NASCAR at Chicagoland 2017: Start Time, Ticket Info, Lineup, TV Schedule, More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2017

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Martin Truex Jr. drives the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota through the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2017 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series descends upon Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday afternoon to kick off the playoffs. 

The postseason-opening affair, dubbed the Tales of the Turtles 400, sets the tone for the rest of the playoffs in a big way—not that this wild season needed to create any hype for itself.

Thanks to the new format this year, this is far from a usual-suspects affair in Chicago. Seven playoff drivers tout multiple wins, and three haven't raised a checkered flag at all. The fact Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other big names sit on the outside looking in speaks to the competitiveness of the season and those in the fray.

Let's take a look at the important details surrounding the race before things get underway.

          

Viewing Details

Where: Chicagoland Speedway

When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET

Watch: NBCSN

Live Stream: NBC Sports

Tickets: StubHub

             

Tales of the Turtles 400 Lineup

Full order available at NASCAR.com.

      

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings

DriverPoints
1. Martin Truex Jr.2,053
2. Kyle Larson2,033
3. Kyle Busch2,029
4. Brad Keselowski2,019
5. Jimmie Johnson2,017
6. Kevin Harvick2,015
7. Denny Hamlin2,013
8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.2,010
9. Ryan Blaney2,008
10. Chase Elliott2,006
11. Ryan Newman2,005
12. Kurt Busch2,005
13. Kasey Kahne2,005
14. Austin Dillon2,005
15. Matt Kenseth2,005
16. Jamie McMurray2,003
ESPN.com.

           

Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2017 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Pho
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It's playoff time—all eyes are on Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson had a quiet summer right up to the playoffs. He finished eighth in Richmond last time out, though it shouldn't fool onlookers—he only has two other top-10 finishes dating back to mid-June and no poles to speak of on the season. Heck, he hasn't led laps since the beginning of July.

Does it matter?

Most, including the sport's top drivers, would say it doesn't.

"Obviously, the performance hasn't been what they want or what they need, but you almost have to laugh because you look at it and you would have said the same thing last year," Kevin Harvick said, according to ESPN.com's Bob Pockrass.

Feel free to call this deja vu. Johnson had a so-so performance last year, especially in June and July. Fans know what happened once the playoffs started.

Harvick and the others have to hope Johnson doesn't discover the same form again.

         

Martin Truex Jr.

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, sits in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series TheHouse.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2017 in Joliet, Ill
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

It sounds obvious to say the series leader is a driver to watch.

But this goes a bit deeper than face value. Martin Truex Jr. isn't just the series leader courtesy of four checkered flags, tied with Kyle Larson. He also happens to be the defending champ at this particular event after leading 32 laps before taking the win.

Again, there are layers to this. Truex needs a rebound performance after crashing out down the stretch in the most recent race, as NBC captured:

Truex's finish of 20th means he's landed there or worse in two out of his past three races. His being in contention late before the wreck skews things, but he'll need to grasp on to the momentum and put the wreck behind him.

That sounds easy enough for a guy who has won four races this season and, unlike Johnson, put together one of the strongest summers of any driver. But fans might recall last year, when Truex tapered off as the playoffs went on before falling out of the standings, so another strong start is a must given the circumstances.

               

Kyle Busch

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Sweet Heat Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2017 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Ge
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

This might come as a surprise, but Kyle Busch sits on the pole Sunday.

Kidding aside, that is seven poles for Busch on the year as he looks to take recent strong momentum and grab an early win to start the playoffs.

NASCAR on NBC‏ provided his reaction to taking yet another first-place start: 

"It's because I'm in a Toyota," Busch said, according to Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com. "Great adjustments right there. Just trying to get the balance right. That was all she had."

To keep it short and sweet, Busch has six top-10 finishes in a row, including his only two wins of the season during that span.

In other words, unlike Johnson, he doesn't wait for the playoffs to come around before he's contending each week and making a push for a championship.

Busch has the talent to make a title push by carrying his recent momentum into Sunday. Johnson and the others will have something to say about such a notion, though.

          

Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.