"It just wasn't a good day," admitted Bowyer, who had come into this race voicing some very high hopes of competing for the outright win to kick off his own Chase campaign. "I don't know whether it was strategy or pit stops or what, but it seemed like we lost spots on pit road all day and it just cost us. You ain't going to win a championship with decent days — you have to have good days," he pointed out.
"We were horrible at the start — just straight to the rear," said Truex, Bowyer's team mate at Michael Waltrip Racing. "We were just so tight all day long. I don't know what happened, I can't believe we missed it that bad.
"We just had to stick with it, keep pushing and keep pounding on it," he continued. "We made lots and lots and lots and lots of changes — big changes and it just worked at the end. We just kept getting them one at a time.”
Kevin Harvick finished the race in 12th place just ahead of Greg Biffle, who was frustrated with the way his day had ended.
"We were really going good there at the end and we did our last stop and the car just went bad," he said. "It just got way too loose and we were hooking the bottom. I don't even really know what happened. We were driving up through there and the car was getting better and better and it never fails – the last stop of the day we put our tires on and it went bad."
Biffle's outgoing Roush Fenway Racing team mate Matt Kenseth had a shaky weekend - literally in his case, as a shock absorber fell off mid-race making the #17 a real handful on the bumpy Chicagoland Speedway race surface. He managed to hold on to it till the next round of pit stops and finished a lap down in 18th place, which might not have veen the result he'd wanted, but at least it wasn't the same-scale disaster as had befallen Jeff Gordon.
"We had a brake line get loose at Bristol and a shock fall off today so obviously we have to get to the bottom of that," said Kenseth after the race. "We didn't have a very fast car to start with ... When we had that problem, we got so far behind."
There's still time for Kenseth et al to rally back and figure in the Chase, but they can afford no further mistakes over the next nine weeks or else they might find themselves staring helplessly on as Keselowski, Johnson and Stewart pull away and make the battle for the Sprint Cup championship an increasingly private affair.
Full race results and championship standings