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Race Day: Drivers Vent At Chicagoland Speedway

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 10 2010

Night time is a good time for racing at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Joliet, Ill. – Friday was tell it like it is day at Chicagoland Speedway.

Call it disarming, call it refreshing, call it politically incorrect but do not call the way drivers were talking about subjects that have obviously been eating at them from the inside, evasive.

Here is what a select group of drivers had to say about select subjects between practice and qualifying sessions for tonight’s LifeLock.com 400 Sprint Cup race:

Greg Biffle, of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was asked about safety at Pocono Raceway and had this to say: “That grass, at 200 mph, you can’t control your car if you end up there. There have been several spectacular crashes there and they are pretty scary wrecks. Kasey Kahne just about got over the top of that wall and into those trees. Kevin Harvick had tree limbs in the trunk of his car from debris flying around. That is a bad spot on the race track right there. They would be better off putting an inside wall there like they have at Indy. They you can’t go off into the grass.”

Dale Earnhardt, of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, was asked about recent comments about being nervous and had this to say: “I’m nervous about losing points and not making the Chase. Just having a bad week. I don’t think I’m any more nervous about it than I usually am. Everybody hates to fail, but I think people are saying we have to think about Pocono and Watkins Glen and a couple of other tracks. I agree. But I think each one of them needs to be held to a certain accountability. We need to be able to not take any track for granted for sure. We need to approach them all with the feeling that they are equally, all as dangerous…one is as dangerous as the other as far as how it could affect us in the Chase.”

Jimmie Johnson, of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, was asked if drivers are become more entertainers than athletes these days and had this to say: “Yeah, I think some drivers are really good at playing into that persona and putting on a great show with being witty and aggressive on track and maybe find that with the relaxed rules there are some opportunities there to express themselves and do the witty things that they do. I’ve seen some pretty comical things; I know we all have the past few months.”

Fast facts

What: LifeLock.com 400

Where: Chicagoland Speedway; Joliet, Ill.

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: TNT, 6:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

Banking in corners: 18 degrees

Grandstand seating: 75,000

Race distance: 267 laps/400 miles

Estimated pit window: 50-55 laps

2009 winner: Mark Martin

2009 polesitter: Brian Vickers

Tonight’s polesitter: Jamie McMurray

First race: 2001

First race polesitter: Todd Bodine

First race winner: Kevin Harvick

Trivia time

Dodge has only one victory at Chicagoland. Who was driving that Dodge?

Scoop Hamlin

Denny Hamlin was one of the first to learn which team LeBron James would move to as he continues his NBA career.

Hamlin was asked how he broke the story on Friday.

“I didn’t break it, I just had a really good source,” Hamlin said. “Everyone’s going to think; ‘Where were you when you found out?’  I remember I was playing golf with Michael Jordan.”

Track tidbits

Chicagoland Speedway

Most wins: 2, by Kevin Harvick

Most poles: 1, by eight drivers

Most top fives: 7, by Tony Stewart

Most top 10s: 7, by Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson

Most lead changes: 20, twice

Most leaders: 13

Most cautions: 10, twice

Fewest cautions: 7, four times

Most caution laps: 56

Closest margin of victory: .159 seconds

Widest margin of victory: 2.925 seconds

Fatherly advice

Jeff Gordon, a relatively new father, gave some advice to teammate Jimmie Johnson, a very new father (Wednesday).

“Get a name,” Gordon said, noting that the Johnson child has not yet been named. “It’s exciting, I’m happy for him.  It’s great and I know how excited he is.  The toughest thing is just getting sleep.  It’s really hard to get sleep at this time.  You’re so excited and you want to be a part of it in every way.  Then you show up at the race track and you realize that you have to do your job and it makes it tough.  I don’t know of any good advice as to how to do that.  That would be my only advice would be to try to find a way to get some sleep.”

Trivia answer

Ryan Newman was driving a Penske Racing Dodge when he won at Chicagoland Speedway in 2003.

Next up

Next week is a bye week for the Sprint Cup Series, though the Nationwide Series will be at Gateway near St. Louis.

The weekend after, the Cup series will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 10 2010
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