Chase Notebook: Chicagoland

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The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins this Sunday at Chicago. You can catch the race on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network at 1:30 PM CT.

Here are a few notes heading into the first race of the Round of 16.

  • The Chase has begun at Chicago the last six years. Previously, New Hampshire was the first race in the Chase (2004-2010).
  • All other tracks in the Chase have hosted more Chase races than Chicagoland Speedway.
  • Four drivers have gone to Victory Lane at Chicagoland during the Chase:
    • Denny Hamlin (2015)
    • Brad Keselowski (2014, 2012)
    • Matt Kenseth (2013)
    • Tony Stewart (2011)
  • Stewart (2011) and Keselowski (2012) both went on to win the title after winning the first Chase race in Chicago. Kurt Busch (2004) is the only other driver to go on to win the Chase after winning the opening race.
  • In the history of the Chase (2004-present), there’s never been a non-Chase driver to ever win the opening race.
  • The past five title winners have all finished in the Top 10 at Chicagoland in the first race of the Chase.
    • Keselowski (2012) and Stewart (2011) both won the race.
    • Harvick (2014) and Johnson (2013) both finished fifth.
    • Kyle Busch (2015) finished ninth.
  • Six drivers in this year’s Chase have a win in their career at Chicagoland Speedway:
    • Tony Stewart – 3 wins at Chicago
    • Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski – 2 wins each at Chicago
    • Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – one win each at Chicago.
  • Both Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are tied for most Top 10 finishes at Chicagoland of the drivers in this year’s Chase with 10 each.
  • Denny Hamlin with the momentum at Chicago?
    • Hamlin won last year’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. He’s also coming off a win last week in Richmond and he’s finished in the Top 10 in the last eight races, which is a career-high.
  • Jimmie Johnson loves racing at Chicagoland
    • Among active drivers, Jimmie Johnson has the best driver rating at Chicago and it’s not even close. Johnson’s 114.1 driver rating is eight points ahead of Kyle Busch, who is second best. Johnson has an average finish of 9.3 at Chicago with 10 Top-10 finishes, seven Top-Five finishes and two victories.
  • Tons of young talent in the Chase
    • For the first time since 2006, there’s a rookie in the Chase. It was Denny Hamlin back then and it is Chris Buescher and Chase Elliott now. Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon are also joining Buescher and Elliott in their first ever Chase run. In addition to those four, Joey Logano is in his fourth Chase and makes up the quintet of the Chase drivers that are 26 years of age or younger. 
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