The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into the Chicagoland Speedway for the 16th annual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400. The event, marking the 27th race of the season, will kick off the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Denny Hamlin enters the weekend with momentum as the defending race winner.
A total of 40 drivers are on the entry list. Some of the new faces include Josh Wise, Joey Gase, Reed Sorenson, Michael McDowell and Alex Bowman. No drivers went home after qualifying was canceled as only 40 appeared on the weekend entry list.
Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch will try to defend his title beginning this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Busch, who won four regular season races this year, looks to score his second victory at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway. His last win there came in July of 2008.
“I like it. You know, we’ve been running really solidly at New Hampshire the last few years. We did last year in the fall race – we did have a tire failure and we blew a tire – but Chicago has been good for us,” Busch said when asked about his chances in 2016. “It’s a decent place to run top-10, for sure. And then, Dover, of course, is a really good place for us. I like it. You know, it seems like it’s a good round for us to be able to score some wins. As long as you get one, that moves you on through. Doesn’t matter how many you get after that, but we’ll see how it goes. Just a matter of trying to manage your losses, essentially and making sure you can come out of races with good finishes. We’re looking to start it off right with our Skittles Camry this weekend.”
Busch holds four wins, 11 top five and 16 top 10 finishes through the regular season.
Martin Truex Jr. enters the Chase as one of the fan favorites to win it all this year. If he does, he will give Furniture Row Racing, a single-car team in the Sprint Cup Series, their first championship.
“You keep on doing what got you to this position. You want to start the Chase on the right foot by having a consistent day with no mistakes and then carry the confidence and momentum through the remaining races,” said Truex in a team release. “A pretty basic strategy, but it does work. Chicagoland is a high-speed track and the grip has been going away the past few years. You have to do a lot of things well there to be fast. You will need the whole package to have success because the bumps and surface will throw a curveball to the car setup.”
Truex captured two victories in the regular season at Charlotte and Darlington. He holds five top five and 12 top 10 finishes through the first 26 races. The New Jersey native will make his 296th career start on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick enters the Chase opener looking to start the playoffs on a high note. Harvick, who scored the Sprint Cup Series championship in 2014, is one of the most dangerous drivers entering the final 10 races.
“I think every track has its way of being able to get the best of you. A lot of those are just circumstances that – whether your car is just not cooperating that weekend or you can’t get a grasp of what you need for your driving style or whatever the case may be – you just have to adjust to,” said Harvick in a team release. “Every team in the garage has a situation or a weak spot that they feel like they need to maximize. Really, the weekends that aren’t going well or the weekends that you have to overcome, those are the weekends that really make the championship within reach when you’re able to turn those weekends around and can make something out of it. The easy weekends are when you have a good car and go out and you win the race – those are the weekends that are the easiest. The hard weekends are when things are bad and you have to turn that around and get a good finish and move on to the next week.”
Harvick scored two victories, 13 top five and 21 top 10 finishes in the regular season. Four of those top five finishes came while running in the runner-up spot when the race ended. The California native will make his 565th career start on Sunday.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup opener will air live on NBCSN at 2:00 p.m. ET. on Sunday. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Channel 90 will have the radio broadcast.