Kyle Busch will start the 400 at Chicagoland Up Front

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400 at Chicagoland Speedway is Sunday, September 14th. Kyle Busch will start the race at the pole putting himself and his team in a great position to start the Challenger Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The Sprint Cup Series had one practice at Chicagoland Speedway before qualifying for 400. A few hours after practice rain came to the speedway washing out Camping World Truck Series Qualifying and the last Nationwide Series practice. Unfortunately it stuck around to wash out Cup Qualifying. The starting order will be set by the NASCAR Rule Book.

Kyle Busch led the first and only Sprint Cup Series practice with a speed of 191.442. He beat Ryan Newman by six hundredths of a second. They will share the front row for Sunday’s race. Carl Edwards will start right behind them. All three of them are starting in a great position for the first race in the Challenger Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Most of the top teams spent practice in qualifying trim expecting rain to wash out qualifying. Though Kyle Bush didn’t specifically state it, it appears that he did. They all wanted to start up front but more importantly get the best pit stalls in order to make their race the best it can be.

Busch said, “Having a good time there in practice means a lot, but there’s obviously a lot of things that need to happen in the race this weekend for us and getting off to a good start and being able to carry that into the next 10 weeks.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start fourth followed by Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Kyle Larson. Larson is the highest qualifying rookie.

There will be two practices on Saturday in much different conditions today so the drivers and teams will have ample time to adjust their cars from the qualifying set up of today.

If you cannot get to the Chicagoland Speedway for the 400 it will be broadcast on ESPN, on Sunday September 14th starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Feature Photo Credit: 301507 Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images

Johnny Sauter will Start the Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland at the Front

Johnny Sauter will lead the field to green Friday September 12th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The Camping World Truck Series had the track to themselves on Thursday for two practices. Johnny Sauter was the fastest in the final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice on Thursday. There were no practices on Friday. The only activity for the Trucks was qualifying. Unfortunately just before qualifying was to begin a steady rain came to the Chicagoland Speedway.

NASCAR set the field for the Lucas Oil 225 by the rule book. The starting lineup will be set by practice speeds during the final practice on Thursday. Johnny Sauter was the fastest at 176.540 MPH.

Since Erik Jones practiced the No. 51 Dollar General Toyota for Kyle Busch, Busch will have to start the race at the rear of the field. It is going to be exciting watching him drive through the field to the front as that truck was fast in both practices.

The rest of the top ten are Brennan Newberry, Jeb Burton, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace Jr., Kyle Busch, German Quiroga, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the Lucas Oil 225 it will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 starting at 8 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Feature Photo Credit: 300740 Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images


Keys to Winning the New NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup

The first of three rounds, the Challenger Round, of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards shared their thoughts and approaches to the new format of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The new Chase for the Sprint Cup format consists of three rounds, The Challenger, Contender and Eliminator round. Each one consists of three races each and at the end of each round four drivers will be eliminated. The last race of the season at Homestead Miami Speedway the last four remaining drivers in the Chase will settle the Championship on the Track. The highest finisher of the four will win the Championship.

When thinking of the Chase and the prospects for Elimination after each round, it is easy to get caught up in what ifs. Especially when making it to the last race is the only way you will get the Prize. Jimmie Johnson laid out how this new format will be intense for some teams.

Johnson said, “I think it goes in multiple directions depending on your races. If you have poor finishes in the first and second races and you’re not looking strong in points, it’s really easy for that third race; you need the Hail Mary to make something happen. If you get off to a quick start and you’re solid in the points, of course you’re going to take an opportunity to win, but you know you’re covering the base on points. I think there are going to be multiple strategies that take place, depending on performance. And then, after three races, you’re going to have to re-rack and start it over again.

As much as “re-rack” and start over again sounds good one may not make the re-rack if performance is subpar especially as the number of drivers in the rack get reduced after the first couple of rounds. This probably isn’t a concern for six time champion Johnson, the hallmark of consistency.

Matt Kenseth seems to think there is no special strategy for winning in the new format. Quite simply just keep doing what got you there.

I don’t really know what to expect in the new format.  I say this a lot, but there’s no magic formula to winning no matter what the format is, really.” Kenseth added, “It depends on what other cars do.  Last year, it would have been good enough if Jimmie (Johnson) would have ran a little bit worse because we finished second.  I don’t know how it’s going to work out, I think you just take it one week at a time and get the best results you can and at the end of the day hope that they’re good enough to go to the next round and so on.

Jimmie Johnson agrees with Kenseth but thinks it just might take a little more. You just might have to step it up some so you remain in the hunt.

But I really feel that it isn’t any different than the way you’ve had to win championships in the past. You have to battle that fine line of risk versus reward. And with as competitive as our garage area is, you can’t leave a half-second on pit road.” Johnson added, “You can’t leave a couple tenths on the race track. You’ve got to somehow dial-in 100 percent and no more.

Dialing in 100% is exactly what it will take. Carl Edwards is expecting everyone in the Chase to step it up or rise to the challenge. Could that mean somehow raising the bar such that 100% isn’t enough?

I hope it is a sign of what is to come. This is the Chase and it is time to step it up. I think you are going to see the best out of everyone. The best they can put together using the things everyone has learned throughout the year.” Edwards added, “We talked a lot about it yesterday and the day before with all the media but nobody really knows how this will play out. Somehow, someway people find a way to get a little extra speed once the pressure is on.

Jimmie Johnson thinks he just needs to do what it takes to stay alive and make it to Homestead Miami. It will require having better and better finishes as the Rounds get completed.

“So, over the ten races, a lot can happen. And this year, with the format changing as dramatically as it has, the opportunity for somebody to stay alive and really; you just need to be hot towards the end, if not really hot in one race. So, we’ll just see how it all plays out.”

Looks like the strategy will be to stay on your game and perhaps step it up a little until Homstead. If for some reason you are not successful at that, then its “Hail Mary” time. Race the wheels off your car and win a race. Either way NASCAR fans can expect some all-out racing in order for these drivers in the Chase to win a Championship. It means each and every Chase race is really important. The last race of every round just might be more important, especially for those teams in trouble for making it to the next round.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Feature Photo Credit: 301470 Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images



Richard Petty and Eckrich Support Operation Homefront at Chicagoland

Aric Almirola made his first NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup but before he took to the track at the Chicagoland Speedway his team honored a Retired Army Veteran.

A replica of the No. 43 Eckrich Ford drove up and greeted Veteran Army Specialist Raymond Goss and his family in front of a local Jewel-Osco store. Inside the car were VIP tickets to join the No. 43 race team this weekend complete with authentic crew uniforms and hats. Not only cool, but a NASCAR race fan’s dream.

The Goss family was also presented with a year’s supply of groceries from Jewel-Osco. While celebrating their win none other than Richard Petty himself drove around the store in a new Ford Fusion. He pulled up to the family and gave the car to them.

I am just overwhelmed, I just can’t believe that Eckrich and Richard Petty gave my family a new car.  Who can say that? I don’t think too many people and it’s something that I’ll never forget.” Goss added, “It means a lot when a company like Eckrich remembers veterans like myself and do something special.  We’re just really grateful for Eckrich, Jewel-Osco and Richard Petty. We’re now fans for life.

Friday’s event is part of the continued Eckrich “Operation Inspiration” campaign, which supports and honors military families.  Eckrich is in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Eckrich has already raised more than $750,000 in donations for the charity.

The No. 43 Eckrich Ford driven by Aric Almirola at Chicagoland Speedway will have the names of 120 military families on the hood and sides of the car this weekend at Chicagoland as part of Operation Homefront.

If you cannot get to the Chicagoland Speedway for the 400 it will be broadcast on ESPN on Sunday September 14th starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Feature Photo Credit: Brad Schloss Photography

Jeff Gordon is Ready for Intense Racing at Chicagoland Speedway

The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway. Jeff Gordon has been on a roll this season looking for his fifth Championship and is ready for Chicagoland. The Challenger Round for the Chase begins with the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The Chicagoland Speedway is one of the 1.5 mile D shaped ovals which dominate the NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule. Many people refer to them as cookie cutter tracks but in reality they are all different in one way or another with the exception of being 1.5 mile around. Chicagoland has 18 degrees of banking in all four turns and 11 degrees of banking in the front stretch. The front stretch is more of a big sweeping turn than a straight away. The back straight away has 5 degrees of banking. The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles).

The new format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup includes three rounds of three races each. Four drivers will be eliminated after each round. The three rounds are the Challenger Round, Contender Round and Eliminator Round. Any driver who wins a race automatically advances to the next round which put a big emphasis on Winning. After the last round there will only be four drivers left who will race at Homestead Miami where the highest finisher of the four will win the Championship. The whole goal of the Change in format is to create intense racing.

Oh, yeah, it’s going to be really, really intense.  I think you actually have to try to balance out that intensity to try to make it not too intense for yourself.” Gordon added, “Certainly the first two rounds, everybody has this focus on you got to win, you got to win.  That’s not true.  You got to be solid.  It would be nice to win.  We’re going to be going out there to win.  You still don’t want to have a big problem.  In the past, the problem has taken you completely out of it and it still can in this format.

Jeff Gordon doesn’t have the best career driver rating at Chicagoland Speedway. His rating of 96.9 is fifth best. Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch all have higher ratings see chart below:

Gordon’s season to date driver rating, which covers every race at every track so far this season, is the best of all drivers. That is a reflection that he is driving better than anyone this season. Brad Keselowski, last week’s winner, leads the point standings but has a slightly lower overall driver rating. Jeff Gordon finished second last week. These two drivers are expected to take their momentum with them into the Chase and throughout all the Rounds right to Homestead.

The weather unlike previous years at Chicagoland is expected to be relatively cold and more importantly dry. The speeds at this track are expected to be higher than ever. If that will add even more intensity to the racing.

If you cannot get to the Chicagoland Speedway for the 400 it will be broadcast on ESPN on Sunday September 14th starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Feature Photo Credit: 290386 John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Rating at Chicago
Jimmie Johnson                         117.2
Tony Stewart                              109.8
Matt Kenseth                              105.4
Kyle Busch                                102.7
Jeff Gordon                                 96.9
Kevin Harvick                               96.4
Brian Vickers                               95.0
Brad Keselowski                          93.6
Clint Bowyer                                91.4
Carl Edwards                               90.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Chicagoland Speedway.

Rank Season Driver
Driver Points Wins Poles Rating
1. Brad Keselowski 2,012 4 4 103
2. Jeff Gordon 2,009 3 2 109.1
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,009 3 0 98
4. Jimmie Johnson 2,009 3 1 99.9
5. Joey Logano 2,009 3 1 106.3
6. Kevin Harvick 2,006 2 6 106.7
7. Carl Edwards 2,006 2 0 82.6
8. Kasey Kahne 2,003 1 0 89.9
9. Kyle Busch 2,003 1 2 88.9
10. Denny Hamlin 2,003 1 2 90
11. Kurt Busch 2,003 1 0 87.6
12. Aric Almirola 2,003 1 0 73.9
13. AJ Allmendinger 2,003 1 0 70.7
14. Matt Kenseth 2,000 0 1 92.8
15. Greg Biffle 2,000 0 0 81.3
16. Ryan Newman 2,000 0 0 84.7