On the surface, Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway might have simply seemed like another victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, its 13th of the year and Matt Kenseth, who is the first driver to earn five victories this season.
But there was a lot more to it than that.
Here are five things we learned at the Magic Mile, host to the second of 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
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1. Be in a position to win -- Kenseth didn't have the fastest car on the day, but he was running second to Kevin Harvick when Harvick ran out of fuel while leading with three laps to go. Some will say that Kenseth was lucky or fortunate, but no other driver was in position to win when something happened to the leader at the end of the race -- just like the 1990 Daytona 500, when Dale Earnhardt cut a tire on the last lap and Derrike Cope stunned the NASCAR world by winning.
2. Keep digging -- Two drivers who rebounded from potential disastrous calamities were Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, not coincidentally both past champions. Near the Lap 200 mark, Johnson had a flat left-front tire and fell from third place to 30th. About 40 laps later, Keselowski was black-flagged on a controversial restart, which set him back from second to 24th. But both drivers kept fighting, with Johnson ending up sixth and Keselowski 12th. The strong recoveries may help both drivers advance to the next round of the Chase.
3. It's where you finish that counts -- Kevin Harvick led 216 of 300 laps, but ran out of fuel with three laps to go, finishing 21st. Now, with only next week's race at Dover International Speedway left in the Challenger Round of the Chase, Harvick is truly in a must-win situation. After the Dover race, the bottom four drivers in points will be eliminated from title contention and right now, Harvick is 15th out of 16 drivers. If Harvick doesn't win at Dover, his defense of the 2014 championship almost certainly will be over.
4. JGR seems unstoppable -- Joe Gibbs Racing has now won four consecutive races, nine of the past 11 and 13 overall, its most ever in a single season. As a team, two of JGR's drivers -- Chase race winners Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth -- are guaranteed to advance into the second round of the Chase and Carl Edwards is all but locked in based on points. If Harvick is indeed eliminated, a JGR championship this year is a virtual inevitability.
5. 'Iron Man' honors -- Jeff Gordon set a modern-day record with his 789th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. A four-time series champion and a great ambassador for the sport, Gordon has been rightly lauded for both his racing skill on the track and his philanthropy off of it. But his toughness is a underappreciated trait. Gordon had a good day at New Hampshire, finishing seventh.