The Magic Mile Hosts the Second Race of The Chase

One race down, nine to go.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase has begun, and Martin Truex Jr. has advanced to the next round thanks to his win last weekend in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. But in typical NASCAR fashion, it wasn’t without controversy.

The No. 78 team failed post-race laser inspection (LIS). The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson also failed post-race LIS. The penalty was labeled at the P2 level by the sanctioning body, meaning that both teams would face a 10-point penalty as well as the crew chiefs being fined. However, NASCAR opted to change the penalty structure and how they do things – again.

Long story short, NASCAR decided to scrap penalties for cars that fail post-race laser inspection unless it’s way out of the specifications. “Egregious” violations, according to executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell.

“Recognize that if we were to apply those penalties as we’ve listed them out for the event, those penalties would not have the same impact on the competitors, based on the Chase format and the increased emphasis on win bonuses,” O’Donnell said on a teleconference call with reporters earlier this week.

Some fans and drivers within the sport are torn on this issue. NASCAR had the option to penalize the drivers, and then not penalize any drivers in the future, or to not penalize the drivers and set the precedent for the rest of the season. Clearly, they chose the latter.

“The post-race penalty really would not treat each competitor fairly,” O’Donnell went on to say. “We also saw this as a potential situation that we could see repeating itself for the next nine races.” He is right. This will happen more and more for the rest of the Chase.

But let’s focus on the present and not live in the past. The Bad Boy Off Road 300 will take place this Sunday from New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the green flag flying just past 2:00 p.m. ET. This is the second race of the Chase and the second race of the first round, otherwise known as the Round of 16. Four drivers will be eliminated after next weekend.

Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher are the four drivers that sit below the cut line right now. Harvick and Larson had good runs derailed by bad luck last week, so expect them to rebound big time this weekend in New England.

Matt Kenseth is also the favorite to win this race. He is the defending winner of this race and won at NHMS earlier this season. Joe Gibbs Racing, though, wasn’t the dominant team last weekend in the Windy City. That was Hendrick Motorsports with Johnson and Chase Elliott taking over.

The weather for the race on Sunday looks solid, and the weekend as a whole looks okay as well. But someone who isn’t looking too good in the Chase is Harvick. However, at this point last season, he was in a worse spot than he is now, and he delivered.

Well, almost. He led over 200 of the 300 laps and dominated, but ran out of fuel with three laps to go and didn’t find victory lane. However, I’m picking the No. 4 to win this weekend in convincing fashion. Harvick is a man on a mission, and I don’t think he’ll be stopped in NH.

NOTE: The Xfinity and Truck Series Chases begin this weekend at Kentucky Speedway & NHMS, respectively. Erik Jones is the No. 1 seed in the NXS and William Byron is the No. 1 seed in the NCWTS. Both are the favorites to bring home the hardware. Click here for more.