Started: 11th (Qualifying was rained out and starting position was based on the points).
Chase Standing: 12th*
Tony Stewart speaks with his team on the radio before the drop of the green flag before every race- and this week he wanted to emphasize two points with the crew and team before the first race of the playoffs start. He wanted them to know that they win as a team and lose as a team but that he wanted them to finish off the last ten weeks of his last season as a NASCAR driver having FUN no matter where they end up at the end of the season.
I don’t know about how much fun Tony was having out there in Chicagoland during the first race of the Chase however. After a handful or two of laps Tony radioed into the crew to let them know while he was still having handling issues that car’s stability was much better than it had been during Saturday’s practice. Tony then seemed to struggle for the majority of the race with his handling falling down the field until he was around 19th or 20th but still on the lead lap. He went a lap down three times during the race- once for pitting during a caution but luckily he was able to take the wave around for that and get our lap right back. Once he got passed by race leader Chase Elliott but was able to maintain lucky dog position until a debris caution came out and allowed Tony to get his lap back. The same thing happened again at the end of the race when Tony was again passed by leader Chase Elliott but Tony again was able to maintain his lucky dog position and then the caution with four laps to go put him back on the lead lap. In the first overtime of the playoffs- Tony was able to maintain his position on the lead lap and finished 16th. Race winner was Martin Truex Jr.
This finish has Tony 12th out of the 16 chase drivers- so he is currently in position to move on to the next round but there are two more races in this segment of the race before they move on to the round of 12 and anything can happen. It should be noted that both race winner Martin Truex Jr and fellow chaser Jimmie Johnson failed post race inspection. Remember at the start of the race NASCAR changed the rule about failing post race inspections – if you fail by a little you get just points and a fine. But if you fail by a lot NASCAR can and take away your guaranteed entry into the next round of the chase if you win and fail post race inspection by a signifigant amount. NASCAR already announced that both Jimmie and Martin did not fail laser inspection by a significant amount so the win would stay and points penalties would be announced later this week. While this is not even a slap of the hand for Truex who is still guaranteed a spot in the chase and thus the points docking does nothing to him or his team- however the docking of points it could possibly be devastating for Jimmie Johnson’s Chase hopes. And this is where this new penalty system is still too leanient and definitely not fair. If they both failed post race inspection they should both be docked points and Martin’s win should not guarantee him a spot in the chase…these penalties should not be allowed to be disputed either. Why? It’s not fair otherwise. It’s especially not fair considering Martin Truex Jr’s team failed post race inspection last week as well. And a couple of other times during the season. With his multiple fails this season, especially in a row, the penalty should be much more harsh.
*While this new points docking for failing post race inspection can be devastating to Jimmie Johnson it’s possible that depending on the amount of points levied against Jimmie Johnson, Tony may move up a position in the chase standings. Tony is currently 9 points behind Jimmie in the standings.
The Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
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