By: Jeff Wackerlin – @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on September 13, 2017 | 3:40 P.M. EST
Chicagoland Speedway is quickly becoming one of the drivers’ favorites on the circuit for a number of reasons, foremost among them being the track’s well-worn racing surface. (Photo: Getty Images)
JOLIET, Ill. – “My Kind of Town” sung by Frank Sinatra praises the city of Chicago, but it could be “My Kind of Track” if the song was about Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers’ thoughts on Chicagoland Speedway, which sits 40 miles southwest of “The Windy City.”
The 1.5-mile oval in Joliet, Ill., is quickly becoming one of the drivers’ favorites on the circuit for a number of reasons, foremost among them being the track’s well-worn racing surface. Chicagoland Speedway has not been repaved since it was built and hosted its first race in 2001.
A number of drivers took to the track ahead of Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400, whether it was through the Goodyear Tire test in June or last month’s organizational test. Jimmie Johnson, who is the only driver that’s qualified for the post-season every year since 2004, was one who tested last month.
“This track has aged a little more,” Johnson said. “It has a little more character, which I appreciate and love. I know the rest of the field will, as well.”
Chicagoland is one of three tracks on the schedule where Johnson has yet to win. However, he’s led 695 laps, including 118 last year, and is the winner of the track’s first XFINITY Series race in 2001.
With his dirt-racing background, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. loves the rough, abrasive surface at Chicagoland Speedway. Sunday’s race will kick off Stenhouse’s first playoff appearance.
“This track is working its way up as one of the drivers’ favorites because all these other ones keep getting repaved,” said Stenhouse, who won the 2012 XFINITY Series race at Chicagoland. “The racing is good here. Fans need to come and check it out.”
Ryan Blaney, who is also making his first playoff appearance, finished fourth in his first Chicagoland start in the Cup Series last year.
“I kind of wish we came here twice a year,” Blaney said. “It’s one of those places where you can run on the bottom all the way to the wall and its constantly moving every single lap,” Blaney said. “This is one of the best mile-and-a-halfs we have and it’s a great place to kick off the playoffs.”
Chicagoland is also unique among the 1.5-mile tracks on the schedule because the backstretch is not straight, which allows drivers to carry more speed.
“It’s a fast track,” said Austin Dillon, making his second post-season appearance. “You can run hard through the exit off Turn 2 with how the backstretch never quits turning, I enjoy the angles of the track, and how you can arch and find speed all over.”
This year, Goodyear is bringing a different combination of left- and right-side tires to Chicagoland, with the right-side made to enhance grip and introduce more wear.
“It’s all about the asphalt and grip level,” said Kurt Busch, making his 11th playoff appearance. “Chicago is similar to Homestead and Atlanta – worn-out mile-and-a-halfs that chew up tires. You have to be nice to your tires there.”
Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” will have live coverage of Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 from Chicagoland Speedway, beginning at 2 p.m. (ET) – with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.