The Rundown: Chicagoland driver grades

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Breaking down the full field for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway:

1. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing. This season’s most-dominant driver on 1.5-mile tracks overcomes a tire issue in the first half of the race and then roars to the victory in overtime after his team gets him off pit road one spot ahead of Chase Elliott on the final stop. Grade: A+  

2. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano lined up sixth on the final restart and did the next-best thing to winning the race. And in the Chase, that’s huge. Grade: A

3. Chase Elliott, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Sooo close. If not for the caution with four laps to go, we’d likely be toasting Elliott. And blaming his pit crew for not getting him out ahead of Martin Truex Jr. on the final stop? Not here. As Elliott said after the race, you don’t know how many drivers are going to stay out. If Carl Edwards pits, it’s Elliott on the outside of Row 2, not Truex. Grade: A

4. Ryan Blaney, No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. All the issues the No. 21 team had on pit road vanished when Michael McDowell’s right-front tire exploded and littered the track with debris with four laps to go, setting up NASCAR overtime. Blaney stayed out and restarted first. He was no match for Truex and his four new tires — but no one else was, either. Grade: A

5. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski’s average running position of 3.2 was second only to Chase Elliott’s 3.1. Grade: A


6. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Another top-10 finish — his ninth in a row — also ties Hamlin with Geoff Bodine for 36th all time with 190 top 10s. Grade: A

7. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne stayed out for the final restart and lined up second, but his old tires were no match for the competition. Still the right call, and Kahne now has three consecutive top 10s for the first time since 2014. Grade: A

8. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch started from the pole, led the first 21 laps and was a mainstay in the top five until a pit-road speeding penalty Lap 172. Grade: A-

9. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth was running 10th when he was caught speeding on pit road during the second caution. Grade: A-

10. Alex Bowman, No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. In his third start in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bowman earned his first career top 10 (74th start). Grade: A

11. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray hung around the top 10 all day and moved up five spots in the Chase standings to 11th. That’s a good start and would put him in position to advance to the next round if he can maintain that spot. Grade: B

12. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson caught the break of the day when he pitted just before the first caution came out and exited the pits right before race leader Martin Truex Jr. crossed the start-finish line (enabling Johnson to not only stay on the lead lap, but also restart first). Then he squandered it all, including a race-high 118 laps led, when he was caught speeding on pit road during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 234. Grade: C-

13. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch’s average finish in the first 18 races was 9.1 (15 top 10s). In the next nine it’s double — 18.2 (two top 10s). If Busch has any chance at a second Sprint Cup championship, he needs to turn things around. On the other hand, he did improve two spots in the standings to 10th. Grade: B

14. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Dillon finished a respectable 14th Sunday. But in Chaseland, that’s not going to cut it. The No. 3 team needs to find more speed. Grade: B

15. Carl Edwards, No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards stayed out on the final caution and restarted third … and in the two-lap sprint to the finish dropped 12 spots. Ouch. Grade: B

16. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart caught a break when he got the free pass back to the lead lap on the last caution. No one knows better than Stewart — other than Carl Edwards, perhaps (see 2011 Chase) — how important every point is in the Chase. Grade: B

17. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger scored his best finish at Chicagoland since finishing 14th in 2010. Grade: B

18. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson started in the rear of the field (transmission change) but had worked his way into the top 10 and was looking at a remarkable day when he had to make a green-flag pit stop on Lap 260 because of an issue with his right front tire. Tough break. But it was the right call. Had it gone flat and exploded (like Michael McDowell’s), it would have been disastrous to his Chase chances. Instead, he’s only two points behind 12th-place Tony Stewart. Grade: B-

19. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Newman’s finish was his worst at Chicagoland since a 22nd-place effort in 2010. He’d had seven top 10s in his previous nine starts at the track. Grade: B-

20. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. About two feet separated Harvick from an awesome day and the mediocre one he experienced. Harvick was in the pits when the first caution came out, but unlike Jimmie Johnson, Harvick didn’t reach the end of pit road before leader Martin Truex Jr. crossed the start-finish line. Harvick was about two feet short. Instead of restarting second, he restarted 20th, the first car a lap down — and he never made it back to the lead lap. And this was the driver who had started in the rear of the field (unapproved adjustments) and was putting on a show zipping his way into the top 10 in less than 40 laps. Tough, tough break. Grade: A

21. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Not a competitive day for Menard, who started 26th and ran only eight laps in the top 15, his fewest at Chicagoland since he had zero in his first race at the track in 2007. Grade: C

22. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. It’s OK to try this at home, kids: Bowyer finished 22nd for the third straight week. Grade: C

23. Trevor Bayne, No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne’s finish was in line with his three previous finishes at Chicagoland — 23rd, 20th and 28th. Grade: C

24. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Patrick turned only three laps in the top 15, but it was three more than last year at Chicagoland. In her five starts at Chicagoland, Patrick has raced in the top 15 in only 25 of her 1,332 laps. Grade: C-

25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse posted his worst finish at Chicagoland in four starts. Grade: C-

26. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Chicagoland was Biffle’s worst track when he arrived (one top 10 in 13 starts), and his 14th start didn’t change anything. Grade: C-

27. Ty Dillon, No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. Dillon was making his ninth start of the season and 16th of his career — but first subbing for Regan Smith, who was home awaiting the birth of his second child. Good call by Smith. Regan and his wife, Megan, had a girl Sunday, Eliza Grace Smith. Congrats. Grade: B (as in baby)

28. Chris Buescher, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Lack of speed, including the inability to make the car faster as the race progressed, was the culprit in the rookie’s first Chase race. Grade: C-

29. Landon Cassill, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill finished three laps back, aided by a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 53. Grade: C-

30. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing. DiBenedetto finished three laps off the pace. Grade: D

31. Brian Scott, No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Scott brought out the second caution when he lost control in Turn 4 and went for a spin. Grade: D-

32. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola had to start in the rear of the field (unapproved adjustments), and then his team caused the first caution when one of the car’s tires got loose during a pit stop and rolled across pit road and onto the grass. Grade: F

33. Michael Annett, No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Annett finished five laps off the pace. Grade D

34. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. Mears was penalized for speeding on pit road on Lap 103 and then penalized again for speeding while serving the pass-through penalty. Grade: D-

35. David Ragan, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Ragan nailed his day in his tweet: “Had too many speeding penalties and not enough time to make up ground.” He had two. Grade: F

36. Cole Whitt, No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt finished seven laps back. Grade: F

37. Michael McDowell, No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing. McDowell changed the outcome of the race when his right-front tire exploded, spewing debris across the track and bringing out the fourth and final caution with four laps left in regulation. Grade: F

38. Josh Wise, No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise was already seven laps down when the No. 30 team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire during the third caution on Lap 194. Grade: F

39. Reed Sorenson, No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. One week after getting his second-best finish over the past two seasons (26th at Richmond), Sorenson finished 13 laps back. Grade: F

40. Joey Gase, No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing. Gase finished 16 laps back in his fourth start of the season and 11th of his career. Grade: F