Saturday night as all eyes fell on Concord, N.C. for the Bank of America 500, the only thing weighing on most minds was who was going to make it through the night as the next cut-off in the Chase quickly approaches.
At the drop of the green flag, many Chase drivers started to experience something they had hoped wouldn’t happen – problems with their race cars. Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost his shifter and after countless pit stops, suffered the consequences by dropping laps behind the pack.
Jimmie Johnson battled an ill-handling race car all night, and after some colorful radio chatter between Johnson and his Crew Chief Chad Knaus, he would finish in 17th spot.
Kevin Harvick, on the other hand, had a stellar performance Saturday. After pulling out front early, he would dominate the rest of the evening as he rocketed past his fellow drivers to win the Bank of America 500, boosting him into the Eliminator Round of the Chase.
However, as Harvick spent the remainder of his evening in Victory Lane celebrating, there were tempers brewing inside the garage between Chase contenders Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth.
At the completion of the race on the cool down lap, Keselowski bumped into Hamlin on the track. Hamlin was able to keep his car straight; Keselowski got a little sideways. Once they were bringing the cars down pit road, Keselowski then ran into Hamlin again as well as rubbed down the side of Kenseth, and rear-ended Tony Stewart who gave it right back to him, by throwing his car in reverse.
When the cars were brought into the garage, Hamlin exited his car and was on the hunt for Keselowski to confront him about his on-track actions. Hamlin was pulled back by his team and taken into the hauler. Keselowski tried walking away in-between haulers, and was jumped by Kenseth who was pulled off Keselowski by the No. 2 crew.
Tuesday, NASCAR issued penalties to Keselowski and Stewart for their actions on pit road. Keselowski was fined $50,000 and put on probation for four races, which spans until Phoenix. Stewart was fined $25,000 and also put on probation until Phoenix.
All in all, the Charlotte Chase race brought its share of excitement to the Chase as many drivers saw their Championship dreams move forward, and others watched theirs hang in the balance
As we move into Talladega, the question is, who’s going to conquer and move on to the next round, and whose tempers will run short?