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Controversy comes to town

FILE - In this Sept. 7 2013 file phoNASCAR Chase drivers celebrate making Chase after NASCAR Sprint Cup Series aurace

FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2013 file photo, NASCAR Chase drivers celebrate making the Chase after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va. . From left are Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. NASCAR's investigation into Bowyer's spin at Richmond ultimately uncovered a series of deliberate actions by Michael Waltrip Racing to alter the race results and the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The sordid saga concluded Monday, Sept. 10, 2013, with a hefty penalty that saw Ryan Newman replace Martin Truex Jr. in the Chase as MWR was fined $300,000, and general manager Ty Norris received an indefinite suspension. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson, File)

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NASCAR WEEKEND

Where: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet

When: Friday through Sunday

Tickets: Call (888) 629-7223

Friday

9-10:30 a.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225 (Truck Series) practice

11-11:50 a.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225 final practice

Noon-1:30 p.m.: GEICO 400 (Sprint Cup Series) practice

1:40-2:55 p.m.: Dollar General 300 (Nationwide Series) practice

3:05 p.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225 qualifying

4:10 p.m.: GEICO 400 qual.(ESPN2)

5:35-6:50 p.m.: Dollar General 300 final practice

7:30 p.m.: EnjoyIllinois.com 225(Fox Sports 1)

Saturday

10-10:55 a.m.: GEICO 400 practice

11:05 p.m.: Dollar General 300 qualifying (Fox Sports 2)

1-1:50 p.m.: GEICO 400 final practice (Fox Sports 2)

2:30 p.m.: Dollar General 300 (ESPN2)

Sunday

12:20 p.m.: GEICO 400 driver introductions

1 p.m.: GEICO 400 (ESPN, 95.9-FM, 98.3-FM)

NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Matt Kenseth is the first Chase-eligible driver headed to town Wednesday, when he will tour Chicago landmarks like Willis Tower and Millennium Park.

But as NASCAR and Kenseth prepare for Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the talk won’t center around Kenseth’s chances for winning the second championship of his career or if Jimmie Johnson is going to win a sixth Cup.

It’s going to be about how Martin Truex Jr. is out of the Chase and Ryan Newman is in, and how three Chase drivers are racing with their respective teams for the last time before heading elsewhere in 2014.

Newman is in the Chase because NASCAR penalized Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer Monday. All three drivers were docked 50 points in the Cup standings. That pushed Truex down to 17th in the point standings and out of wild card contention, and Newman was able to move up in the point standings to get that last wild card spot.

MWR was also fined $300,000, executive vice president/general manager/spotter Ty Norris is suspended indefinitely and the organization is docked 50 more points in the owner’s championship standings.

NASCAR president Michael Helton said MWR drivers manipulated the outcome of Saturday’s race at Richmond so Truex could make the Chase as a wild card and Newman would not. Helton said the monetary fine is the largest in NASCAR’s history.

“I am proud that NASCAR took a stand with respect to what went on Saturday night at Richmond,” Newman said in a statement. “I know it was a tough decision to make. With that being said, myself, [crew chief] Matt Borland and this entire No. 39 team are looking forward to competing for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.”

But earlier Monday, Newman had good news when he announced that he will race for Richard Childress Racing (RCR) in 2014, driving the No. 31 car. In July, Newman was told his contract at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was not being renewed because the organization was going to sign Kevin Harvick — who announced he was leaving RCR for Stewart-Haas.

Newman said Childress approached him initially in February at the Daytona 500 about coming over to RCR, but Newman wasn’t sure about leaving SHR yet.

“It was too early to even think about that, but I appreciated the offer,” Newman said. “Our conversations matured over time. After Loudon (N.H.) when I was told [by SHR] what I wasn’t going to be doing, the conversations intensified.”

Newman isn’t the only Chase driver who is on his last hurrah with his current team. Harvick, who enters the GEICO 400 fourth in the point standings, is headed to SHR along with Kurt Busch (10th).

Harvick and Busch will give SHR four teams next year, joining Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.

So Newman went from being the odd man out at SHR to landing a job with Childress, one of the sports’ stalwarts, and he went from being out of the Chase to in the hunt for a championship. But that may not erase the hurt of what happened at Richmond.

“To me, what happened Saturday night is the toughest thing that I’ve ever gone through in any kind of racing in my 30 years of driving,” Newman said. “It was because of the way everything went down and, in hindsight, how it hurt that much more.”

Email: takouris@suntimes.com

Twitter: @takouris



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