Championship contenders visit 16 markets in ‘Chase Across North America’ media tour

NASCAR Wire Service Thursday, Sep 11 1463

In four short days, NASCAR’s playoffs – the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – will begin. To help launch the Chase, NASCAR sent all 16 drivers who will vie for the championship on a 16-market, three country media blitz known as Chase Across North America Wednesday.

The tour, the largest of its kind, expanded in 2014 with the announcement of the likewise expanded playoff field. This year, 16 drivers will compete in the Chase. In previous years, only 12 drivers earned a shot at the title.

As has been the case in previous editions of the pre-Chase media tour, drivers visited all 10 markets that host a Chase race, as well as New York City and ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. Added to this year’s tour: Los Angeles, Mexico City, Toronto and San Antonio, Texas.

Carl Edwards, who speaks some Spanish, flew to Mexico’s capital for an array of media hits at iconic Mexico City locations such as the Angel of Independence monument.

“I really like Mexico,” Edwards said. “When I heard what NASCAR was doing with the Chase Across North America, I chose to come here because I love it."

Brad Keselowski, who triumphed at Richmond last Saturday night to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Chase, visited North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh to help promote Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Oct. 11 Chase date.

“I feel very privileged to be here in [Raleigh] as the first seed in the [Chase],” Keselowski said. “Someone did write me on Twitter, you know there are 16 drivers going across the nation and I got Charlotte, and they said I had home field advantage. … Charlotte is a huge race for us.”

NASCAR has grown in popularity in Canada over the past decade, with national series races hosted there since 2007 – the same season NASCAR started sanctioning its NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. This is the first time, however, that a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver kicked off the Chase north of the border.

Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon flew to Toronto for a day of media and photo opportunities at the CN Tower, Dundas Square and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Of course, no matter the location, the topic du jour was the revamped Chase, which kicks off Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN) There will be four rounds during the Chase, with four drivers being eliminated after the third race of each round. The field of 16 will be whittled to 12, then eight, then four. The four – known as the Championship 4 – will compete in the single race final round at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16 The first to the finish line among those four eligible drivers will win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

“In this format, you won’t know who the final four will be until the last lap at Phoenix [the second-to-last race in the Chase],” said Denny Hamlin, who visited Phoenix for his Chase Across North America event. “You live in the here and now in racing. I really think this will be the most exciting format. As far as the Chase is concerned, NASCAR nailed the system and I think it will stay for a long time.”

The other driver-market pairings included: Jimmie Johnson (New York City); Kevin Harvick (Bristol, Connecticut); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Los Angeles); Kurt Busch (San Antonio); Matt Kenseth (Ft. Worth, Texas); Kyle Busch (Chicago); Kasey Kahne (Boston); Greg Biffle (Wilmington, Delaware); AJ Allmendinger (Kansas City, Missouri); Joey Logano (Birmingham, Alabama); Ryan Newman (Martinsville, Virginia); and Aric Almirola (Homestead, Florida).