NASCAR: Five Lessons Learned From Chicagoland

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Here are five lessons learned from Chicagoland this past Sunday. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is over, but before we move on to the race at New Hampshire here are 5 Lessons Learned From Chicagoland.

The first race of the Chase is behind us and Martin Truex Jr. Is the first driver moving onto the Round of 12.

Chicagoland was a typical 1.5 mile track; filled with green flag racing and only a couple of cautions.

The race started with a revitalized Jimmie Johnson leading most of the laps but a late race penalty on put road took him out of the leading spot.

Rookie Chase Elliot was the other impressive Hendricks driver this past Sunday as the rookie led laps and finished the race in 3rd. It was an impressive feat for the young driver and a great way for the 24 team to start off the Chase.

Not all Chase drivers had good runs this weekend though, Kevin Harvick was the victim of bad luck as a caution put him in the back and he was never able to get back up to the top 10.

Chris Buescher finished the race in 28the after having an unimpressive day and now has even more work to do if he wants to keep his Chase hopes alive.

NASCAR will be moving on to the next Chase track, New Hampshire, but before that race starts here are five lessons learned from Chicagoland.

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) leads the field to the green flag during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicagoland saw a lot of green flag racing and was not an entertaining . Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

ChicagoLand Should Not Start The Chase

If the name Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 wasn’t enough to convince you that Chicagoland Speedway was the worst race to start the Chase, having mostly green flag racing should have been enough to prove that the Chase needs to start at a much more interesting track.

Chicagoland was a harsh reminder of what is wrong with the Chase; it’s mostly made up of 1.5 mile cookie cutter tracks. NASCAR seems to be blind to the fact that these types of tracks makes for some of the worst racing seen all season, and these tracks don’t attract new viewers to the sport.

The Chase needs to be made up of the best tracks in NASCAR, and Chicagoland is not one of them.

Too much green flag racing combined with the issue of how the lead car can’t be caught by the rest of the field, just shows the major issues in NASCAR right now instead of showing what makes the sport exciting, things like hard racing and tracks that allow drivers to potentially pass for the lead.

Cookie cutter tracks do have a place in the Chase, but the race this past Sunday was more of a reminder of how these types of tracks make the Chase not seem exciting, and how if one driver can hold the front position, they can easily move on to the next of the Chase.

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (24) during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (24) during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Elliot Will Only Get Better

Chase Elliot finished 3rd at Chicagoland, but he led a good amount of laps and was in a position to win the race before a late cation came out.

If you don’t realize by now that Elliot has been performing at an astounding leveling for a rookie driver, the race at Chicagoland should have been an eye opener, and one where NASCAR fans realize that Elliot is the future of this sport.

For a rookie to make the Chase during his first season, and then go on to almost win the first race of the Chase is a major accomplishment and makes Elliot a driver everyone should be watching.

With a majority of the Chase races being held on tracks like Chicagoland, if Elliot can survive and hold a sold position at these next two tracks, we could see Elliot be a factor at Homestead.

Elliot put on a fantastic performance at Chicagoland and NASCAR fans need to realize that this rookie is the future of the sport.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The 34 Team Needs to Do More To Survive The First Round

Chris Buescher and the 34 team made it into the Chase and had a fresh start in the standings with the points reset that comes with the Chase, but instead of holding their ground and keeping up with the other Chase drivers, Buescher and the 34 team finished the race in 28th.

Chicagoland on Sunday was a chance for this group to show that they can compete and have solid top 15 finishes, but instead Buescher struggled and had the worst finish of any Chase driver.

Front Row Racing is clearly one of the lesser-funded teams in NASCAR and realistically the only thing they could do heading into the Chase was make sure they survived each race with an intact car and hope that other Chase drivers struggled more than they did.

Chicagoland showed that this is something which won’t happen and now the 34 team needs a new plan if they hope to survive the first round.

It was amazing that this team made it into the Chase; they tried a gutsy move at Pocono and had a little help from mother nature to get them their win of the season. Now that the Chase is here though, Buescher and the 34 team need to figure out a way to compete if they hope to go anywhere after the round of 16.

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmie Johnson And the 48 Team Are Back

Jimmie Johnson won races early on in the regular season and after winning he seemed to disappear. He struggled throughout the normal season and wasn’t talked about that much as the Chase grew closer.

With the Chase here, it seems as though the 48 team has come alive.

Johnson led laps at Chicagoland something fans haven’t seen in a while since he won races earlier this season, and at one point it looked like he might go on to win the entire race.

The 48 team didn’t win the race on Sunday but they did remind everyone that they are very much and should not be forgotten about in the Chase.

Unfortunately while Johnson did manage to draw attention to himself and the 48 team at Chicagoland, he also drew the attention of NASCAR.

The 48 car and 78 car failed post-race inspection and NASCAR has yet to deal out penalties for both teams.

Should fans forget about Johnson’s solid performance now at Chicagoland because of this? Will they be this good next weekend?

Fans should expect Johnson to be a factor at almost every race of the Chase and even though they failed post-race inspection at Chicago, don’t expect this team to slow down any time soon.

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) wins the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 18, 2016; Joliet, IL, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) wins the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The 78 Team Could Be Ready to Win a Championship

Martin Truex Jr. won the race at Chicagoland but went on to fail post race inspection.

This makes for an interesting dilemma; Truex did win and has been one of the fastest drivers on 1.5 mile tracks, but failing post-race inspection brings up another issue:

Is Truex and the 78 modifying the body of their car outside of NASCAR regulation? Are they cheating to be as good as they are?

The severity of their penalty will more than likely be determined later on this week, but how will NASCAR punish a driver who not only won the race, but is also a Chase driver?

Martin Truex Jr. should have been viewed as one of the underdogs of the Chase. Yes he’s won two races this season, but Furniture Row Racing is not a major organization in NASCAR. They might run with a Job Gibbs engine, but it’s taken years for them to be this good and even competing in the Chase.

So far they will be moving onto the next round of the Chase, thanks to their win at Chicagoland, but NASCAR could decide to change that this week depending on the severity of their post-race failure.

But even though they failed post-race inspection, the 78 team looks strong and will be moving onto the next round of the Chase.

Do they look strong enough to win the championship? Right now they look like a major contender, but if they continue to fail post-race inspections moving forward, the severity of the penalties they receive might knock them out of championship contention.

What did you learn from the first race of the Chase? Do you think Martin Truex Jr. and the 78 can win the championship? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, for more NASCAR and news about the Chase head over to BeyondTheFlag.com.

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