It’s Jeff Gordon’s Last Race at Chicagoland & Chance for his Fifth Cup

Jeff Gordon started the season with a mission. He wanted to get his fifth championship after 14 years of trying and retire from NASCAR. Later in the season we would find out that he wasn’t really retiring from NASCAR but retiring from driving in NASCAR. Gordon will be in in the broadcast booth for Fox Sports as a driver analyst when the season begins again at Daytona in 2016.

The regular season has not gone the way he wanted it to. He has not won a single race where at this point in the season last year he had won three. It is not like he didn’t race well. He was running up near the front just about every week. He posted two top five finishes and thirteen top ten finishes on his way to finishing 13th in points and making the Chase for the Sprint Cup for his last time.

This will be the second time the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format has been used. There are three rounds of three races each with the elimination of four drivers at the end of each round. The fourth and final round is a one race showdown at the season finale at the Homestead Miami Speedway; Four drivers racing for the win and the Championship.

Last year Jeff Gordon was eliminated in the third round, the Eliminator Round, of the Chase. He was not able contend for the Championship in the fourth and final round.

That is the beauty of this new Chase Format. It is not how Jeff Gordon got there it is what he does with it. Gordon has 2000 points to start at Chicagoland Speedway, 13 points below the leaders. If he doesn’t step it up and possibly win one of the first three races beginning here, he may be one of the first four cars to be eliminated from the Chase.

We’re behind.  We know that.  Those guys are unbelievable.  But there’s a lot of ways to make it to Homestead and there’s a lot that can happen and we’re working as hard as anybody to try to see what we can do better, learn from our competitors, and try to catch up, but we’re definitely playing catch-up.” Gordon added, “I think Junior is probably the best in our stable right now and he proved that again tonight, but we work hard together to try to improve for each of us, and if we continue to do that, we’ll make gains.  There was a lot of pressure in this final season to make that Chase, so I’m glad we got that done.”

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312717 Jon Durr/Getty Images

Chicagoland Speedway has a vintage Jeff Gordon car on display plus fans can sigh a giant Thank You Card Photo Credit: Brian Berg Jr.
Chicagoland Speedway has a vintage Jeff Gordon car on display plus fans can sigh a giant Thank You Card Photo Credit: Brian Berg Jr.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying is Rained Out at Chicagoland Speedway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came to Chicagoland Speedway to kick off the Chase to the Sprint Cup. With the weather man predicting rain at the end of the day prior to qualifying many of the teams cut practice short to run qualifying runs. Unfortunately the weather man and the teams were correct and the rains did come.

In practice, Kevin Harvick was the class of the field in his mock qualifying run posting a time of 28.675; 62/100 faster than Joey Logano. Harvick was the only driver to get into the 188 MPH level. Since qualifying was canceled the lineup will be started according to the rule book and Kevin Harvick will lead the field to green this Sunday with Joey Logano alongside.

As expected most of the sixteen Chase Nation drivers were fast and at the front of the leaderboard. Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. will be in the second row. The other Chase drivers are as follows: Ryan Newman 6th, Kyle Busch 7th, Kurt Busch 10th, Jeff Gordon 11th, Jimmie Johnson 12th, Matt Kenseth 13th, Jamie McMurray 14th, Carl Edwards 15th and Paul Menard 17th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin had trouble during practice and will start 20th, 27th and 30th respectively. Of those three, Denny Hamlin appeared to struggle the most. When Hamlin’s crew got him ready for a mock qualifying run it did not help. He remained 30th quick. Later in the garage they were making wholesale changes to the car, even changing the rear axle. Fortunately for those teams there is another practice on Saturday to work on making those cars better.

Ryan Blaney and the #21Wood Brothers Ford will miss the race for a third time due to rain. Blaney would most likely made the race on time had there been qualifying. Michael McDowell #95 and Travis Kvapil #30 will also miss the race.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312735 Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images

Kyle Larson will Lead the Trucks to Green at Chicagoland Speedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series comes to Chicagoland Speedway for what is typical for that series a one day event. The teams have one practice to get their trucks right, then qualifying and a short break before the American Ethanol E15 225 at night.

Rain was expected to come through the speedway about the time qualifying was to start. According to the NASCAR rule book if qualifying should happen to be rained out then the field would be started by first practice speeds. All of the top truck teams started the practice session by running one or more qualifying laps to be prepared for that event.

Kyle Larson laid down a lap 15/100 faster than Matt Crafton. He was the only driver to break into the 175 MPH level. Crafton’s teammate Johnny Sauter was third, Tyler Reddick fourth and Timothy Peters fifth. Eric Jones, the current series point’s leader, was eighth in practice.

As luck would have it, Mother Nature arrived a little late such that only four trucks did not take time in the first qualifying session. The fast trucks of Tyler Reddick, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Kyle Larson were not able to show what they had. That doesn’t matter the field has been set by the rule book and they will start up front.

#16 Chad Boat and # 18 Ross Chastain will miss the race due to lack of owner points although they were fast enough to have made the race if qualifying was completed.

This is Kyle Larson’s first start in the Camping World Truck Series since last year and his first start for JR Motorsports in the #00 Haas Automation Chevy.

UPDATE: The race was canceled due to rain. The American Ethanol E15 225 it will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 on Saturday September 19th starting at 10:30 AM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 304798 NASCAR Media

The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway

The regular season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is over. 26 races with 11 individual winners, eight who won multiple times, the Chase Contenders have been decided. The first of the three elimination rounds in the NASCAR playoff format begins at Chicagoland Speedway.

There are 16 contenders for the Championship. Their standings in the points have been reset based on the number of races they have won during the regular season. Those drivers with no wins start with 2000 points. Those drivers with wins get an additional 3 points for each win.

1 Jimmie Johnson 2012
2 Kyle Busch 2012
3 Matt Kenseth 2012
4 Joey Logano 2009
5 Kevin Harvick 2006
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr 2006
7 Kurt Busch 2006
8 Carl Edwards 2006
9 Brad Keselowski 2003
10 Martin Truex Jr 2003
11 Denny Hamlin 2003
12 Jamie McMurray 2000
13 Jeff Gordon 2000
14 Ryan Newman 2000
15 Paul Menard 2000
16 Clint Bowyer 2000

The Challenger Round begins at Chicagoland Speedway then moves on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway the next week and then Dover International Speedway the week after. The four Chase contenders who are lowest in points after Dover will be eliminated from the Chase.

The “Rub” as they say is that any of these drivers who win a race regardless of their point standings gets a pass on this round. If that driver happens to be one of those lower in points then it is possible to be 12th in points and still miss the next round. It is highly unlikely but can happen that the three races could be won by a driver at the bottom of the standings so 10th place may not be safe either.

Looking at the reset points Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer really are starting in a hole even though it is only three points. Three points equals three positions on the race track. There are no bonus points for leading laps, only for winning races. It makes these races much easier to follow.

The new Chase Format puts an emphasis on winning but in reality due to the elimination feature teams must be on top of their game each and every week. Brad Keselowski put this feeling into perspective.

We are ready to go. We have some momentum with the top-10’s lately but we need to turn some of those into wins and we know that. We have 10 weeks though to make that happen. We want to be in the Chase and we want to not take that for granted but on the other side we aren’t just happy with just being in it. We want to do more than just that. That is what we are here to do, to make some noise and hopefully bring home a second championship.

Keselowski knows how it works as much as anyone. He opened the Chase at Chicagoland last year with a three wide pass to win and guarantee himself into the Contender Round. He followed that up with a win in the last race of that round at Talladega to move himself into the Eliminator Round. He wasn’t able to back that effort up in that round and was seven points shy and eliminated from the Championship.

Click on this link to read more on Strategies to Win the Championship.

None of these drivers are going to win the Championship at Chicagoland Speedway but they can dig themselves into a hole. A big hole, one of which the only way to crawl out of is by winning one of the next two races.

Let the Challenger Round begin. It is going to be a great one.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312197 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Brad Keselowski Samples the Best of the Windy City

The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off with the Contenders spreading out across North America. Brad Keselowski visited Chicago to do his part to spread the word about the Championship battle that will be kicked off this Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Keselowski started the day on the air with The Carmen and Jurko Show on ESPN 1000 in downtown Chicago. He then moved on and did what most of us do more often than we should. He made stops at three iconic hot dog locations to try out our Chicago-style fare. The Weiner Circle on N. Clark St., Franks ‘N’ Dawgs on N Clybourn Ave. and finishing up at Portillo’s on W. Ontario St.

The 2012 series Champion found something he liked that was more like home. The Reuben Pulaski, a polish sausage with potato cake, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. “Just how grandma made it,” Keselowski said.

Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III (Wearing white)
Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III (Wearing white)

The Chase for the Sprint Cup starts right here at Chicagoland Speedway this Sunday with the myAFibRisk.com 400.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312573 NASCAR IMC

Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III
Brad Keselowski Sampling The Reuben Pulaski. Photo Credit Chuck Skinner III