Chicagoland Checkered and Black Flags

M.Truex Jr.

MRN's Pete Pistone give us the ups and downs from the weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Ups and downs from the weekend at Chicagoland Speedway:

Checkered Flags 

Martin Truex Jr.
Unstoppable. That’s the only way to describe Truex, who came back from a pair of miscues on pit road to win by more than seven seconds on Sunday. He has five wins this year and some are talking about hitting double digits by the time the final race of the year is run at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Chase Elliott
Moral victories don’t exist as a stat, but Elliott had one Sunday. He continued his record of running well in Chicago and after a summer of doldrums, he led laps and finished second to get his playoff run off to a nice start.

Kevin Harvick
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s day was similar to Elliott’s. Harvick has also been struggling of late and ended the regular season on a mediocre note. A solid kickoff to the playoff schedule was what Harvick was after and he got it with a third-place finish.

Nickelodeon
Maybe to some, bringing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in to sponsor a NASCAR race seemed silly. But in a sport desperately trying to attract younger fans, it isn’t a bad thing. A company the size of Nickelodeon coming into NASCAR and connecting more kids to the sport is a very good thing, indeed. Bring on the slime!

Justin Allgaier
The best race of the weekend might just have been Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, won by Justin Allgaier with a bold move to take the lead on a restart and eventually the win. Limited Cup drivers in the field gave Xfinity Series regulars a chance to shine as the division finalized its playoff grid.

Black Flags 

Joe Gibbs Racing
Sure, we can all play "Monday Morning Crew Chief" after every race weekend. But the decision to swap pit crews between JGR’s No. 18 and 19 teams looked bad Sunday. Kyle Busch had one of the fastest cars seen all year and looked like he could lap the field the way he started. But a pair of miscues on pit road took care of that and Busch’s inherited "new team" will have a week ahead to figure out a way to eliminate costly mistakes.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series long shot made his road through the playoffs even more difficult. Stenhouse slapped the wall early in the race to set off a chain of events that turned into a long, frustrating day.

Erik Jones
One of the drivers outside the playoff grid who many think can crash the party with a win, Jones had a miserable Chicagoland effort that included contact with the wall and several trips down pit road.

Kasey Kahne
Nothing close to enough speed for Kahne all weekend with a 25th-place starting spot and a finish only four positions better.

Kurt Busch
A tire vibration caused Busch to pit out of sequence in the final stage, but that wouldn’t have been the end of the world potentially had the strategy around that unscheduled stop played out. Unfortunately, a speeding penalty on pit road made it a moot point.

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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