Drivers expect ‘more intense’ racing at Chicagoland

Chicagoland Speedway‘s place on the NASCAR schedule moved from September to July this year, giving a marquee event to kick off the NBC portion of the TV slate.

The hot temperatures and track conditions that should equate to a wild show Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) are simply a bonus.

Old asphalt plus July sun typically equals a slick track, and drivers such as Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Kyle Larson think the combination is a winning one.

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“I think it‘s a good change,” Larson said, when asked about Chicago‘s race moving to July. “I think the hotter weather will always make any race better because we will be sliding around and stuff like that.

“As far as the style of racing, the track should hopefully be hotter and slicker. I always feel like that first Playoff race (previously at Chicago), people are just trying not to make mistakes. I feel like there is a lot of give and take at that race. I think the racing will be more intense even than it was.”

Count Kevin Harvick among those who agree with Larson, and the five-time winner in 2018 may have additional reasons he‘s pleased with the new date.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver and 2014 series champion has won two races at the 1.5-mile track, both when the race was in July — his first two starts at the facility in 2001 and 2002.

“It has been awhile since I have been to Chicago in the middle of July,” Harvick said. “That race track in particular, the asphalt is really worn out and you add some high temperatures to go with it and it should be a really fun race with the cars sliding around.”

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The final piece to this racing puzzle is the Goodyear tire selection. Given the tire choice and Chicago’s old surface, a full fuel run will see more than two seconds of tire fall-off, according to Goodyear officials, which tested at Chicagoland last year.

A new left-side tire, the same one run at Auto Club Speedway, will make its Chicago debut as well.

“The track surface at Chicagoland has really weathered over the past several seasons, and as a result we see a good amount of wear and fall-off,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear‘s director of racing. “That, with the tire combination we bring, helps promote some good racing with tire management coming into play.”