What is pressure? In NASCAR, it can come in being able to come back from adversity. It can come from avoiding calamity. It can also come when it is absolutely needed to put a team in position to win.
What is it when it all happens in one race?
To one team, it was all the reasons to prove they are able to rise above it, and show the talent that is within.
A possible flat tire put them a lap down, but a lucky dog got it back. No panic, no stress, but confidence was coming through. Chasing down the leader, luck came in a caution. One pit stop, the “money” stop, changed it all.
One restart, strong passing, and a checkered flag later, it was not pressure that was being talked about. Instead, it was victory.
The driver that took all that pressure in stride, a driver who experienced a lot of bad luck this season, but also some good luck when it mattered the most. Martin Truex Jr. can now say he is a 3-time winner on the season, and he also can say he is locked into the second round of the Chase. The pressure, at least for the next two weeks, is gone.
His win, surprisingly, didn’t give any writer a win this week. However, many of the finishes have swapped around the field, making some feel the only way they can make it into the next round is by actually winning a race. Here’s where all stand following the first race of the Challenger Round, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400:
Ashley Hull (2060) Denny Hamlin finished 6th – 8 
Misan Akuya (2046) Kyle Busch finished 8th – 4 
Mary Jo Buchanan (2046) Brad Keselowski finished 5th – 3 
Rob Tiongson (2043) Brad Keselowski finished 5th – 2 
Ashley Hobbs (2043) Brad Keselowski finished 5th – 2 
Patti Rodisch (2039) Jamie McMurray finished 11th – 3 
Klarissa Mitchell (2039) Denny Hamlin finished 6th – 1 
Sal Sigala Jr. (2038) Matt Kenseth finished 9th – 2 
Ashley McCubbin (2038) Matt Kenseth finished 9th – 2 
Rob Blount (2035) Kyle Larson finished 18th – 4 
Dustin Parks (2035) Matt Kenseth finished 9th – 1 
Billy Fellin (2031) Kyle Larson finished 18th – 3 
Next Race: The first Chase race is in the rear-view mirror, now the focus comes to moving ahead. Some teams are feeling good, others need adjustment, and some are hoping to pull a rabbit out of their hat.
In order to do that, they will have to conquer the shortest race in the Chase. Maybe that rabbit is the reason this track has earned the nickname of the Magic Mile, because there always seems to be a way to baffle and amaze when it’s least expected.
Off to New Hampshire the Chase goes, race 2 of 10 in the title hunt, and 2 of 3 in the Challenger Round.
Writers, the points are close, but keep in mind the rules for the round. Your picks, your different picks, are due by 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 22, for the New England 300.