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This Week in Auto Racing Sept. 13 - 15

12:22 PM, Sep 13, 2013   |    comments
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Joliet, IL (Sports Network) - The 10-race Chase begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, as 12 drivers begin their battle for the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship. The Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series are also at Chicagoland.

NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series

Geico 400 - Chicagoland Speedway - Joliet, Ill.

Despite the controversy from last weekend's regular-season-ending event at Richmond, the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship gets underway on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Right now, 15 points separate top-seed Matt Kenseth from 12th-place Ryan Newman, who moved into the Chase after Martin Truex Jr. was bumped out earlier this week. Truex received a loss of 50 points as part of NASCAR's penalties assessed to Michael Waltrip Racing for attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Richmond race.

Entering the Chase in the second seed, Jimmie Johnson is trying to win his sixth Sprint Cup Series championship. Johnson is the only driver who has qualified for the Chase each year since NASCAR began the playoff format for its premier series in 2004. He won five consecutive Sprint Cup titles from 2006-10.

Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team have been in a slump lately. His most recent finishes have been 40th (Michigan), 36th (Bristol), 28th (Atlanta) and 40th (Richmond). Prior to Michigan, he held a 75-point lead. His advantage evaporated quickly, as he concluded the regular season one point behind Carl Edwards, who won at Richmond.

"We all know that the last four or five weeks have been awfully hard on the 48," Johnson said. "When I look at Richmond and Bristol, and you can look at our stats in general, those aren't good tracks for us, so I don't read too much into those. Plus, there's no track like either one of those in the Chase.

"But when I look at Atlanta, we were competitive and got crunched up on a restart. I look at Michigan where we were way fast but had an engine failure, which is kind of rare."

Johnson has previously lost momentum either before the start of the Chase or in the first few races during the playoffs, but he rebounded nicely to win the championship.

Five of the final 10 races will be contested on 1.5-mile racetracks, beginning with Chicagoland. Kansas (Oct. 6), Charlotte (Oct. 12), Texas (Nov. 3) and Homestead (Nov. 17) are the other mile and a halfs that remain on the schedule.

"With the Chase having five mile-and-a-half style racetracks in it, I look at the speed that we've had, even though the finishes aren't there," Johnson said. "I feel very comfortable about where we are.

"I would love to have more momentum, without a doubt, coming into the Chase, but we don't. I think we're a strong enough team where that won't prevent us or hamper our ability to win the championship."

Johnson has scored 22 victories in 90 Chase races, which is 17 more wins than Kenseth and Kyle Busch's combined total. Busch starts the post season in the third seed.

This is the third year that Chicagoland has been on the Chase schedule. Tony Stewart won here and capture the Sprint Cup championship in 2011. Brad Keselowski scored the victory at this track and went on to claim his first series title last season.

Chicagoland is one of five racetracks where Johnson has yet to win a Sprint Cup race. Homestead, Kentucky, Michigan and Watkins Glen are the others. He has finished second at Chicagoland three times in 11 starts, including one here last year. His lone Nationwide win came at this track in 2001.

"I love this track," he said. "We tested here for Goodyear in a tire test a few months ago. Even in the test session with a few cars here, we had multiple lanes working and good speed in the tire and good speed in the cars. So I'm very optimistic coming in. It's been a good track for me."

Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Geico 400.

Nationwide Series

Dollar General 300 - Chicagoland Speedway - Joliet, Ill.

Joey Logano is looking forward to this weekend's race activities at Chicagoland Speedway.

Not only is Logano ready to begin the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship at Chicagoland, but he's hoping to score a season-sweep in the Nationwide Series here as well.

Logano is in the Chase for the first time in his fifth season of Sprint Cup competition. He's also in his first year driving for Penske Racing in Cup and Nationwide.

When Nationwide ran at this track in July, Logano passed Sam Hornish Jr., his Penske teammate, for the lead after a restart with 15 laps to go. He beat Hornish to the finish line by 0.3 seconds for his second and most recent win of the season.

Logano has notched two wins and four top-10 finishes in five Nationwide starts at Chicagoland. His first victory here came in 2009.

"That type of track just really suits my driving style," Logano said. "I like fast, wide tracks where you and run at the top or at the bottom."

Saturday's 300-mile race at Chicagoland will be Logano's 12th start in Nationwide this season, driving the No. 22 Ford for Penske. His first win this year came in June at Dover. Brad Keselowski drove the No. 22 car to victory one week ago at Richmond.

Last year, Logano competed in 22 Nationwide events, recording a season-high nine victories. It was his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

"This is the fewest Nationwide Series I've raced up to this point in a year in my career, and that's ok, because we've been having a lot of success on the Cup side, but it's been fun," he said. "I didn't get into the car until April, and it only took a couple of races to win our first event together as a team."

Logano is one of five Sprint Cup regulars competing in this race. Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth are the others.

Hornish enters the race with a 15-point lead over Austin Dillon and a 26-point advantage over Regan Smith. Elliott Sadler is 28 behind. Hornish has been atop the Nationwide standings since the Aug. 17 inaugural event at Mid-Ohio.

Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Dollar General 300.

Camping World Truck Series

EnjoyIllinois.com 225 -- Chicagoland Speedway -- Joliet, Ill.

Look out, Matt Crafton. Here comes James Buescher in the race for the Camping World Truck Series championship.

After winning last weekend at Iowa, Buescher has put his series title defense into full gear. The Turner Scott Motorsports driver has won two of the last four races. His first victory of the season came last month at Michigan. He is now 37 points behind leader Crafton.

"I'm really excited about winning at Iowa Speedway," Buescher said. "It's a track that we've been coming to for a long time and haven't had the best of results. We were finally able to get that monkey off our back and put a 'W' in the win column there."

There are seven races to go, beginning with Friday night's event at Chicagoland Speedway.

Buescher won last year's truck race at Chicagoland. He beat Brendan Gaughan to the finish line by just 0.2 seconds for his third of four victories during the 2012 season.

"I couldn't be more excited about going back to Chicagoland Speedway, especially coming off a huge win for our Turner Scott Motorsports team last weekend at Iowa Speedway," he said. "I think it goes without saying that this style of track falls right into our wheelhouse, and I feel like our team will be able to come out of here with another solid finish and hopefully our third victory of the season."

Prior to his win last year, Buescher had finished no better than 11th in three truck starts at Chicagoland. Crafton has placed seventh or better in his three previous races here.

Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are those Sprint Cup Series regulars competing in this race. Busch is the only driver with multiple truck victories at Chicagoland. He won the first two events here from 2009-10.

Thirty-six teams are on the entry list for the EnjoyIllinois.com 225.

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