The 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Series will get underway at the 1.5 mile-Chicagoland tri-oval in Joliet, Illinois on Sunday.
Having entered the Chase with the lead, Denny Hamlin begins with a three-point cushion. However, that certainly is not enough to keep him from looking over his shoulder.
Three points is a negligible amount to begin with, but considering that five-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson and defending champ Tony Stewart are two of the three drivers just three points back, Hamlin has no room to rest on his laurels.
Johnson wasted no time letting everyone know he was ready to go for the Chase, as he grabbed the top spot in qualifying for this race. Hamlin will start in eighth.
Stewart will start way back in 28th, which might be a concern for his prospects had it not been for his performance last year. He limped into the Chase, yet still managed to win this very race.
Last year's results were largely determined by fuel mileage gambles, and no one played that game better than Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (who finished second and third respectively).
Earnhardt, who enters the Chase in seventh, qualified in fourth, but as Speed.com's Tom Jensen reports, Jr. will be starting from the back of the pack after being forced to switch engines.
This is surely not the way Earnhardt wanted to start the Chase, but by no means does this mean his chances are doomed. As a member of Hendrick Motorsports, Dale's backup engine is going to be top notch, and that team will have his car ready to perform.
Check out all the vitals below.
Start Time: Sunday, September 16 at 2 p.m. ET
Where: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois
|7||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||-9|
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||-12|
|4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||Chevrolet||182.070|
|16||Sam Hornish Jr.||22||Dodge||181.251|
|18||Martin Truex Jr.||56||Toyota||180.989|
|28||Juan Pablo Montoya||42||Chevrolet||179.940|