By: Becca Cottingham
Headline Photo Credit: USA Today
Chicagoland started off with some major battles between Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick. Jimmie Johnson took the early lead. Then sadly we only got into the race about eleven laps before lightening started striking around the area. NASCAR focusing on safety first parked the cars just in time as a huge rain storm hit. Racing got started back and Kevin Harvick took over the lead. There are several drivers who are planning to come to pit road but are holding off until the last several laps of the first stage. We had several drivers make midpoint green flag stops for gas and go overall to save tires. They are worried about the green track after the rain. With two laps to go Clint Bowyer spun out and brought out a caution while Kyle Busch also blew a tire. Kevin Harvick had just saved his car from a right rear tire blowing. Clint Bowyer had to keep his car moving or he was going to get stuck in the wet grass. Denny Hamlin took the stage one win under caution.
Racing really took off in the start of stage two. We had drivers ready to take the race three wide. Teammates Jimmie Johnson and William Byron hook up and past Denny Hamlin trying to catch Kevin Harvick. Clint Bowyer blew another right rear tire and they are hoping he can make it around. William Byron’s car had an engine change and he is fighting for a first place against a very seasoned Kevin Harvick. We had caution come out and that brought most drivers down pit road. Denny Hamlin’s crew had an uncontrolled tire that will cause a pass through penalty. The restart from the caution we went three and four wide making moves. Jimmie Johnson locked onto Kevin Harvick and gave him a huge shove to the front as William Bryon fell back multiple positions. Chase Elliot made a lot of pit stops trying to get his car right which helped Elliot to get back into the race. For the first time in a long time all of Hendricks Motorsports were in the top ten at the race. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick keep trying different lines to see who has the better car and changing up the draft. Larson and Bowman keep battling back and forth for position. They had multiple battles going on in the top five for positions. The tires for Elliot and Johnson started falling off with less than five to go. Kevin Harvick sailed into his stage two win followed by Chase Elliott.
Chase had an extremely slow pit stop due to a mistake from the rear tire changer and lost him roughly eighteen spots on pit road. The start to the third stage got extremely crazy quick. Kevin Harvick tried changing directions and got into the wall brining out another caution. Kyle Busch and Joey Logano also got into one another and possibly cut a tire or both left side tires, so he came down pit road to get them changed. Dale Jr. said it best “It is like Martinsville with pit crews and spotters”, looking for fender damage as we go back to the restart. Drivers are still going three and four wide throughout the speedway. Alex Bowman drove himself to the front and took the lead and so far has not looked back. We will go through one last rounds of green flag stops. Mistakes will be extremely costly at this point for any team. Kyle Busch has rubber somewhere causing smoke to flow into the pit of the car. They were able to get the rubber off of whatever it was, but now it is just a waiting game to see if the fire will go out. More than likely he probably need to see the medic team just as precaution. With about ten laps to go, Kyle Larson takes the lead away. He is trying to redeem himself from last year. Bowman and Larson make contact as they both chase the back in end of the car while battling. Alex Bowman was able to pass Larson back to clinch his first win!