NASCAR’s Chase Grid Live offers fans chance to get close to Chase Grid in Chicago

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With just a handful of races remaining before the 2014 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR has announced that Chase Grid™ Live Sponsored by Toyota and Sprint will make its debut in downtown Chicago on September 10-11.

The free outdoor fan fest located on North Michigan Avenue, will culminate with a two-hour live show featuring all 16 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, just days before the momentous Challenger Round debuts at Chicagoland Speedway.

For the fans, there’s an opportunity to enter the Chase Grid™ Live Sweepstakes, which has several benefits. By entering at www.NASCAR.com/ChaseGridLive, fans have the opportunity to win the Grand Prize package of an all-inclusive VIP experience in Chicago.

That includes two VIP access passes to all three national series races at Chicagoland Speedway, a ride in the Toyota Camry Grand Marshal car before the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and $1,000 spending money. Fans can enter the Chase Grid Live sweepstakes through August 29.

“The first thing is you want to get in (the Chase),” Matt Kenseth told MotorSportsTalk; the Joe Gibbs Racing driver currently sits highest of those on the Chase grid without a win, in fifth overall and 13thh on the grid behind the 12 race winners.

“We have a bit of work to make sure we get in there. When you’re in Chicago, you get ready for the race, but also celebrate the accomplishment of being part of that group when you in get the Chase.”

This year’s Chase is a new format, revealed at the beginning of the season.

“There’s no better way to introduce our new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format than by inviting our fans – the most loyal in sports – to be a part of the celebration,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR chief marketing officer. “We are fortunate to have partnered with two world-class brands in Toyota and Sprint to provide an unforgettable fan experience as we embark on this significant moment for our sport.”

Kenseth hailed Sprint and Toyota’s involvement with Chase Grid™ Live.

“It’s cool they put it on, so the best thing is to go to the website, check it out and try to be part of it,” he said. “Sprint’s brought us to a new level of technology. It’s helped advance our sport, with the Fan View and all kind of different things, doing things that are fun for the fans.”

A Chase regular – Kenseth has qualified for the Chase every year since its 2004 introduction, with the exception of 2009 – he also appreciates the atmosphere of the fan event before getting down to business at Chicagoland Speedway.

“The whole week is fun. It’s a busy time when you’re trying to do the stuff for the fans. But you’re there for them,” he said.

“The event can be more fun; everyone’s different with different personalities, and comfort levels. Gathering can be more fun after the season because of less stress, less pressure.

“There’s no off weekends from here. From Saturday night at Richmond, you’re trying to think about racing for a championship for 10 straight weeks. You’re into business mode.”

MRTI: pre-season testing Day 2 notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Day 2 of testing for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires saw two series hit the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course for pre-season testing. The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda both got their turns on Saturday after the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires took to the 1.5-mile oval on Friday.

Both series got in two sessions apiece during the day. Below are quick reports for Pro Mazda and USF2000.

Pro Mazda: Thompson, Askew Lead Opening Sessions

A pair of USF2000 graduates led the two sessions for Pro Mazda. In Session 1, it was Parker Thompson and Exclusive Autosport leading the way, while Cape Motorsports’ Oliver Askew, last year’s USF2000 champion, led the way in Session 2. Times from both sessions are below.

Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, last year’s runnerup in the USF2000 championship, also put in a strong showing, ending up second in Session 2.

This was also the first official session for the brand new Tatuus PM-18, and it’s first official outing showed off quite a bit of speed. Lap times were reportedly upwards of four seconds a lap faster than the previous Elan Pro Mazda chassis.

USF2000: Pabst Racing, Cape Motosports Lead the Way

The teams that battled for last year’s USF2000 crown, Cape Motorsports and Pabst Racing, traded early blows during Saturday testing, with each team leading a session.

Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh led the way in Session 1, with four Pabst cars in the top five, while Kyle Kirkwood led Session 2 for Cape. Times from both sessions are below.

However, it should be noted that DEForce Racing’s Kory Enders spent most of Session 2 at the top of the speed charts before getting pushed down to third late in the running. With the top three finishers from last year’s USF2000 championship all moving on to Pro Mazda (Askew, VeeKay, and Thompson), this USF2000 season could be anyone’s for the taking.

Of note, Keith Donegan, who signed with ArmsUp Motorsports after winning the $200K scholarship from Mazda Motorsports in November’s Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, was 16th in Session 1, but did not turn laps in Session 2.

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