‘Chase Across North America’ sets stage for NASCAR playoffs

NASCAR Sprint Cup Star Clint Bowyer  shows off some oversized tickets as part of Chase Across North America Day on September 15, 2015 in Dallas, Texas City.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Star Clint Bowyer shows off some oversized tickets as part of Chase Across North America Day on September 15, 2015 in Dallas, Texas City.

From Chicago to South Florida – and seemingly everywhere in between – NASCAR had representation all across the country Tuesday during its annual pre-playoffs media blitz known as Chase Across North America.

Ten of the 16 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers embarked on the multi-market tour, taking part in activities that included taste-testing hot dogs, driving solar-powered cars, media interviews and more. Six other Chase drivers will participate in their respective stops either on Wednesday or the week of Sept. 28.

Those on the road today included Jimmie Johnson (Kansas), Clint Bowyer (Texas), Joey Logano (New Hampshire), Brad Keselowski (Chicago), Ryan Newman (Dover), Jamie McMurray (Talladega), Paul Menard (Martinsville), Matt Kenseth (Charlotte), Denny Hamlin (Miami) and Kyle Busch (ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn.).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Los Angeles), Jeff Gordon (New York City), Carl Edwards (L.A.), Kevin Harvick (NYC), Kurt Busch (Phoenix) and Martin Truex Jr. (NBC’s headquarters in Stamford, Conn.) will take part in their respective activities in the future.

Bowyer, who flew to Texas, played the role of ‘camera man’ today, operating a side camera disguised in a Texas Motor Speedway hat and sunglasses while looking through the lens of the camera. While each fan was being interviewed, Bowyer would periodically shout out “instructions” and eventually came out from behind the camera to surprise the fan.

“It was a fun day to interact with the fans,” Bowyer said. “When you go to do these things, it’s always something a little bit different and that was probably about as much fun as I’ve had in a while. Big week for us…making The Chase, being a part of this, Chase week, everything that happens up to Chicago, even before you ever get on the race track is a big deal. It’s fun to soak that all in, embrace it and then get it after it this weekend and get this thing off and running.”

Last year’s Chicago winner, Brad Keselowski, returned to the scene of his triumph. His day took him to a number of iconic hot dog restaurants to taste-test the famously Chicago fare. He’ll look to repeat in Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“Chicago, to me, does have a bit of a personal connection,” said Keselowski, who enters the Chase on the heels of a series-best nine consecutive top-10 finishes. “It’s a Midwest city and I’m from the Midwest. I can’t say I’ve spent a ton of time in this area, but the time I have always spent here I’ve enjoyed. It’s kind of the diverse, urban, cultural center of the Midwest, so I enjoy it. I like coming here to race. … I think a lot of people are excited about our race here. I think Chicago’s turning into one of the best tracks on the circuit with respect to how the track is aging and the quality of the racing. So I think there’s a lot to look forward to this weekend with the start of The Chase and the quality of racing.”

After reaching the Championship 4 in 2014, Denny Hamlin returned to South Florida for a day of events that included a stop at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Science & Discovery, and some hot laps in a solar-powered race car built by students from Western High School in Davie, Florida.

“The most impressive thing is that these high schoolers built it from the ground up, everything from welding the aluminum to putting the seats in to creating the rack and pinion steering for the front,” Hamlin said. “They did a really, really good job and this is a competition that they take seriously and they want to be very competitive at it. I’ve got a good inside connection on some good solar panels and we’re going to get them some good solar panels and hopefully they’ll be up front.”

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