Chicagoland Winners and Losers

Kyle Busch-J.Johnson

Kyle Busch (18) and Jimmie Johnson are two of Pete Pistone's "winners" coming out of the first Chase weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

The long day ... and night ... in Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway made quite an impact on a number of drivers and teams.

Winners

Matt Kenseth – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver made a huge statement by winning the first race of the Chase, an accomplishment that has seen the last two drivers go on to win the title.  There’s certainly a long way to go before any championship trophy is handed out, but Kenseth secured his spot as the 2013 favorite in Chicago.

Kyle Busch – The spotlight is on Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers to start the Chase off on a strong note and erase doubts after what’s happened to the team in the playoffs before.  Mission accomplished in Chicago, with a solid effort by Busch and a runner-up run to teammate Kenseth.

Kurt Busch – The clock didn’t look anywhere near like it was ready to strike midnight on this Cinderella story, with Busch notching a top-five run.  The Furniture Row Racing team supported its driver with a good effort on pit road, as well, in an overall impressive performance for the No. 78.

Jimmie Johnson – It looked like the troubles of the last four weeks were going to spill into Chicago for Johnson, when he was first hampered by an official’s blown call on pit road and then had a jack break on the next pit stop.  But as he has done so many times before, Johnson came back from adversity and ended the night with a top-five finish.

Jeff Gordon – Some 48 hours after finding out he was, indeed, going to be in the Chase field, Gordon turned in a championship-caliber performance.  Like his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson, Gordon also dealt with challenges early-on but roared back to lead laps and come home sixth in "The Windy City."

Losers

Joey Logano – Not exactly the way you want to start your first Chase.  Logano was wicked fast all weekend long but after winning the pole and leading laps, he was knocked out of the race by a blown engine.  The Penske Racing driver has no more margin for error and needs a good day next Sunday at New Hampshire.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – More engine issues for a Chase contender, this time with Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet taking the hit.  Earnhardt was already in a seedings hole after going through the regular season winless and now has more catch-up to play in the Chase.

Denny Hamlin – For all the good that happened to JGR teammates Kenseth and Kyle Busch, Hamlin continued to suffer through the misery of 2013.  Also a victim of a blown engine, Hamlin’s hopes of trying to play spoiler in the final 10 races of the season literally went up in smoke Sunday night.

NASCAR – The week's worth of controversy definitely won’t be erased after just one race, and the sanctioning body will face questions about integrity and credibility for a while.  How NASCAR proceeds to judge intent and the "giving 100 percent" rule mandated over the weekend will be fascinating to watch enforced.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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