absolutely every lap can change the standings and complexion of the championship hunt. It's simply known as Talladega.
Not to mention, the race happens on Halloween, so even more "creatures" will be around. Who will play tricks, and who will get the treats in victory lane?
Creatures, this will be a hard one to choose from for sure. But, have your picks sent in by Thursday, October 28, for the Amp Energy Juice 500.
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