Chicagoland Friday Notebook

Peak Motor Oil

Peak Motor Oil will be on Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Toyota for three races in 2013. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

JOLIET, Ill. – NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series teams spent Friday preparing for this weekend’s doubleheader at Chicagoland Speedway.

Sunday’s GEICO 400 kicks off the Chase for the Sprint Cup schedule of 10 races to decide this year’s championship. Unlike last season, the weather forecast bodes well for the area this weekend with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures on the horizon. Last year’s race was rained out and run on Monday.

As the 12 drivers discussed during Wednesday’s Chase Media Day, most feel this is the deepest Chase field since the format’s inception in 2004.

“This is about as wide open as you can get,” said defending series champion Tony Stewart. “Really and truly anyone can win this thing because anything can happen.”

MWR Looking for Upset

Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. have given the organization its first-ever Chase entries. But after a stellar regular season, the duo now turn their attention to trying to fulfill the dream year with a Sprint Cup title.

"We're going to go out and race like we have all year long -- we're in this Chase because we've been fast enough and we've been consistent enough, running up front -- that we don't have to worry about 30 of those guys most of the time,” said Truex Jr. “We're just going to go out there and race like we do every week and try to win every weekend. If we can't win, we'll do the best job we can. With the momentum we have right now, I feel like we can get up there and run up front consistently and again, if we can be in the hunt with two or three to go then I think we'll have a chance because we've got some good tracks at the end of the season."

Bowyer comes to Chicago after his second win of the season last Saturday night in Richmond. He’s a believer in momentum and hopes to carry it into the Chase opener.

“Everybody knows that everything has to line up perfectly to win the championship, but this could be the year,” said Bowyer. “This is the best I've ever ran leading into the Chase. I've always been able to elevate my game in the Chase, keep it fun and keep it real for the guys and if we continue to do that, we'll have a chance."

Additional Sponsorship for MWR

Michael Waltrip Racing announced Friday that PEAK Motor Oil will become a primary sponsor on Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota for three races in each of the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup seasons.

MWR will also feature PEAK Motor Oil as an associate sponsor on the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota and the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine driven by Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Waltrip.

"This sponsorship is really cool for me and right in my sweet spot,” said Bowyer. “PEAK stepping back into Sprint Cup Racing is not only good for us at Michael Waltrip Racing, but a real tribute to their heritage as well as NASCAR and its fans. They have a lot of cool things planned for the upcoming season that race fans will enjoy.”

Earnhardt Jr. Likes His Chances

Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to feel confident about his shot at winning a first career Sprint Cup Series championship this season. After turning in one of the most consistent regular seasons in his recent history, Earnhardt believes the next ten races can culminate in reaching what he considers would be his greatest accomplishment as a driver.

“This is the best chance I’ve ever had, even more than 2004,” he said. “Looking back on that year, I didn’t realize how close we could have came or how good that chance was.

“We were one of the two strongest teams, for sure. We’re a more complete team now where we run good at the majority of the racetracks with this (Hendrick) group we’ve got today. There’s no dominant figure in the group that stands out and that builds our confidence that it’s there for the taking.”

Stewart Not Making Predictions

Tony Stewart has no idea on who will win the Sprint Cup Series championship let alone the Formula One World Driving title.

Stewart made no bones about that fact when he was asked to predict who would prevail in this year’s F-1 championship race.

“If I could do that, bud, I'd be sitting my ass on a leather chair in Las Vegas," Stewart said. "I wouldn't be sitting here in the media center in Chicago. I'd be making a lot more money sitting there getting free drinks from cocktail waitresses who are hot.

"So, no, I can't do that. I wish I had that ability. I wish I could do that with all forms of auto racing, but that's what makes this sport cool: It's hard to predict."

Truex Jr., Keselowski Practice Problems

After leading Friday’s first practice session, things didn’t go as well for Martin Truex Jr. in the day’s second time on the track.

Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski made contact in the garage area as they exited to make their way to pit road.

Damage was significant enough to both cars that crews had to make repairs before returning to complete the practice.

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