|Could Joey Logano be a dark horse at 20/1 odds to win Chase?|
The Chase is on.
Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (2 p.m. ET ESPN, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio) kicks off the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. The 12-driver field, led by No. 1 seed Matt Kenseth, includes three former series champions: Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch.
The regular season, which ended with Carl Edwards’ victory at Richmond International Raceway, underscored the competitiveness of this year’s Chase field. Edwards and Johnson finished one point apart in the 26-race standings; six of the nine qualifiers for this year’s Chase scored multiple victories, topped by 2003 champion Kenseth’s five wins.
Chicagoland’s 1.5-mile facility has opened the Chase just twice but both times the GEICO 400 winner – Brad Keselowski a year ago and Tony Stewart in 2012 – has gone on to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
NASCAR Nationwide Series championship contenders Sam Hornish Jr., Austin Dillon and Elliott Sadler finished second through fourth behind winner Joey Logano when the series competed at Chicagoland Speedway in July. Hornish leads Dillon by 16 points entering Saturday’s Dollar General 300 (3:30 p.m. ET ESPN2). Logano is in the field – as is Dale Earnhardt Jr.
With seven races remaining, beginning with Friday night’s enjoyillinois.com 200 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship kettle has begun a slow boil. Matt Crafton holds a 37-point lead over 2012 champion James Buescher, winner of last weekend’s stop at Iowa Speedway. Buescher is the defending winner of the enjoyillinois.com 200.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – GEICO 400, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2 P.M. ET ON ESPN
Kenseth Carries No. 1 Seed Into Postseason Competition
Matt Kenseth enters this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ as the No. 1 seed based upon his five regular season victories. Kenseth starts the 10-race postseason with 2,015 points, three more than second- and third-seeded Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. Johnson, in pursuit of his sixth championship, has won 22 of 90 Chase races, a winning percentage of .244.
Past Two Chicagoland Winners Captured NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships
This marks the third season that Chicagoland Speedway has opened the Chase. Both September winners – Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Tony Stewart in 2011 – went on to claim the NASCAR Sprint Cup title. One other opening-race winner, Kurt Busch at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2004, also captured the championship.
Kurt Busch’s Momentum Offsets Lack Of High Chase Seeding
Kurt Busch enters the Chase as the No. 10 seed but without a 2013 victory. The 2004 champion, however, arguably owns the greatest momentum of the 12 qualifiers. Busch has finished among the top five in three of the past four races with five top 10s in his last six starts. Busch, however, has yet to post a top five at Chicagoland. His best performances are three sixths. His average finish is 18.3.
First-Year Penske Racing Driver Logano Only Chase Rookie
Joey Logano is the only first-time Chase qualifier in this year’s field. Logano is the fifth different driver to reach the Chase with Roger Penske, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup owner champion. Logano, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch were not in the 2012 Chase. Last year’s qualifiers who missed the cut are Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.
Harvick Taking Seventh and Final Chase Bow With Richard Childress Racing
Kevin Harvick will compete in his seventh and final Chase for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick, who fashioned third place championship finishes in 2010-11, has been in the No. 29 RCR Chevrolet in each of his 456 starts but will move to Stewart-Haas Racing next season. Harvick won Chicagoland Speedway’s first two NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2001-02.