CONCORD, N.C.— The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup kicks off Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
And two Hendrick Motorsports drivers clinched a spot to race in the Chase towards the championship.
Rookie of the Year contender, Chase Elliott, will be seeded in 14th to start the Chase which, marks the second time in history of the Chase that a rookie has qualified for the 10-race postseason.
“It is definitely exciting,” Elliott said on racing his first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. “It is a heck of an opportunity. Getting in is the first very small step of these last 10 races.”
Johnson enters the Chase as the No. 8 seed thanks to his two wins during the regular season. This is his 13th postseason berth, making Johnson the only driver to have made the Chase every year.
“For the next 10 weeks, we are in championship focus,” Johnson said. “We learned a lot last year from this format and we need to be there at the cutoffs and also to be there at the end at Homestead.”
Before you watch the green flag wave for the first Chase race, keep an eye on the key notes below to watch for this weekend's race in the Windy City.
BROADCAST INFORMATION: Sunday’s race will air live on NBC Sports Network at 2:30 p.m. ET. Can’t make it to the television? Listen to the race live on MRN and SiriusXM to catch the radio coverage. Here is the full broadcast schedule:
Friday, September 16:
1:30 p.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Practice, NBC Sports App
6:30 p.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, NBC Sports Network
Saturday, September 17:
10:30 a.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Practice, CNBC
1:30 p.m. ET: Sprint Sup Series Final Practice, NBC Sports Network
Sunday, September 18:
2:30 p.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Race, NBC Sports Network
THIS WEEKEND’S PAINT SCHEMES: This weekend, Kasey Kahne will pilot the No. 5 LiftMaster Chevrolet SS. It marks the final time this season that Kahne will be behind the wheel of a LiftMaster paint scheme. Teammates Elliott and Johnson will race the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS and No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, respectively. Alex Bowman kicks off an eight-race stretch behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is out for the remainder of the 2016 season while recovering from a concussion.
LOOP DATA AT CHICAGO: According to NASCAR’s loop data, in the last 10 years at Chicagoland, Kahne ranks second in the closer category, improving 16 positions in the last 10 percent of the race.
KAHNE AT 1.5-MILE TRACKS: Eight of Kahne’s 17 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins and 11 of the Enumclaw, Washington, native’s 27 pole positions have been at 1.5-mile tracks.
REGULAR SEASON ROUNDUP: Elliott placed 10th in the regular-season standings – a culmination of 26 points-paying events in which he earned an impressive 13 top-10 finishes and five top-five finishes.
SWANCHO SWAGGER: NAPA engineers have developed cutting-edge NASCAR sweatshirt poncho technology – dubbing their creation the “Swancho.” These limited-edition NAPA AUTO PARTS Swanchos feature Elliott’s headshot on one side with the No. 24 and NAPA logos emblazoned on the opposite side. It’s the only racing Swancho endorsed by Elliott. Check out Elliott and “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” regular Michael Torpey in their two-minute “infomercial,” featuring a special guest appearance by Elliott’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. here.
WINLESS IN CHICAGO: Even though Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s team have led 577 laps at Chicago and own seven top-five finishes, the 1.5-mile track remains one of the four venues on the current Sprint Cup schedule where Johnson has yet to score a win. The others are Kentucky, Watkins Glen and Homestead-Miami.
THIRD TIME MAY BE THE CHARM FOR BOWMAN: This Sunday’s event at Chicagoland Speedway will be the third race that the 23-year-old NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran has driven for Earnhardt and the No. 88 team. In his first two outings, Bowman looked to have solid top-10 finishes after starting strong at both New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Michigan International Raceway before he encountered misfortune in both events. Chicagoland will provide a great opportunity for the young gun to turn his luck around in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS.
CHICAGOLAND: In his two Cup starts at the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Bowman’s best finish is 35th. He also has three starts at Chicagoland Speedway in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, where his best finish is 11th, and one ARCA Series start, earning an eighth-place result. Another part of Bowman’s duties filling in for Earnhardt in the Windy City will include a race day question-and-answer session with ticket package guests in the Chicagoland Speedway infield on Sunday morning.