NASCAR AMERICA: Biggest surprises of the 2014 Chase (VIDEO)

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With the implementation of the new, elimination-style Chase for the Sprint Cup format, we knew that it could lead to some surprises.

But NASCAR Nation may have gotten more than it bargained for.

Hendrick Motorsports put all four of their drivers – Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, and then-reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson – into the Chase. But none of them made it to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

And neither did Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, even though he captured a series-high six victories in 2014.

On the other side of the coin, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman – who tallied a combined one win between them – managed to use consistent front-running finishes through the first nine races of the Chase to put themselves into the Championship 4. And Newman ended up just one spot shy of winning it all at Homestead.

As part of today’s NASCAR AMERICA Chase Spectacular, Rick Allen, Nate Ryan, and Parker Kligerman touched on how these surprises impacted the battle for the title. Check out their thoughts in the clip above.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race the No. 3 vs. IndyCar stars in Michigan iRacing

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).