There is no question that momentum is part of NASCAR. Back in the days of when Richard Petty was rattling off 10 victories in a row, it was momentum. When Jeff Gordon was winning a record 13 races in a season, clinching the championship in victory lane…it was momentum.
Jimmie Johnson is familiar with momentum on a championship scale. Five of his six titles came in consecutive seasons.
With the new Chase format, momentum can be for only three races, but a team that enters that first round with momentum is already thinking big picture. When Martin Truex Jr. won at Darlington, his second “crown jewel” victory of the season, it started his momentum swing. Two weeks later, his checkered flag at Chicagoland made sure his team was into the next round.
One win is never enough in the Chase, because Truex was back home, at the track that isn’t far from his home state.
He led nearly half the race, at one point was nearly 10 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, and lapped all but five other drivers. There is no question that momentum has found the No. 78 team, because when he captured the checkered flag at the “Monster Mile” in Dover, it ensured he had the lead in the standings, and showed the team was the one to beat this season.
Even with the reset in the Chase, he is still at the top of the 12 drivers that are in contention for a title. The top-12 are now reset to 3000 points, and enter the next round with fresh eyes and fresh notes.
Truex’s victory was big for the standings, as three writers added to their total for the season, and put in the first wins for the Chase, which could be beneficial as the rounds progress.
Sunday also meant, like in the real title hunt, that eliminations would happen. That has occurred, as the two writers at the bottom cannot compete for a title. Here are your standings for what is now the Contender Round after the Citizen Soldier 400:
Ashley Hull (3000) Martin Truex Jr. WON – 9 
Ashley Hobbs (3000) Kyle Busch finished 2nd – 2 
Sal Sigala Jr. (3000) Martin Truex Jr. WON – 3 
Dustin Parks (3000) Martin Truex Jr. WON – 2 
Mary Jo Buchanan (3000) Matt Kenseth finished 5th – 3 
Ashley McCubbin (3000) Jimmie Johnson finished 7th – 2 
Misan Akuya (3000) Tony Stewart finished 13th – 4 
Rob Blount (3000) Matt Kenseth finished 5th – 4 
Rob Tiongson (3000) Kyle Larson finished 25th – 2 
Billy Fellin (3000) Jimmie Johnson finished 7th – 3 
Patti Rodisch (2093) Matt Kenseth finished 5th – 3
Klarissa Mitchell (2080) Jamie McMurray finished 40th – 1
Next Race: The Contender Round this year gets to start out with a different look. NASCAR gets to make another trip home, and many teams will not be far from their shops, and many drivers won’t be far from home.
It’s a trip to Charlotte, a place that was recently in the news for reasons that were unfortunately unpleasant, and now hope to make a positive experience for all that come to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s also the first time that the Contender Round will start under the lights. It’s the time of year when Saturday nights that are usually reserved for the short tracks are all over, so a shootout on a bigger scale will get a lot more attention.
Writers, check your emails for the rules that those in the Contender Round have to work with, along with those that are eliminated. But for all of you, your picks are due by Thursday, October 6, at 10 p.m. ET for the Bank of America 500.