The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, part of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series triple-header weekend. As a result, a myriad of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will be running under the lights Saturday night, making for another interesting race of NASCAR’s present versus its future.
One such star ended up on pole this afternoon. Kyle Busch ran a 30.173 at 178.968 mph as he is searching for his second triple-header weekend sweep. Busch also dominated the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race last night, leading 52 laps en route to victory. He will be looking for a similar performance tonight against NASCAR’s, best including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick.
Sam Hornish Jr. currently leads the point’s standings by 16 positions over Austin Dillon, who will be starting second. Hornish is looking to spread his lead and secure his first stock car championship for Penske Racing, and a decisive victory at Chicagoland could only help his chances.
Despite track conditions being different tonight and the fact that Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano ended the day in victory lane, the series’ first trip to Chicagoland this year was a pivotal moment in Hornish’s year.
Looking at the series’ history at the 1.5 mile Joliet track, there is very little emphasis on qualifying. Unlike the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, equipment will always lead to a good qualifying run, in the top-20 at least, and an ability to drive through the field with relative ease on one of Chicagoland’s notorious green flag runs. This is apparent since every winner past 2004 has started from a top-15 spot.
Sprint Cup drivers have an imperative advantage in races of this sort, and it is likely a Sprint Cup Series regular will once again enter victory lane in a Nationwide Series race. But, who is most likely to rise from the ranks and win one for the Nationwide Series regulars?
For starters, a likely candidate is Justin Allgaier. This is technically Allgaier’s home track, and he has found victory lane once amongst his impressive five top-10 finishes. But, something to Allgaier’s disadvantage is the fact that this is his first ever “double duty” weekend, in which he is driving in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.
It should be another Nationwide Series race featuring exciting battles of NASCAR’s stars versus the future, with a point’s championship looming even closer for Sam Hornish Jr. The most important thing to watch tonight will be if the former Sprint Cup Series burnout will succeed or falter in the biggest 10-race stretch of his career.
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