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Drama, Tempers rise among Cup contenders as TMS event nears


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FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 15, 2014) - The excitement of the newly reformatted Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup reached a new level Saturday evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway as emotions proved volatile amongst championship contenders.

Former Sprint Cup Series champions Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski highlighted an evening of intense racing that spilled emotions into the garage as Kenseth and Keselowski tangled between haulers following the race. The raw emotion is the wild card in NASCAR's new postseason championship format that drivers will continue to face as they battle for every coveted point leading up to this weekend's final race of the Contender Round at Talladega Superspeedway. That emotion should ramp up substantially at Texas Motor Speedway when the Chase reaches the midway point of the Eliminator Round during the AAA Texas 500 and berths to vie for the championship are on the line.

"When you see Matt Kenseth mad enough to fight, you know that this is intense because that's way out of character for him," last weekend's race winner Kevin Harvick said. "When you see that emotion out of Matt Kenseth, you know that NASCAR has done the right thing to this Chase because everybody is on offense and gouging for every single position that you can get every lap."

Four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who currently sits sixth in the championship standings after a runner-up finish last weekend at Charlotte, has seen a dynamic shift in philosophy when it comes to approaching the elimination style of the Chase.

Gordon currently is 17 points ahead of Matt Kenseth, who sits in the first elimination position outside the top eight. For Gordon, who is looking to capture his first championship under the Chase format, each race will only build the pressure.

"The format is definitely creating a lot of drama, a lot of intensity, a lot of pressure and each round seems to intensify that much more," Gordon said. "I think we've got an excellent race team, and I really hope we can make it through Talladega because I think the next round suits us very, very well."

The pressure is not only leaving drivers sleepless, crew chiefs are feeling the pressure to make the right calls and ensure their teams have flawless pit stops throughout the race. A miscue on pit road could mean the difference of a few positions and ultimately putting their driver outside a spot into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

"I have to admit, and DeLana (Harvick) will vouch, I was eating Pepto-Bismol tablets all night," Harvick's crew chief Rodney Childers said. "It started weeks ago, and that's how it's going to be all the way to Homestead. I ought to have stock in Pepto-Bismol, I guess."

The intensity will reach new heights when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500. Tickets for the eighth race in the Chase are still available by calling the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

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