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Chicago is NASCAR's kind of town

By Herb Emory

It's one of those weekends the new and improved NASCAR money crowd loves. Big city racing up North and in the West is the future goal of the minds that guide the growth of stock car racing these days and Chicago is one of the hot stops on the new agenda.

Bright lights, large crowds, lots of television, newspaper and radio reporters and big buildings housing big business leaders with big budgets. That seems to be the ultimate destination for NASCAR 2003 and beyond.

The Chicagoland Speedway is another 1.5-mile track fashioned along the lines of the Atlanta and Charlotte tracks, but with a little less banking in the turns. In fact, the banking differs by seven-degrees comparing turns one and two to turns three and four.

The track has only been opened three years. It opened in 2001 and Kevin Harvick has claimed victory in every event run there. Todd Bodine and Ryan Newman are the two pole winners at Chicagoland.

The top-five finishers of last year's 267-lap race were Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman. Eleven drivers swapped the lead 19 times and there were seven caution flag incidents.

Awesome Bill Update: Georgia's Bill Elliott left Daytona with 16th-place pay last weekend. He had qualified 14th for the event. Elliott remains ranked 19th in points. He trails leader Matt Kenseth by 779 points after 17 events. Bill has two top-five and three top-ten finishes this season.

Chicagoland Speedway has been a good track for Elliott. The No. 9 has registered top-five starts and top-ten finishes in both races there. Elliott finished seventh in the 2002 Chicago race.

Jawga Boys and Girls!: Buckshot Jones made an impressive return to Winston Cup racing in Daytona. Jones hitched a ride in the No. 09 for car owner James Finch in the Firecracker Pepsi 400 and finished 17th in the event. Buckshot ran seven Winston Cup races last year and had announced earlier that he would not be driving in the 2003 season.

Joey Clanton represented Georgia well in the Busch Series run at Daytona too. Clanton, now a Fayette County resident, had his best finish so far since taking on driving duties in the Busch Series nine races ago. It was Clanton's first Daytona race, but he sure didn't show it as he finished 11th in the Busch event.

"I can't begin to tell you how much we needed a strong finish. We've been fighting bad luck all season, and finally we got a break at one of the season's most prestigious events," said Clanton following the Friday night run.

Clanton advanced four positions in points and is now ranked 332nd as the Busch cars prepare for their run Saturday in Chicago.

Mableton's Bill Lester registered his first top-ten finish of the season last weekend in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Kansas. Lester is ranked 13th in the truck series points. The trucks run Saturday night at Kentucky.

Dalton's Tammy Jo Kirk will get another chance behind the wheel of a major NASCAR series. Kirk has been chosen to drive at least one Busch Series race for Jay Robinson Racing in the No. 49 Busch car. Kirk's first event in the car will be next week's run at New Hampshire.

Winner: Greg Biffle registered his first career win at Daytona and he has the honor of being the only first-time winner so far this season. There were five drivers scoring first-time wins last year.

Herb Emory writes about racing. His column appears on Fridays.