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NASCAR GEICO 400 Preview: The Chase Begins


Tony Stewart swaps his ride for the day - image credit Grant Halverson / Getty Images for Mobil 1

Tony Stewart swaps his ride for the day - image credit Grant Halverson / Getty Images for Mobil 1

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Sunday’s GEICO 400 from the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, kicks off the 2012 Chase for the Championship. The 1.5-mile tri-oval, which opened its doors in 2001, has been good to Chase contender Tony Stewart, who’s racked up three wins there in the past seven years, including one in 2011.

It’s also been good to Chase hopeful Kevin Harvick, who’s won there in 2001 and in 2002. Harvick trails Stewart in current points (2000 to 2009), but that will only serve to make Harvick more determined to close the gap. The Richard Childress Racing driver has yet to score a win this season, although he’s racked up two second place finishes.

Chase for the Championship points leader Denny Hamlin has never won in Sprint Cup competition at Chicagoland Speedway, despite his four victories year-to date. Neither has second-place driver Jimmie Johnson, which is all the more remarkable when you consider his string of Sprint Cup championships from 2006-2010.

Then there’s Jeff Gordon to think about: the Hendrick Motorsports driver has a Sprint Cup win at the GEICO 400 (in 2006), and has pledged to bring back his lucky mustache  from the 1990s for this year’s Chase. Could experience (and lucky facial hair) be enough to deliver Gordon a win on Sunday?

Sunday’s forecast calls for clear weather, with temperatures in the high seventies. That should make for near-ideal conditions for drivers and crews, not to mention race fans. If you’re watching from home, look for qualifying to air at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN, with the race airing at 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, also on ESPN.
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