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Sprint Cup drivers use off-week for Chase preview

Sprint Cup’s Kasey Kahne is using the series’ last off-week to drive in the Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway, where the Chase for the Championship begins.

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Sprint Cup’s Kasey Kahne is using the series’ last off-week to drive in the Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway, where the Chase for the Championship begins.

JOLIET, Ill. — Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson hope to learn something about Chicagoland Speedway this weekend.

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Kahne and Larson, regulars in the Sprint Cup series, are driving in tonight's Nationwide series race on the last off weekend for NASCAR'S top series this season. No other notables from the Cup circuit are on hand, even though the series' Chase for the Championship begins at Chicagoland on Sept. 14.

"I don't think it hurts at all to be here," Kahne said. "It was either do this or go watch a sprint car race in Pennsylvania. You can learn a little bit. You can learn what the track does at night."

Kahne has finished third twice in Sprint Cup races at Chicagoland. Larson, 21, is new to the big series. His best finish in a pair of Nationwide races at Chicagoland last year was 12th.

"The racing line changes here," Larson said before practice. "The extra track time should pay off."

Though both hoped to glean information for September, the presence may have paid off already. Larson was fifth, Kahne seventh in the afternoon practice session for the Enjoyillinois.com 300.

They'll be chasing Regan Smith and Elliott Sadler, who are 1-2 in the Nationwide standings and separated by eight points. And that duo, along with Chris Buescher and Brian Scott, are also chasing a $100,000 bonus. The highest finisher of those four collects the prize, part of a four-weekend race within a race. Smith won the bonus last week in New Hampshire, though he was 10th overall.

Sadler has won twice at Chicagoland. He and Smith tangled a year ago in the race before arriving at Chicagoland and carried over their ill feelings. That feud seems to have been reduced to a simmer.

Scott posted the fastest lap in the afternoon practice session, 172.806 mph, with Buescher and Chase Elliott close behind. Sadler and Smith were 14th and 15th, respectively.

Qualifying for the race is this afternoon.

Stewart back in sprint car: Tony Stewart raced in a sprint car Friday night, the series in which he was racing in August when he broke his right leg in a crash, which caused him to miss the rest of the Sprint Cup season. It wasn't known if it was Stewart's first sprint car race this season. Dirt track star Dustin Daggett put on Twitter a photo of Stewart's No. 14 car at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, Mich. Daggett also tweeted, "Raced hard in heat against Tony Stewart! But we got him, now for the Feature!"

Sprint Cup drivers use off-week for Chase preview 07/18/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2014 9:40pm]
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