NASCAR Preview – in Chicago it’s the Geico 400
After a drama and rain-filled Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond, the 12-driver field for the “Chase for the Championship” was decided in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The Chase field which is separated by only 12 points includes points leader Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon.
Following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan in August, the #27 team of Paul Menard was issued penalties for violating NASCAR policy. The penalties were issued as result of findings during the post-race inspection. The penalties included loss of 25 owner and driver points, Crew Chief Slugger Labbe suspended 6 weeks and fine of $10,000 and suspension of car chief and crew member. Richard Childress (team owner) appealed the suspension of the car chief and crew member. That appeal was heard on Monday and NASCAR did indeed retract the appealed suspensions. Shane Wilson will be crew chief for Paul Menard during Labbe’s suspension.
Here's Blake Smith's analysis of Sunday's race.
Jeff Gordon will be trying to rekindle some of his magic that earned him 4 championships, beginning this weekend. Jeff Gordon will be “bringing back the stache.” Gordon tweeted that if he and the #24 team made the Chase for the Championship, he would bring back the mustache that he wore in the early 1990’s. Gordon tweeted that he will keep his word and will have the mustache this weekend beginning at Chicago.
Following a disappointing regular season, Richard Petty Motorsports announced crew changes prior to this weekend’s race. Mike Ford will now lead the #9 of Marcos Ambrose and Todd Parrott has been assigned to the crew chief position of Aric Almirola’s #43 team. Crews were also switched. Mike Ford led the #9 team when it was under the Evernham Motorsports banner from 2001-2003 with driver, Bill Elliott.
Drivers and teams will have 2 practice sessions on Friday to prepare for Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race. Following Saturday’s mid-day qualifying session, the cars will be impounded until Sunday morning when the cars will be rolled to the starting grid on pit road. This means that many of the top teams will focus on race setups during Friday’s practices. So if your favorite driver in the Chase has a less than stellar qualifying effort on Saturday, don’t panic because they likely qualified using a conservative set up.
With 47 drivers entered for this weekend’s race, there will be 4 drivers who will not make the 43 car starting field. The teams not in the top-35 in points are expected to have a more aggressive setup in their car for that one fast lap to make the race during qualifying. Some notables on this weekend’s entry list include 2011 Daytona 500 champion, Trevor Bayne and Stewart-Haas driver, Danica Patrick. Bayne will have to qualify his way in while Patrick is guaranteed a starting spot with her top 35 points position.
For defending champion Tony Stewart, the 9 points could be the difference in repeating as champ.
Kevin Harvick is a two-time winner at Chicagoland Speedway including the inaugural race at the speedway in 2001. Harvick, who sets 9th in Chase standings, will be paired with his crew chief, Gil Martin for the 3rd time since the crew chief change before Bristol. Harvick will be driving the #29 “Designate a Driver” Budweiser Chevrolet in this weekend’s event, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Anheuser-Busch’s leadership in alcohol responsibility. My pick for victory lane at Chicago is the rejuvenated pairing of Kevin Harvick and Gil Martin.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series unveiled an app for the series, this week. The application is now available on the Apple App Store as well as the android market. The App is for all carriers but those with Sprint are able to access more facets of the app including the ability to listen to the in-car radio for their favorite driver. The App gives the ability for stats to be sent directly to your phone by notification. Of course, we here at WBKR encourage you to download the RadioPup app on your phone to listen to all of WBKR’s NASCAR coverage.
Tune into Sunday’s coverage of the Geico 400 beginning at 12PM on WBKR and WBKR.com. For a complete wrap up of the weekend’s NASCAR events, tune into “NASCAR Live” with Eli Gold on Tuesday night at 6 PM. After Eli, tune into my buddy Malcolm West and his crew for Race Talk. They will have a wrap up of the weekend’s local racing including the ARCA Racing Series at Salem beginning at 7PM live from Show Me’s of Owensboro.
-- Blake Smith