Chase round 1: Let’s get this party started

(Top L-R) Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet (bottom L-R) Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/Owens & Minor Ford, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quaker State Chevrolet, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Best Buy Ford, pose after qualifying for the Chase for the Cup after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 8, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

The anticipation is over. The 12 drivers for the 2012 version of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup have been set. After a week of media events the top 12 and the rest of field, is ready to get down to the business at hand. For the first time in Chase history the first of the ten races that make up NASCAR’s playoffs will held at the 1.5 mile Chicagoland Speedway with Sunday’s Geico 400.

Tony Stewart is the defending winner here and there’s no reason he won’t end up at the top of the field Sunday. Stewart leads all Chasers, and active drivers for that matter, with three wins here, two of those coming in the last five races at Chicago. In addition he has two top fives and a top ten finish. The reigning Sprint Cup champion is seeded third in the Chase and coming off a fourth place finish last week at Richmond, Stewart is looking to move up in the standings and has a pretty good shot of doing just that and adding a fourth win to his season total and his Chicagoland resume Sunday.

“I feel like we’ve got a shot at it,” Stewart said. “But I don’t watch the stats very much. You just take it week to week. Technology in this sport changes so fast. What was good the last time you were there doesn’t mean it’s going to be good the second time around. You constantly have to work. You’ve got to keep pushing the envelope. It’s a place I like. This place is really getting racy as far as finally being able to move around and change lines and run anywhere from the bottom to the top. It’s a fun track because of that.” MORE>>>

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