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Keeping Pace

Mon., June 22, 2009, 11:45 p.m.

2009 ‘Race To The Chase’ Begins At New Hampshire Motor Speedway

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

10-Race Stretch Culminates Sept. 12 At Richmond International Raceway ‘Race To The Chase’ Sets Field For ‘Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup’

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 22, 2009) – Ten tracks, 10 excitement-filled weekends of intense, side-by-side competition.

That’s the scenario facing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams as the advent of summer coincides with a seasonal mile marker: The “Race to the Chase.”

The 2009 edition begins with Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (TNT, 12:30 p.m.), the first of a 10-event span culminating Sept. 12 at Richmond International Raceway, when the field will be set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. 

As championship dreams heat up along with the weather, consider what the next 10 weeks could reveal:

• Will three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) win an unprecedented fourth straight title?

• Will two-time series champion Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet) claim his third crown in this his first year as a driver/owner?

• Will four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) continue his resurgence in 2009 and win his fifth championship, moving him closer to the all-time series record of seven titles shared by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt?

• Will Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) be considered to be one of the most talented young drivers in the sport, break through and win his first career championship?

• Will the resilient 50-year-old, Mark Martin (No. 5 Kellogg’s/ CARQUEST Chevrolet), snare that elusive championship after coming so close, so many times?

• Can Johnson and Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) qualify for their sixth consecutive Chase – becoming the only drivers to do so?

• Will Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet) make the Chase after coming over to NASCAR three years ago following a successful career in open-wheel racing?

• Will David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota) be a surprise qualifier for the Chase after experiencing some struggles in his first two seasons driving for Michael Waltrip Racing?

The Race to the Chase presents 10 different challenges – plus the lure of traditional summer clashes on Daytona International Speedway’s high-banked tri-oval; Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s tricky turns; Watkins Glen International’s demanding road course, the August mixing-bowl atmosphere under Bristol Motor Speedway’s lights and a new addition to this stretch of races – the lightning-fast surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And, for the third consecutive year, teams begin both the Race to the Chase and the Chase at New Hampshire’s “Magic Mile.”

Over these next 10 races, the quest for bonus points becomes even more important to those drivers who strive to make the Chase. “Seeding” for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be done via the number of wins accumulated through the first 26 races. The Chase-eligible driver with the most wins will begin the Chase as the top seed. Drivers will be seeded second through 12th using their to-date win totals as the determining factor.
Fast Facts

What: 2009 Race to the Chase, the 10 races prior to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The Events:
June 28 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 4 – Daytona International Speedway
July 11 – Chicagoland Speedway
July 26 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug. 2 – Pocono Raceway
Aug. 9 – Watkins Glen International
Aug. 16 – Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 22 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 6 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 12 – Richmond International Raceway

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.