Hot Laps Chicago Edition

JOLIET, Ill. - The heat and sun of the summer is beginning to take its toll on the world of NASCAR. The weekend at Chicagoland Speedway was filled with tension and high emotion - and that was before Saturday night's main event.

Talk of NASCAR's future and speculation about what lies ahead for next year and beyond were in the spotlight in The Windy City.

Brian France's "state of the sport" address last weekend in Daytona, where the NASCAR CEO floated the possibility of changing both the Chase and the Sprint Cup Series schedule, has set off a nearly continuous flow of discussion in the media center, garage area and in the grandstands.

Most drivers I asked about the potential of increasing the Chase field from twelve to fifteen drivers or the creation of a new points system specifically for those participating in the playoff portion of the season - both ideas France said were being considered - were of the opinion of whatever the sanctioning body decides is fine with them.

However changing the tracks that comprise the Chase portion of the schedule with a tweak or two or three to the ten race slate was almost universally embraced.

"I'd like to see a few new tracks or maybe a rotation every year," said Jeff Gordon.

The SMI and ISC situations and each company's request for re-alignment for 2011 is still being sorted out, but most agree once Kentucky and perhaps a second Las Vegas race are finalized on the SMI ledger and ISC decides which track will lose a date for Kansas to host a second, the overall schedule - including the last ten races that make up the Chase - will have a much different look.

As for changes inside race teams, Elliott Sadler admitted he didn't expect to be back with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2011, leaving the Virginia driver to look for the next phase of his career. And RPM teammate A.J. Allmendinger is also said to be a potential mover next season with the former open wheeler in discussion with other organizations.

The Kasey Kahne to Hendrick Motorsports saga hasn't become any clearer. Neither Kahne or Rick Hendrick seem any closer to announcing what the plan is for Kahne next season. But according to Mark Martin, don't look for Kahne in the No. 5 car.

Martin was furious of several media reports that have him sliding over to Team Red Bull next year to make way for Kahne at Hendrick. Martin referred to the media as "disgusting" in a SPEED interview that touched on the reports of his future being in flux strongly reiterating he doesn't intend to be anywhere but Hendrick Motorsports and the 5 ride next season.

Perhaps next week's off weekend comes at a perfect time in the season. With the temperatures soaring and patience at a premium, a few days away from the race track next weekend may be just what the Sprint Cup Series needs.

  • It wasn't a sellout but a solid crowd was on hand both Friday and Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway. This marked the first year the controversial "Track Pack" program, which had forced fans to buy tickets for both the track's NASCAR and Camping World Truck/IRL weekend, was discontinued. Fans are able to buy tickets to either weekend in a policy replicated by sister facility Kansas Speedway.

  • It wasn't a win but a second place for Carl Edwards had to feel like a victory for Roush Fenway Racing and Ford. Although the manufacturer still is winless at Chicagoland, a solid run by the No. 99 Fusion on an intermediate track like the Joliet layout will go a long way to bringing some confidence into both camps.

  • What a difference a week made for Kevin Harvick who went to victory lane last Saturday night in Daytona but was sidelined by a fuel pump issue in Chicago. But with the No. 29 team so far ahead in the point standings it was a case of no harm no foul, but crew chief Gil Martin might have some sleepless nights trying to figure out - and eliminate - the problem.

  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s recent hot streak ended with a rough night in Chicago that dropped Junior out of the top twelve and 15 behind the final transfer spot.
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    NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2010

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