Nine years ago NASCAR took everything we held dear about the points races and tossed it all out the window creating the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Last season they went one step further, restructuring the points system in an effort to put more emphasis on winning. This effort culminated in the tightest points battle in the history of the sport with two drivers going head to head until the final lap of the season. When all was said and done, two names sat atop the standings and a win broke the the tie. Pretty exciting stuff.
But that was last year.
Hosting the opening for the second straight season, Chicagoland Speedway hopes to start the Chase off with a bang this Sunday as 43 drivers line up and go for all. Of course all eyes will be on the top 12 as we all make predictions on who will come out on top.
Let’s see how the top 12 stack up.
last season his Chase got off to a rough start and he’s hoping to return to Championship form. Johnson has 58 wins to his name, but none of them are at Chicagoland, though he’s got eight top 10s in ten races at the track. Will Jimmie and Chad hoist the trophy once again? A lot of it depends on how this weekend goes.
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart has three wins at Chicagoland Speedway
including last season’s Chase opener. Although Stewart has three wins to his credit in 2012, there’s a lot of pressure on the owner/driver to repeat. It’s going to be hard to top last season, but Stewart is a driver who doesn’t give up, even when the chips are stacked against him.
had the distinction of winning the Championship in all three major series. In 2012 Greg Biffle could earn that status. The former Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series champion earned two wins on his way to a Chase berth and has an average finish of 9.2 in the first 26 races of the season. Chicagoland Speedway isn’t among Biffle’s best tracks, which could hurt his chances of getting off to a strong start. In nine races the driver of the 3M Ford has only one top 10 finish.
Michael Waltrip Racing makes their first Chase appearance with two drivers making it in. Chase veteran Clint Bowyer is coming off his second win of the season at Richmond last weekend and looks to prove MWR has what it takes to compete with the likes of Hendrick and Roush. Bowyer’s stats at Chicagoland include five top 10s in six races. The question is whether or not the team has the longevity to make it through the final ten events without self-destructing.
Kasey Kahne’s history is one of inconsistency and instability, but now that he's with Hendrick Motorsports he's got a championship-caliber team behind him and two wins under his belt. Earning his way into the Chase via the first wild card spot, Kahne is going to be on everyone's radar in the last ten races. Although the stats show Kahne’s average finish at Chicago to be 21st, he’s finished the last three events at the track in the top 12.
It’s been 11 years since Jeff Gordon last won the championship but his desire hasn’t waned. Making it into the Chase by the skin of his teeth, Gordon proved at Richmond he’s not ready to hand over his helmet. Luckily for the No. 24 team, Gordon has been a solid performer at Chicagoland, earning one win, six top fives, and seven top 10s in 11 starts. Will this be the season Gordon finally becomes a five-time champion and will the return of the famous mustache help bring his mojo back?
Credit for all photos: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Skirts and Scuffs Founder Katy Lindamood has been following NASCAR since the age of 12. She's never known a season without Jeff Gordon and looks forward to celebrating her 20th season as a fan in 2013. Katy picked Brad Keselowski as her 2012 Champion and stands by this choice.