The 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup got off to a frustrating start, when heavy rainstorms moved in to the Joliet, Illinois area early on Friday evening and soon flooded the 1.5 miles Chicagoland Speedway before the NASCAR field could commence qualifying for this weekend's race.
CLICK: Full starting grid for Chicagoland Speedway.
As a result, the starting grid was set according to the times achieved by the drivers in first practice earlier in the day. Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick had been fastest in that session with a lap of 28.675s (188.317mph) putting him 0.062s ahead of Penske's Joey Logano.
"I think today is a unique scenario because everybody thought it was going to rain, and predicted that it was going to rain," said Harvick, explaining that his fast practice pace had been no lucky accident.
"They put a lot emphasis on trying to lay a fast lap down just like everybody to get a good starting position with the way that the weather was," he confirmed. "I am most proud of my team for having a fast race car to come to the track; having a plan and doing all the things they did to pay attention to the weather.
"Everybody on the team have done a good job. Just proud of that. Obviously having the first pit stall and having good track position to start is important. To have it all work out today was really good for the team. Just proud of everybody."
"I would rather have been first but I feel good about that," contributed Logano after being confirmed on the front row alongside Harvick. "I was hoping we would qualify because I thought we had a shot at the pole, but I will take second, that is a good consolation.
"Track position is key," he added. "This first round is all about clicking off good finishes, which is what it is all about. A nice start here will really start that and we are off to a nice start, starting on the front row.
"I like fast race tracks. Fast bumpy race tracks seem to be a little better for Penske for some reason. It seems like the bumps have always been good for us. Kentucky and here they have been good to us over the years."
Logano's team mate Brad Keselowski was third fastest in practice meaning he will start Sunday afternoon's race on row two alongside Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr.
"It is a lot better than last year when we started 25th," pointed out Keselowski when asked about he felt about lining up in third place on the grid. "We will take that and move on. The car has been pretty good so far so I feel good about that. Track position is important here but last year we were able to pass people and get up to the front.
"I feel like you can get there it is just a matter of time. Good cars always get to the top. I feel like we have a good car though and we will start close to the front, so that is a good start."
Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon is the highest-placed non-Chase contender on the grid in fifth place alongside his team mate Ryan Newman. Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch will start next to Hendrick Motorsport's Kasey Kahne on row four, with SHR's Kurt Busch and Hendrick's Jeff Gordon rounding out the top ten.
Four Chase contenders just missed out on making it into the top ten, with Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick) set to start the race from 11th, Matt Kenseth (JGR) from 12th, Jamie McMurray (Ganassi) from 13th and Carl Edwards (JGR) from 14th.
Paul Menard (RCR) will take the green flag in 16th while Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick) will start from 19th and Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing) from 26th. The lowest of the Chase contenders will be JGR's Denny Hamlin who will start Sunday afternoon's race from 29th position on the grid.
Practice saw a caution ten minutes into the 85-minute session when David Ragan went for a spin exiting turn 4, but the #55 MWR car suffered no damage in the incident.
With Wood Brothers Racing fielding only a part time entry, the #21 car did not have sufficient owner points to allow it to make the grid without being able to set a qualifying lap. That means for the third time this year, Ryan Blaney has missed out on a race due to a qualifying wash-out despite having been ninth fastest in practice on this latest occasion. Also going home early this weekend are Michael McDowell and Travis Kvapil.
As well as Sprint Cup qualifying, the rain also washed out qualifying for this weekend's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. The Truck race itself had been due to be run on Friday evening but the rain meant that this will now be rolled over and take place on Saturday morning instead.
Sunday's Sprint Cup race is the first of the ten-race Chase play-offs that will decide which of the 16 drivers currently still in contention will ultimately win this year's championship. The events are grouped into three elimination rounds of three races apiece, with the four drivers lowest in the points at the end of each round being cut from contention; any Chase driver who wins one of the races in any given elimination round automatically moves into the next round. In the end, just four drivers will be left standing going into the season finale at Homestead-Miami on November 22 all with an equal chance of winning the title.
See full starting grid for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway
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