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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Illinois natives return home to race at Chicagoland

On Saturday, three Nationwide series regulars return to their home state of Illinois to race at Chicagoland Speedway. Justin Allgaier (Riverton), Danica Patrick (Roscoe) and Erik Darnell (Beach Park) are all hoping to impress their home-state crowd.
Allgaier, currently fifth in points (-95), has one victory (Montreal), six top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 2012. In June 2011, he earned his only victory at Chicagoland after leading only the final lap. In five NNS races, he has two top-five and four top-10 showings.
In three appearances at Chicagoland, Patrick has one top-10 effort. Her best finish at Chicagoland is 10th place in June 2011. In the track’s first race this season, Patrick finished 14th, the last driver on the lead lap. She is 11th in the standings (-351).
This Saturday will be Darnell’s second NNS start at Chicagoland. Darnell, who is in 16th place in the standings (-581), made his only other start at the track earlier this season, when he placed 30th. His best finish of the year is 14th at Talladega in May.

Toyota Chicagoland notes
RICHMOND REWIND: Clint Bowyer earned his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) win of the season in Saturday night's rain-delayed race at Richmond International Raceway, the final event before the start of the 10-race 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' championship. Bowyer's triumph also marked the third consecutive victory by a Toyota driver — after Denny Hamlin's back-to-back wins at Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 25) and Atlanta Motor Speedway (Sept. 2). Bowyer led the final 88 laps (of 400) in the Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry en route to victory lane.

CAMRY CHASERS: This weekend's race at Chicagoland Speedway will mark the first event in the 10-race 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' championship playoff. Three Camry drivers have earned spots in the 12-driver field. Hamlin will enter the Chase as the number one seed after a series-best four victories this season. Along with Hamlin, MWR teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Bowyer are both in the Chase field -- the first Chase entries for MWR in the team's six-year history. With two wins in the first 26 races of 2012, Bowyer enters the Chase sixth and Truex is 10th among the 12 Chase drivers.

TWO TROPHIES: Camry drivers have two wins in four NSCS races at Chicagoland Speedway since Toyota joined the series in 2007. Kyle Busch was victorious in 2008 after starting from the pole. After winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) event the previous day (in 2008), the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 18 Camry led 165 laps (of 267) en route to victory lane. In 2010, David Reutimann was first to the finish line in his MWR No. 00 Camry.

TOP TOYOTAS AT CHICAGOLAND: Since Toyota joined the NNS in 2007, Camry drivers have collected a total of 14 top-five finishes and 21 top-10 results at Chicagoland Speedway. In 2010, Camry drivers swept the first five finishing positions at Chicagoland -- Busch (first), Joey Logano (second), Brian Scott (third), Reutimann (fourth) and Jason Leffler (fifth) -- the only time Camry drivers have accomplished that feat in Nationwide Series competition. Toyota NNS drivers have also earned four of the top-five finishing spots five times, including twice at Chicagoland (2008 and 2009), and once at Charlotte (2009), Darlington (2010) and Dover (2012).

CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER: Currently sitting atop the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) point standings, Tundra driver Timothy Peters is in the hunt for the 2012 NCWTS driver's championship. Peters currently leads the NCWTS point standings over second-place James Buescher by six points. In 14 NCWTS races in 2012, Peters has tallied two wins, one pole position, eight top-five results, 10 top-10 finishes and has led 320 laps. The 32-year-old driver won the July race at Iowa Speedway and most recently led every lap to take the checkered flag at Bristol Motor Speedway. Peters has recorded at least one victory in each of the last three seasons and has improved his finish in the point standings yearly.

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Will the lessons you learned during the 2010 Chase be beneficial this year?
"What took us out of the championship in 2010 really were a lot of different circumstances. I won't treat it any differently about the way I drive. I think I'll be a little bit more aggressive on restarts and not give up those one or two points when they really, really count. That will change, but for the most part I think I'll just be a lot more relaxed this time around. Obviously, our stuff is really good right now -- as good as it was in 2010. I'm going to race week-to-week, and not think about a championship until I get to Homestead (Miami Speedway)."

CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
What would it mean to win the championship?
"To win a championship -- it would be pretty big. Jimmie (Johnson) seems like he has a blast doing it. I promise you I could throw a better party than him. Just to be able to compete in this series, in this sport, at the premiere level of this sport is a dream come true. I'm thankful to have the opportunity with a new home, a new sponsor, and a new manufacturer with Toyota. With everything new, never would have dreamed in a million years all this would have happened this quickly. Obviously, it's the goal to win races and be in the Chase. Realistically, I knew what we were up against."

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How do you measure your odds in the Chase?
"I'm going to be honest with you, the way our cars are running and as fast as we've been the last six or seven weeks, we're dangerous. We've got the speed to do it each and every week. Our mile-and-a-half program is really strong. Man, I feel good. I know we're kind of an underdog and not a lot of people expect us to do much. It's a good position to be in. We just need to be smart -- make good decisions and our NAPA Toyotas are strong enough to do this thing. Looking forward to going out and having some fun and hopefully we'll put together 10 good races and be in the hunt."


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