Though the first 26 races of the NASCAR season seem to be all about making the Chase, they're also about preparing for the 10 races in the championship itself – particularly at the eight Chase tracks which have return visits.
So what happens when a Chase driver crashes in one of those races? In June, the Dover race was only nine laps old when this went down:
As you can see, defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart caught a piece of the wreck and sustained damage to his No. 14 car.
It could have been harmful to Stewart's chances of a repeat if his crew hadn't been able to fix the car and get him back out onto the track. After all, Stewart needed to collect information from the first Dover race to use for this weekend.
"If you miss the race in the spring and get knocked out early and you don't get to run the rest of the race, it's definitely an impact, for sure," Stewart said Friday.
Fortunately for Stewart, he's not in that situation. His car was repaired so well that he was able to pass cars and run competitive lap times once he returned to the track, even though he was 69 laps down.
"There is something you can take from that at least, even though you are not on the lead lap," he said. "At least we were learning as the race went on, even though we weren't in contention for anything. It definitely helps when you come back here."
So is it possible that crashing early at Dover could actually have helped Stewart's team gain some valuable information for Sunday's race? According to Stewart, there could be a positive in what was a very bad day.
"We learned quite a bit," he said. "We got to make quite a bit of changes every caution. We really weren't racing for position, so every time the caution would come out, we would come in and change something."
As for this weekend, Stewart said his team has made significant gains to the point where his car is "the best we have been here in a long time."
"I'm pretty happy with the way we are starting here," he said. "We are still not as fast as we need to be, but at least we are knocking a lot of that deficit away."