The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup series has reached its version of the “playoffs.” It is called “The Chase” and 12 drivers have a chance to win the championship starting this Sunday (9/16) at the Chicagoland Speedway in the Geico 400.
Following last week’s race in Richmond, the top ten drivers in the points and the two Wild Card drivers were seeded for the final ten races of the year to determine the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. This week’s Geico 400 is the first chance these twelve drivers will have to make the move toward winning the Sprint Cup championship. They will have to race not only the other drivers included in The Chase, but also the other 31 drivers who qualify for the race around the 1.5 mile D-shaped oval track. The question is, which drivers have the best chance at taking a huge step forward by winning the first race of The Chase at Chicagoland Speedway?
Tony Stewart is the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and is a part of The Chase again this year. Last year Tony started his drive to win the championship by winning this race at Chicagoland. In fact, Tony has more wins than any other driver at the track with a total of three wins. Perhaps Tony will find a way to start his bid to win back-to-back championships by winning back-to-back races at Chicagoland Speedway to start The Chase.
Kevin Harvick also has a chance to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship this year and is the only other driver to have won multiple times at Chicagoland Speedway. He captured the checkered flag twice at the track. Although those wins were back-to-back, they came in the first two races at the track in 2001 and 2002. Will Kevin start his attempt to win the championship off by heading back to Chicgaoland’s Victory Lane for the first time in ten years?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won at the track once before as has Jeff Gordon. Both of them are eligible to win the championship this year. Dale Jr. has been having a very consistent year. He has never won a championship in the Sprint Cup series. Will Dale Jr. take a huge step toward winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship by winning the first race in The Chase? Jeff Gordon is a four time Sprint Cup champion. This year he barely made The Chase as the second Wild Card driver. He starts the NASCAR playoffs as the lowest seed. Winning the first race this Sunday could move him solidly into the conversation of getting championship number five.
The other eight drivers in The Chase field will be doing everything they can to capture that first win at Chicagoland Speedway. Starting off the ten race playoffs in NASCAR’s top division with a win would be great for confidence and momentum for any of the drivers who have a chance to win the Sprint Cup championship.
Of course there are other drivers who will be trying to play “spoiler” to the twelve Chase drivers and win the race for themselves. Not the least of these drivers will be Kyle Busch. Kyle has won at Chicagoland before and was just edged out of the final Wild Card spot last week by Jeff Gordon. You know that the driver they call “Wild Thing” will be looking to make a statement Sunday.
Mark Martin and Ryan Newman have also won this race before. Will one of these two drivers play spoiler to the Chase drivers by getting their second win at Chicagoland Speedway?
No matter who wins the race, Chase driver or not, that person and their team will have earned it. The high speeds and banked track requires the perfect balance between power and handling to have a chance to win. It should be an exciting start to The Chase. You can catch all the action of the Geico 400 live on our sister station WJBC FM, 93.7, starting at 12 noon central time Sunday, September 16th.