Fans, NASCAR professionals, and even viewers on television might have been surprised by thousands of empty seats being visible in the stands at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend during the NASCAR competitions being held at this facility in Joliet, Ill. This must be a stress filled site for NASCAR officials watching the race and employees of this track on the far outskirts of Chicago. Especially since this track isn’t one of the larger capacity tracks that have been having trouble filling up to capacity, but a moderate facility designed for around 75,000 fans. Craig Rust, the new track president at Chicagoland Speedway has been asking questions and apparently fans have been filling up the email boxes in response and the reasons probably aren’t what NASCAR officials were expecting.
Why are fans deciding to skip NASCAR events like last Saturday’s LifeLock.com 400 Sprint Cup competition and staying home instead? Apparently, since the Chicagoland Speedway opened in 2001 it hasn’t made available for sale any single-day tickets to events such as the LifeLock.om 400. Instead fans have only been able to buy what is called a track pack, which gives them access to the Indy Lights and IndyCar races, as well as the Nationwide Series race, Camping World Truck Series race, and ARCA ReMax event.
This fact combined with the current economic conditions around the world could have a lot to do with the 20,000 seats in the stands last Saturday. They should probably think about going to a season-ticket setup for fanatical fans who want to go to every race or maybe even a seat license might be a good way to go. They could always sell single tickets to individual events and which makes sense considering the economic climate.
In response, Mr. Rust has been talking about making sweeping changes to the way tickets are being sold to race fans who want to attend NASCAR events at Chicagoland Speedway. He hasn’t given any specifics on planned changes, but the buzz is that this guy knows his business, so it’s expected that the fans will be back in the seats shortly.
“Image: Zuma Press”
50 year old Mark Martin is like a fine wine this year as he won his 2009 series best fourth Sprint Cup competition of the year and the 39th of his long and illustrious racing career Saturday night at Chicago’s 1.5 mile Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The last man standing on a night of body-slamming and bump-drafting that included seven cautions, the last one with only two laps left in the race due to oil on the track from Kyle Busch’s blown engine. Mark Martin pulled away after a double-file restart after the seventh caution of the night and managed to cross the finish line of the LifeLock.com 400 a mere 0.415 seconds in front of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon. The victory pulls Martin two positions closer to the top position and he now sits in 11th position in the standings. He will gain an additional 40 bonus points for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after the next seven races are completed, if he manages to finish in the top twelve.
Mark Martin had one of the fastest cars all night, but a double-file restart is a dice throw at the best of times for the racers. The victory often goes to the racer that chooses the correct lane for the restart and not the fastest car. Mark Martin decided to restart on the outside lane with Jeff Gordon beside him to the inside, which turned out to be the correct choice as Martin was able to get better traction and got the jump on Gordon to the race to the line over the last two laps.
Kasey Kahne had a strong race and finished third, Sprint Cup point’s leader Tony Stewart survived several scares to take fourth, while Denny Hamlin finished fifth. Ryan Newman spent most of the race trying to figure out his car and how to get it to run fast, but still managed to finish sixth. Brian Vickers had a safe race and was rewarded with a seventh place finish, Jimmie Johnson had his problems but still managed to finish eighth, Clint Bowyer finished ninth, while Juan Montoya rounded out the top ten positions.
“Image: Zuma Press”
Sure, this section is typically reserved for one of the week’s better wrecks, but like him or not, let’s face it - Kyle Busch’s restart to win the Lifelock.com 400 last Saturday was just too good to pass up. After starting from the pole and leading more than 160 laps in the race, Kyle nearly let one get away after getting passed by Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps of the race. But, a blown engine by David Gilliland with just 6 laps to go bunched the field back together and gave Kyle one last crack to pick up the “W”.
Lining up for the final restart for a two-lap shootout to the checkers with Kevin Harvick behind him and Johnson out in front, Busch timed the restart perfectly and was able to get side-by-side with Johnson going through the first set of the tri-ovals before ultimately making the pass and picking up his seventh Sprint Cup win of the 2008 season.
Let’s take you back with some video footage of that remarkable move that Kyle Busch put on Johnson to get the win:
Image details: LifeLock.com 400 served by picapp.com
Kyle Busch continued his dominating run over the Sprint Cup Series Saturday night as he picked up his series-leading 7th win of the season by taking the checkers in the Lifelock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL. After rain cancelled Friday’s qualifying session, Busch was awarded the pole position due to leading the championship points standings, and that proved to be invaluable as he led the first 44 laps of the race en route to setting a new track record by leading a total of 165 laps, erasing the previous record set by Tony Stewart.
After a competition caution on lap 35 brought the field together, Carl Edwards passed Busch for the lead on lap 45, but then surrendered the lead just a few laps later when Denny Hamlin brought out the caution as he fell off the pace due to issues with his ignition box. While Edwards and most of the other race leaders came into pit, five cars remained out on the track, including Jeff Gordon who was then scored as the race leader, and also Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, and Ryan Newman who were able to use the track position to their advantage for the rest of the evening. Biffle took the lead from Gordon on lap 57 and held onto until the five cars that stayed out had to pit around lap 92, at which time Tony Stewart became the new race leader.
The rest of the field started cycling through their green flag stops around lap 100, and many cars had costly stops, including Kurt Busch who was penalized for too fast entering pit road, and Travis Kvapil who was penalized for hitting the commitment cone as he entered pit road. Both drivers were forced to make pass-through penalties, and both found themselves a lap down following the incidents.
Greg Biffle re-assumed command of the race after the pit stops finally cycled their way through, but a caution on lap 112 involving Patrick Carpentier, Michael Waltrip, and Jeff Burton erased the lead. Seeing the strategy that some of the other drivers used earlier in the race, four more drivers stayed out on the track, and Matt Kenseth led the race for the first time. Kyle Busch, David Ragan, and AJ Allmendinger also stayed out.
Kurt Busch was able to drive his way ahead of the leaders on the restart to get back onto the lead lap, and then some of the best racing of the evening came when Kenseth and Kyle Busch raced each other side-by-side for several laps until Kenseth finally gave way on lap 120, and then was forced to pit four laps later when he had a tire going down. The pit stop put Matt a lap down to the race leaders, but he later gained that back when a caution came out on lap 177 for debris and he was awarded the lucky dog.
Carl Edwards made his way back to the front when he passed Kyle Busch for the lead on lap 203, but the troubles continued for the Roush-Fenway Racing bunch when he pitted on lap 208. He had originally thought that he also had a tire going down, but it was later determined that he had broken a splitter, causing the handling on his car to go away. He was able to get back out on the track, though he was stuck a lap down and was never able to recover. About the same time, Kurt Busch watched all the progress he’d made in recovering from the earlier penalty on pit road go away as his car dropped a cylinder, sending him all the way back to the tail end of the lead lap.
Kyle Busch re-assumed the lead after the Edwards pit stop, and remained up front until Jimmie Johnson challenged him for the lead with just 17 laps to go. Johnson won the battle and appeared to be poised for his second win of the season as he pulled away from the field until David Gilliland’s engine blew up 11 laps later, bringing out the ninth and final caution of the day, and also setting the field up for a 2-lap shootout.
Johnson had already proven that he had the most dominant car of all those in position for the win, so Kyle Busch knew that the only way to get to him was to get him on the restart, and that’s exactly what he did. He timed the restart perfectly as he clung to Johnson’s rear bumper and was able to pull up next to him going through turns 1 and 2. He made the pass on the no. 48 car on the high side and then pulled down in front of him.
Johnson hung with him, though, as Kyle took the white flag with Kevin Harvick also hanging tough in third right behind Johnson. He made one last attempt to pass Kyle going through the final turns, but Johnson overdrove the corner and got loose, securing the win for the no. 18 team. Johnson went onto finish 2nd, and Harvick wound up 3rd.
Greg Biffle’s race strategy paid off as he finished in 4th, and after a long week in the spotlight, Tony Stewart came home in 5th. The no. 83 Red Bull Racing team of Brian Vickers also used some strategy in the pits, and they were able to walk away with a 6th place finish. Matt Kenseth ran out of time in his charge back up to the front of the field, but still managed to salvage a 7th place effort. David Ragan finished in 8th. Martin Truex Jr. found the good run that he desperately needed and crossed the line in 9th, and Ryan Newman’s strategy paid off as well, as he rounded out the top-ten finishers.
Jeff Gordon’s bid for a second Chicagoland victory came up short as he finished just outside of the top-ten in 11th ….. Elliott Sadler and AJ Allmendinger both had good runs going, but dropped outside of the top-ten in the closing laps as they wound up in 12th and 13th ….. Kasey Kahne recorded the best Chicagoland finish in his career as he finished 15th ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a disappointing run. After starting the race in 2nd, he wound up 16th ….. Kurt Busch wound up 28th, and Carl Edwards was 30th.
For Kyle Busch, this was his third win in the last four races, being trumped only by older brother Kurt’s win at New Hampshire. It was also his seventh Sprint Cup victory of the season, which will equate to 35 bonus points when the series enters the Chase for the Cup in October. He has now also opened up an astounding 262 point lead in the standings over second place Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The top six spots in the standings remained unchanged, but there was quite a bit of shakeup in the bottom half of the top-12. Greg Biffle moved up four spots to 7th, and his Roush teammate, Matt Kenseth, also continues to gain ground as he moved up a spot to 8th. Kevin Harvick made his way back inside the Chase field, as he moved from 13th to 9th, and Tony Stewart is a little more comfortable now in 10th. Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin are now on the bubble in 11th and 12th, and Clint Bowyer has dropped outside of the top-12 as he now sits 27 points out in 13th.
the Race: 85%
the Drama: 93%
Overall Grade: 87.8%
Complete Results (from nascar.com):
|3||13||29||Kevin Harvick||Chevrolet||Shell / Pennzoil||165/0||267||Running|
|5||12||20||Tony Stewart||Toyota||The Home Depot||160/5||267||Running|
|6||15||83||Brian Vickers||Toyota||Red Bull||155/5||267||Running|
|7||9||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford||USG Sheetrock||151/5||267||Running|
|8||14||6||David Ragan||Ford||AAA Insurance||142/0||267||Running|
|9||19||1||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops / Cub Cadet||143/5||267||Running|
|10||17||12||Ryan Newman||Dodge||Kodak / The Mummy||134/0||267||Running|
|11||6||24||Jeff Gordon||Chevrolet||Nicorette / DuPont||135/5||267||Running|
|12||26||19||Elliott Sadler||Dodge||Best Buy / Garmin||127/0||267||Running|
|13||39||84||A.J. Allmendinger||Toyota||Red Bull||124/0||267||Running|
|16||2||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||AMP Energy / National Guard||115/0||267||Running|
|17||16||8||Mark Martin||Chevrolet||U.S. Army||112/0||267||Running|
|18||22||42||Juan Montoya||Dodge||Juicy Fruit Slim Pack||109/0||267||Running|
|19||3||31||Jeff Burton||Chevrolet||AT&T Mobility||106/0||267||Running|
|20||38||66||Scott Riggs||Chevrolet||Haas Automation||103/0||267||Running|
|21||24||26||Jamie McMurray||Ford||Crown Royal||100/0||267||Running|
|22||10||07||Clint Bowyer||Chevrolet||Jack Daniel’s||97/0||267||Running|
|24||40||96||J.J. Yeley||Toyota||DLP HDTV||91/0||267||Running|
|25||31||7||Robby Gordon||Dodge||Jim Beam / Sa
|26||27||15||Paul Menard||Chevrolet||Quaker State / Menards||85/0||267||Running|
|27||43||70||Jason Leffler||Chevrolet||Haas Automation||82/0||267||Running|
|28||18||2||Kurt Busch||Dodge||Miller Lite||84/5||267||Running|
|29||20||43||Bobby Labonte||Dodge||Cheerios Betty Crocker / Richard Petty’s 50th||76/0||267||Running|
|30||42||10||Patrick Carpentier *||Dodge||LifeLock||73/0||265||Running|
|31||32||41||Reed Sorenson||Dodge||Target / Maxwell House||70/0||265||Running|
|32||4||99||Carl Edwards||Ford||Office Depot “Taking Care of Business”||72/5||265||Running|
|33||25||5||Casey Mears||Chevrolet||CARQUEST / Kellogg’s||64/0||265||Running|
|34||33||01||Regan Smith *||Chevrolet||DEI / Principal Financial Group||61/0||265||Running|
|35||37||21||Bill Elliott||Ford||U.S. Air Force||58/0||265||Running|
|36||28||55||Michael Waltrip||Toyota||NAPA AUTO PARTS||55/0||264||Running|
|37||35||77||Sam Hornish Jr. *||Dodge||Mobil 1||52/0||263||Running|
|38||36||45||Terry Labonte||Dodge||Marathon American Spirit / Richard Petty’s 50th||49/0||263||Running|
|39||41||78||Joe Nemechek||Chevrolet||Furniture Row Racing||46/0||263||Running|
|40||7||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Express||43/0||262||Running|
|43||34||00||Michael McDowell *||Toyota||Champion Mortgage||34/0||258||Running|
Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):
|RANK||+/-||DRIVER||POINTS||BEHIND||STARTS||POLES||WINS||TOP 5||TOP 10|
|2||–||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2619||-262||19||1||1||7||12|
|17||+1||Martin Truex Jr.||2050||-831||19||0||0||2||6|
|33||–||Sam Hornish Jr.*||1422||-1459||19||0||0||0||0|
- Live on Type Delay: Chicago (RevJim’s Rants ‘n’ Raves)
- Race Wrapup: Lifelock.com 400 at Chicago (Restrictor Plate This)
TZ’s Picks (Chicago):
1. Matt Kenseth - 7th - 40 points
2. Jimmie Johnson - 2nd - 42 points
3. Kyle Busch - 1st - 42 points
4. Kevin Harvick - 3rd - 40.5 points
5. Tony Stewart - 5th - 39 points
6. Kurt Busch - 28th - No points
Lock of the Week - Tony Stewart - Top Five - 10 points
Sleeper Pick - Travis Kvapil - Outside Top Fifteen - No points
Steer Clear of - Martin Truex Jr. - Top Ten - (Minus) 15 points
Roc’s Picks (Chicago):
1. Kevin Harvick - 3rd - 42 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 16th - No points
3. Matt Kenseth - 7th - 39 points
4. Tony Stewart - 5th - 39.5 points
5. Clint Bowyer - 22nd - No points
6. Jimmie Johnson - 2nd - 40 points
Lock of the Week - Matt Kenseth - Top Ten - 7 points
Sleeper Pick - Mark Martin - Outside Top Fifteen - No Points
Steer Clear of - Kasey Kahne - Top Fifteen - (Minus) 10 points
TZ - 198.5 points (3,175.5 cumulative)
Roc - 157.5 points (3,067 cumulative)
Do You NASCAR Fantasy League
Standings After Chicago:
1. Dalli’s Mom
2. TMAX Racing
3. Super Smokers
4. Team Legacy
5. Bruce’s Team of Bits
8. Jimmie’s Rockets
9. Vanilla Thrillaz
10. Do You NASCAR
*It looks like the bottom four teams either forgot to set their rosters for this week’s race, or signed up for the league too late, so I just wanted to remind you all that this won’t necessarily put you too far behind as your bottom three weekly scores will drop from your points throughout the segment.
Image details: USG Sheetrock 400 served by picapp.com
NASCAR will return to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL this weekend. Saturday night’s race will mark the eighth trip to Chicagoland for the Sprint Cup Series, and the first NASCAR event there run under the lights. The 1.5 mile tri-oval track has produced only two repeat winner to-date (Kevin Harvick & Tony Stewart), and no driver has ever won the pole here twice. With the points shakeup that occurred as a result of the mele’ at Daytona last week, all eyes are certain to be focused on the Midwest this week with only 8 races remaining until the official cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.
2007 - Tony Stewart
2006 - Jeff Gordon
2005 - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2007 - Casey Mears
2006 - Jeff Burton
2005 - Jimmie Johnson
the Usual Suspects:
You can’t visit Chicago without Kevin Harvick ranking amongst your favorites to win the race. Despite some lackluster performances as of late, the no. 29 team showed some positive signs of life at the last three weeks at Infineon, New Hampshire, and Daytona, but consistently managed to find themselves the victim of poor circumstances. Now, Harvick will be looking to get back into Chase contention, and Chicago’s certainly a place he can do it. He’s one of only two 2-time winners here in the Cup Series, and his 8.0 average finish at Chicago ranks best amongst all active drivers.
Tony Stewart’s wins at Chicago in 2007 and 2004 qualify him as the only other repeat winner at Chicago, he’s got the third best driver rating here, and his 5 top-five finishes at the track are tops in the Sprint Cup Series. He’s experienced some extremely bizarre luck this year and has yet to record a victory in 2008 despite being amongst the frontrunners on several occassions, but many people feel that with Smoke finally putting an end to all of the contract speculation, a clear head might be able to finally translate into some marks in the “W” column for the no. 20 team.
Jimmie Johnson recorded five consecutive finishes of 6th or better before finishing 37th here last season, which included a 2nd place finish back in 2004. Johnson’s average finish of 9.2 is second best in the series ….. Matt Kenseth holds the best driver rating at Chicago over the past 3 races, and has been one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR over the past two months as he’s worked himself all the way up to 9th in the points standings. Matt has not yet recorded a win here, but he does have a pair of runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2007 ….. Kurt Busch has never recorded a top-five finish at Chicago, but he does have 5 top-ten’s and holds the best average Chicago finish over the past three races, recording finishes of 8th, 8th, and 6th in that span ….. Jeff Gordon won the 2006 race held here, and has also recorded a total of 4 top-five’s and 5 top-ten’s at Chicago.
the Unusual Suspects:
Running only one race a year here can make it tough to use history as a reference when looking for your sleeper picks this week, but Reed Sorenson should be considered a leading candidate for this position. He’s finished 7th and 12th in his only two visits to the track, and ranks 8th in the series for average driver ratings ….. Sorenson’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, Juan Pablo Montoya, has typically been able to improve - or, at least match - his finishes from his rookie season in 2007. Last year he finished 15th at Chicago, so all indicators are that he should be a solid pick this weekend ….. On the heels of the huge announcement that Tony Stewart will join Haas CNC Racing next year, Scott Riggs has two things in mind: 1) Get his team back inside the top-35 in owner points, and 2) Petition for a ride next season. He finished 15th the last time he raced at Chicago, back in 2006.
the Unusual Slackers:
Kasey Kahne has been one of the better drivers in the series since the middle of May, but Chicagoland Speedway has not had a history of playing nice with the no. 9 team. Kahne has never recorded a top-20 finish at the track, and his average finish of 33.0 is the worst amongst all active drivers with four or more starts at Chicago ….. Martin Truex Jr. is in desparate need of a good finish after a 150 point penalty following Daytona has turned a disappointing season into an even worse one, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he’s finished 16th and 39th in his only two starts here and will be driving without crew chief Kevin Manion in his corner ….. Denny Hamlin has had some disappointing finishes at some of his better tracks over the last month or so, but this weekend he’ll need to reverse that luck with a good finish at Chicago, where his only two starts have resulted in 14th and 17th place finishes.
Best Driver Ratings (from racingone.com):
1. Matt Kenseth - 126.2
2. Kevin Harvick - 114.6
3. Tony Stewart - 112.2
4. Jimmie Johnson - 107.2
5. Kyle Busch - 105.0
Best Average Finish (from racingone.com):
1. Kevin Harvick - 8.0
2. Jimmie Johnson - 9.2
3. Reed Sorenson - 9.5
4. Clint Bowyer - 9.5
5. Kyle Busch - 10.0
- Kevin Harvick has the slowest race record to-date at 121.200 mph in the inaugural race back in 2001. He also holds the race speed record, clocked the following year, at 136.832 mph.
- No driver has ever won the pole award at Chicago more than once.
- All seven Chicagoland races have recorded between 7 to 10 cautions during the race.
- Chevrolet has won 6 of the 7 Sprint Cup races at Chicago.
- No driver has ever won the race from a top-five starting position, and only two have won from the top-ten.
- 17 drivers in the field have competed in all seven Cup races at Chicago.
- Three drivers have finished runner-up at Chicago that have not won at the track: Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson, and Matt Kenseth.
Storylines for the Weekend:
- Tony Stewart has announced his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing at the completion of 2008, as he will move to Haas CNC Racing as a driver and a 50% owner. The new company will be renamed Stewart Haas Racing, and the team will continue to receive their engines and chassis from Hendrick Motorsports.
- Martin Truex Jr. was docked 150 points for his car failing to meet NASCAR’s roof template prior to last weekend’s race at Daytona. The penalty drops Truex from 14th all the way down to 18th in the standings, and crew chief, Kevin Manion, has been suspended for six races.
Winner - Matt Kenseth
2nd Place - Jimmie Johnson
3rd Place - Kyle Busch
4th Place - Kevin Harvick
5th Place - Tony Stewart
6th Place - Kurt Busch
Lock of the Week - Tony Stewart
Sleeper Pick - Travis Kvapil
Steer Clear of - Martin Truex Jr.
Video footage of Tony Stewart’s win at the 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway:
NASCAR’s Worst Tracks:
5. Pocono Raceway
4. New Hampshire International Raceway
3. Auto Club Speedway
2. Michigan International Speedway
1. Texas Motor Speedway
NASCAR’s Best Tracks:
5. Richmond International Raceway
4. Daytona International Speedway
3. Lowe’s Motor Speedway
2. Chicagoland Speedway
1. Bristol Motor Speedway
Image details: Dickies 500 served by picapp.com
Petty Enterprises recently announced that Kyle Petty will take a leave of absence from the no. 45 Dodge beginning on the June 1st race at Dover until July 12th when the Sprint Cup Series heads to Chicago. The reason for Petty’s leave from the team is to attend his daughter’s wedding, and he will then join the TNT booth to report from broadcasting duty.
The void in the no. 45 car will be filled by NASCAR rookie, Chad McCumbee, at Dover and Chicago, with Terry LaBonte to drive the car for the five races in between. Chad filled in for Petty during his injury last season with very little success, and attempted to replace him at Texas earlier this year, but he failed to qualify for the event.
For Terry LaBonte, this is his first opportunity to team up with brother, Bobby LaBonte, at the Cup Series level. The two-time former champion last competed in a Cup Series race at Watkins Glen in 2007. He ran three races that season, resulting in a pair of 30th place finishes and another 35th. He competed in 31 events from 2005-2006. His last full-time season was 2004 with Hendrick Motorsports, in which he finished 26th in points. His last victory came in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in ‘03.