Sunday, Sept. 18
2 p.m. (ET)
ESPN, 1 p.m. (ET)
400.5 miles (267 laps)
Beginning this weekend, most eyes will be focused on the 12 drivers who qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. While the remainder of the 43-car field won’t be forgotten completely, the “outsiders” only hope for recognition comes in form of one word: spoiler.
Nothing can completely salve the sting of missing the Chase, but a win – and taking a few points away from the anointed 12 drivers – certainly can make a driver’s day.
While spoilers accumulated 10 wins from 2004-06, their successes have been few and far between over the past four seasons. Just three non-Chase qualifiers went to Victory Lane from 2007-10:
• Jamie McMurray won at Charlotte Motor Speedway a year ago.
• McMurray was victorious at Talladega Superspeedway in 2009.
• Greg Biffle was the Kansas winner in 2007.
Chicagoland offers hope to the non-qualifiers. The track’s past two winners, David Reutimann and Mark Martin, failed to qualify for this year’s Chase.
Five past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions fill spots, however, three names often come up during the “future champion” discussion are also vying for 2011 crown: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin, 2010 Champion runner-up, races at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final race of the season in 2010. Photo credit: Sandi Goodall/Racingal.com
Following is a rundown of the Top 12 drivers racing for the title of NASCAR Champion in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. All are multi-time winners, and each have conquered at least two of the 10 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks.
Kyle Busch: The top seed with 2,012 points (he owns the tiebreaker over Kevin Harvick via his two runner-ups vs. Harvick’s zero), Busch has six career wins at the upcoming 10 tracks. He scored the third-most points in the Race to the Chase – the 10 races preceding the Chase.
Kevin Harvick: Boasts momentum with his Richmond win, and Chase know-how thanks to his near-championship Chase last season. Has eight wins and a Driver Rating of 86.6 at the next 10 tracks.
Jeff Gordon: Has 31 wins at the next 10 tracks, more than any other driver. His Driver Rating of 97.7 at the next 10 ranks second, and he scored 392 points over the last 10 races, more than any other driver.
Matt Kenseth: A champion in 2003, Kenseth has seven wins and a Driver Rating of 91.9 at the next 10 tracks.
Carl Edwards: A whiz at intermediate tracks, so figure on a solid showing (five tracks in the Chase are 1.5 miles in length). He has seven wins at the upcoming 10 tracks.
Jimmie Johnson: Won the deal five consecutive times. Need we say more? Yes, and we do below.
Kurt Busch: Won the first ever Chase in 2004. It was also the closest (eight points), a nod to his championship mettle. He has eight wins at the remaining 10 tracks.
Ryan Newman: Newman has sneaky momentum. Scored six top 10s in the Race to the Chase. Newman also has 10 wins at the upcoming 10 tracks, which ranks tied for fourth-most among Chase drivers.
Tony Stewart: Only driver to win the championship in both the Chase era (2005) and pre-Chase era (2002). Stewart has 16 wins over the next 10 tracks, and a third-best Driver Rating of 97.7.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The reigning eight-time Most Popular Driver had only one top 10 in the Race to the Chase. But his 10 wins over the next 10 tracks rank tied for fourth among Chase drivers.
Brad Keselowski: Scored the second-most points in the Race to the Chase (362), and scored six top 10s in the last seven races.
Denny Hamlin: Was last year’s championship runner-up, and held the lead going into the season finale at Homestead. Rolls into the Chase with three consecutive top 10s.
This year’s regular season packed punch to the tune of competitive balance and record-breaking competition.
Here’s a few notable facts and figures…
- 15 different winners, most through 26 races since 2003.
- 5 first time winners (Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, David Ragan, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose)
- 16 different Coors Light Pole winners, most through 26 race since 2005
- An average of 13 different leaders per race, most through 26 races in series history
- An average of 28 different leaders per race, most through 26 races in series history
- 16 races had a margin of victory under a second, most through 26 races since 2001. That includes Talladega’s MOV of .002 seconds, which tied the closest finish since the inception of electronic scoring in 1993.
Saturday, Sept. 17
3:30 p.m. (ET)
ESPN2, 3 p.m. (ET)
300 miles (200 laps)
Justin Allgaier, the inaugural summer race winner at Chicago in June and who’s from Riverton, Ill., will head back home in hopes of turning his inconsistent finishes over the last 13 races, to yet another victory. He’s had two did not finish (DNF) results since June, including a dry fuel cell while leading on the final lap of a green-white-checkered finish at Road America that cost him a certain victory. He’s had three top-10 finishes in his last four races, including a ninth at Richmond. In three career series starts at Chicago, he has two top-10 finishes in addition to the June win.
ROUSH VS JOE GIBBS
No. 60 NWS Fastenal Ford of Carl Edwards goes through inspection at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2010. Photo by Sandi Goodall/Racingal.com
Joey Logano will be in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota instead of Kyle Busch, while Ryan Truex drives the No. 20. Kyle Busch has only three more NASCAR Nationwide Series races left on his 2011 schedule – Charlotte, Texas and Homestead-Miami, while Carl Edwards will compete in each of the seven remaining races.
Only 48 points separate Joe Gibbs Racing Roush Fenway Racing for Owner Titles.
The No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and is on pace to capture the record-setting fourth consecutive series owner title for Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR has won the last three.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
Friday, Sept. 16
8 p.m. (ET)
SPEED, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
225 miles (150 laps)
Count on what’s become a bitter struggle for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owners’ championship to continue at Chicagoland Speedway. Kevin Harvick Inc.’s standings leading No. 2 Chevrolet and Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 Toyota are separated by 36 points. Both organizations are hoping to extend winning streaks in Friday night’s race.
• Harvick, who sat out the Sept. 2 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, has won his past three starts at Pocono Raceway, Michigan International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. A KHI truck has won each of the past four races • Ron Hornaday Jr. having notched career victory No. 49 won in Atlanta.
• Busch is a two-time defending winner of the Fast Five 225. He enters the race virtually untouched in a variety of Loop Data categories. Busch, with a Driver Rating of 148.2, leads or shares the lead in 10 of the rating’s components. In 2009, Chicago was Busch’s second of five wins in consecutive starts for Billy Ballew Motorsports.
• The two trucks have dominated the 2011 season with five drivers posting a combined 12 victories.
Ron Hornaday has one more task to close out and that is his one victory away from capturing his 50th NCWTS win – a feat no one else has accomplished. Hornaday finished third at Chicagoland in 2010.
Source: NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications