The First Reid: If only I could have a spotter

After Sunday's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, I have come to one inescapable conclusion: I need to hire a spotter.

After Sunday's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, I have come to one inescapable conclusion: I need to hire a spotter.

My wife, Lee Spencer, and I work at close quarters. I write for the NASCAR Wire Service. She writes for We live together, travel together, and work together. On rare occasions, we have differences of opinion, as all couples do.

Similarly, Sprint Cup drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick live together, travel together and work together -- on the race track. And on rare occasions, they have differences of opinion on the asphalt. In fact, they had one such "spat" on Sunday, when their cars collided and hit the wall. The difference? Both Patrick and Stenhouse have spotters who can shoulder the blame. On Sunday, Patrick's spotter, Brandon Benesch, took the fall.

"I heard my spotter say that the 14 (Tony Stewart) was below me on track and I didn't know the 17 (Stenhouse) was there on the high side of the track," Patrick said after the race. "My spotter took the blame on that one."

How nice. And convenient. Having a spotter willing to fall on his sword certainly takes the stress and tension out of the motor coach. And it melts the icy stares that otherwise could make for an uncomfortable ride home.


I wonder if Brandon Benesch would consider moonlighting...

In a touching post-race ceremony, Jimmie Johnson graciously passed the "SO SICK OF THAT GUY WINNING ALL THE TIME" torch to Brad Keselowski. Nine races remain. Pretty good chance it gets passed right the hell back.

The other story? An incredible performance by Young Kyle Larson AKA "Young Money" AKA "The 'Kyle' We Can All Agree On."

What do Kyle Larson and his pregnant girlfriend have in common? Both are hauling the mail.

The 4/14 pit-crew swap seemed to pay off. This despite an early-race miscue when Kevin Harvick had to pit twice to take care of a loose wheel, and the #41 pit crew started walking to the #4 pit before they were called off.

(Follow @nascarcasm on Twitter. His unique views on NASCAR are his own - but chances are you have probably figured that out by now.)

109: The number of green-flag passes made by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin in Sunday's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, tied for most in the first Chase race. Busch rallied from a lap down to finish eighth after a pit road spin and commitment violation. Hamlin started 24th and finished sixth after a late-race charge.

5: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories recorded this season by Brad Keselowski, the top seed in the Chase. Keselowski won the final regular-season race at Richmond and doubled up on Sunday at Chicagoland. No other driver in the series has more than three victories thus far.


138: The number of laps led by Brad Keselowski in a dominating NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. The Magic Mile is host to next Sunday's second race in the Chase, and Keselowski goes there as a favorite to extend his current winning streak to three races.

17: The finishing position of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. Even though Stenhouse and girlfriend Danica Patrick collided with 10 laps left, Stenhouse finished ahead of Roush Fenway Racing's Chase drivers, Carl Edwards (20th) and Greg Biffle (23rd).

3: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at New Hampshire Motor Speedway recorded by Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart, tied for most among full-time active drivers. Jeff Burton has a track-record four wins at the Magic Mile.

Brad Keselowski lived up to his No. 1 seed by registering a win in the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, automatically advancing to the Contender Round. The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion driver hopes the win is a good omen. He last won at Chicagoland in the 2012 Chase-opener, the same year he clinched the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Keselowski, who also won at Richmond, won consecutive races for the first time in his career. ... Thirteen different drivers have taken the checkered flag in the last 13 races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and no one has swept the track since Kurt Busch in 2004 - the same year he won the championship in inaugural Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Brad Keselowski won at the Loudon track in July and will attempt to break out the brooms in Sunday's Sylvania 300. But some major names are missing from the 13-in-13 streak, notably Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ... After narrowly missing out on a spot in the Chase, Kyle Larson almost played the role of spoiler in the opening race of NASCAR's postseason at Chicagoland Speedway, finishing third after battling for the lead as late as Lap 252. The 22-year-old Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner will attempt to notch the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of his career at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Sunday where he finished third back in July.

The Next Race: Sylvania 300
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
The Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 21, 2 p.m. (ET)

NASCAR National Series Standings
This year, wins matter more than in any season in the 65-year history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
In the regular season, a win essentially locked a driver into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and gave him three bonus points to start the first round. During the Chase, a driver can automatically advance to the subsequent round with a victory.
At the start of the Challenger Round, driver points were reset to 2,000 with their bonus points added. The four winless drivers with the least points following the third Chase race at Dover will be eliminated from championship contention.
*Advanced to Challenger Round with win
1. Brad Keselowski* -- 2,059 points
2. Jeff Gordon -- 2,052
3. Joey Logano -- 2,049
4. Kevin Harvick -- 2,047
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- 2,042
6. Denny Hamlin -- 2,041
7. Kyle Busch -- 2,041
8. Jimmie Johnson -- 2,041
9. Kurt Busch -- 2,039
10. Matt Kenseth -- 2,034
11. Kasey Kahne -- 2,034
12. Carl Edwards -- 2,030
13. Ryan Newman -- 2,029
14. AJ Allmendinger -- 2,025
15. Greg Biffle -- 2,021
16. Aric Almirola -- 2,007


By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

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