* Around Town: Plenty Of Action Away From The Track Locked In: Sauter Continues Strong-Hold On Final Starting Spot Keys to Victory Chicagoland Speedway joined the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule in 2001, making it the youngest track on the...
* Around Town: Plenty Of Action Away From The Track
Locked In: Sauter Continues Strong-Hold On Final Starting Spot
Keys to Victory
Chicagoland Speedway joined the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule in 2001, making it the youngest track on the circuit. The track continues to mature with each race. Here is what to watch for on Sunday:
* Groove -- The groove continues to widen, making Chicagoland a track where you can run two or three wide. The 2006 race was decided by 0.461 seconds; look for another close finish in 2007.
* Curved Backstretch -- The backstretch is unique, in that it has a slight curve to it that other 1.5-mile tracks do not. This makes for good passing down the backstretch.
Raybestos Rookie Standings
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Wrigley's Big Red Dodge) continues to lead the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings over David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford).
Montoya has three top-10 finishes this season, including his win at Infineon Raceway. Ragan finished fifth in the Daytona 500, his only top 10 of the season.
Paul Menard (No. 15 Menard's Chevrolet) has made four of the last five races after missing four of the previous nine.
Jamie McMurray's win Saturday night was the third of the season for Ford, which trails Chevrolet by 50 points in the Manufacturers' Standings. All three victories are by Roush Fenway Racing -- Matt Kenseth won at Las Vegas and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) won at Michigan.
Chevrolet has 14 victories, led by four each for Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Dodge is third, 60 points out of the lead. Juan Pablo Montoya has the sole win for the manufacturer. Toyota is currently fourth, 94 points behind Chevrolet. Brian Vickers finished fifth at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the highest finish for Toyota this season.
Ganassi Drivers Go Out To The Ballgame
All three drivers for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates -- Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge), David Stremme (No. 40 Tums Dodge) and Juan Pablo Montoya will take a trip to Wrigley Field on Monday to watch the Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants.
As part of their excursion, Sorenson will throw out the first pitch, and all three drivers will sing 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' during the seventh inning stretch.
"I threw the first pitch out at Wrigley Field a couple of years ago and I didn't make it to the plate," Sorenson said. "Needless to say I got booed and laughed at. I'm hoping to redeem myself this time around and I'm definitely going to practice. I'm a little nervous about it, but not near as nervous as I am about singing during the seventh inning stretch."
SprintSpeed Million To Reward Fans
The SprintSpeed Million, a $1 million giveaway by Sprint Nextel, will launch this Sunday. The sweepstakes will award $1 million to a fan based on the outcome of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Fans can register at Sprint Nextel stores, Nextel.com/speed, via their Sprint Nextel handset or at the Nextel Experience at the track.
When fans register, they will choose the driver they think will win the championship. One fan will be paired up with each driver in the Chase. The fan paired with the champion will win the $1 million prize.
Biffle, Kluever Will Hit The Dirt
Greg Biffle (No. 16 Aflac Ford) and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Todd Kluever will take their dirt track skills to Wisconsin on Thursday. The duo will compete in the "Race of Champions" at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wisc.
"I have very limited experience racing on dirt tracks so this should be interesting," Biffle said. "No matter what happens, I'm sure we'll have fun."
Program Encourages Kids To Read
The Spoonfuls of Stories program of Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) and Cheerios is holding the 'First Book Speed Read' at Jewel-Osco in Naperville, Ill. on July 14 at 11 a.m. The event, hosted by Labonte's wife Donna, will challenge participants to read as many words as possible in 15 seconds. First Book and Cheerios will donate one new book for every word read to local programs serving children in need.
The Spoonfuls of Stories program already donates 43 books for each lap that Labonte completes during the 2007 season. If Labonte completes all 267 laps this weekend, the program will donate more than 11,000 books to children in the region.
Hamlin To Visit Children's Hospital
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Chevrolet) will make a visit to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago on Thursday. As part of the visit, FedEx will donate $25,000 to the hospital. Hamlin also will receive a special helmet designed by several Children's Memorial patients.
Hamlin will wear the helmet for all on-track activity this weekend. It is the sixth of 11 helmets specially designed by children's hospital patients. All 11 race-worn helmets will be displayed and auctioned to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
On Deck: Off-Week Precedes Big Indianapolis Weekend
Teams will enjoy a week at home before heading to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard. The event at the Brickyard is the fourth race in the Race to the Chase, the 10-week stretch leading into the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
It also marks the return of NASCAR to ESPN. ESPN and ABC will broadcast the final 17 races of the season.
Race to the Chase
July 1 New Hampshire Int'l Speedway
July 7 Daytona Int'l Speedway
July 15 Chicagoland Speedway
July 29 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug. 5 Pocono Raceway
Aug. 12 Watkins Glen International
Aug. 19 Michigan Int'l Speedway
Aug 25 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 2 California Speedway
Sept. 8 Richmond Int'l Raceway
The Race: USG Sheetrock 400
The Place: Chicagoland Speedway
The Date: Sunday, July 15
The Time: 4 p.m. (ET)
TV: TNT, 4 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 1.5-mile oval
The Distance: 400 miles, 267 laps
The Purse: $6,056,938
2006 Winner: Jeff Gordon
2006 Pole: Jeff Burton
Pre-Race Schedule (local/CT time): Friday -- Practice, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Qualifying -- 3:10 p.m.; Saturday -- Practice, 9-9:50 a.m. and 12:20-1:20 p.m.