NASCAR Cup Series Returns Sunday To World Wide Technology Raceway


Published on May 29 2024 9:28 am
Last Updated on May 29 2024 9:31 am

Kyle Busch of Richard Childress Racing celebrates winning last season’s Enjoy Illinois 300 NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill. Photo credit: Getty Images for NASCAR.

MADISON, Ill.  – World Wide Technology Raceway will look to add to the dramatic finishes that have highlighted the 2024 season when the NASCAR Cup Series returns Sunday for the third edition of the Enjoy Illinois 300.

Through the first 14 races, the NASCAR Cup Series has recorded two of the top-four closest finishes in history and has another five with a margin of victory of less than .7 of a second. Kyle Larson nosed Chris Buescher at the line by .001 of a second at Kansas Speedway in early May that vaulted it to the closest-ever finish. Earlier in the season,

Daniel Suarez edged Ryan Blaney by .003 of a second at Atlanta Motor Speedway in late February that now ranks as the fourth closest.

The other tight finishes came at Las Vegas (.441), Circuit of The Americas (.692), Richmond (.269), Martinsville (.550) and Dover (.256).

The first two Cup races at World Wide Technology Raceway have been competitive and close, with both overtime finishes under .7 of a second on the 1.25-mile oval. Joey Logano won by .655 over Kyle Busch in the inaugural 2022 event and Busch earned the win last season by .517 over Denny Hamlin.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ on-track action opens Saturday with practice (8:30-9:15 a.m. CT) and will be immediately followed by two rounds of single-car, one-lap qualifying (9:15 – 10:30 a.m.). The day also will feature the Toyota 200 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at 12:30 p.m.

The weekend culminates with the 240-lap Enjoy Illinois 300 at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (TV: FS1, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM).

Here’s a look at “Five Things To Watch” for the Enjoy Illinois 300:

Kyle Busch of Richard Childress Racing has developed quite an affinity for World Wide Technology Raceway’s 1.25-mile oval in his two Cup Series visits thus far and has firmly planted himself as the one to beat. He followed up a runner-finish to Joey Logano in the inaugural 2022 race with an impressive victory in last season’s Enjoy Illinois 300. He won the pole and led a race-high 121 laps in going wire to wire. Of the 488 laps (including eight overtime laps) completed in the two races, he has led 187 for a 38 percent clip.

If you take a look back, Busch’s affinity for WWT Raceway may have begun two decades ago in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he finished among the top eight in all three starts (2004, ’06 and ’09) and won in his final appearance.

The one potential stumbling block he wasn’t planning on could come from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who took exception to Busch wrecking him on the opening lap of the recent NASCAR All-Star Race and took a post-race swing at him. Quarreling drivers tend to deliver their retribution on short tracks such as WWT Raceway, so keep an eye on Stenhouse Jr. possibly ruining Busch’s day as a payback for the all-star race incident.

Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports is coming off a busy and near-historic Sunday, having attempted to become just the fifth driver in history to compete in INDYCAR’s Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 – 1,100 grueling miles of racing – in the same day. The weather, however, never cooperated with Larson on either end of “The Double.” The trouble started on the front end as the Indy 500 was delayed four hours due to rain and didn’t drop the green flag until 4:44 p.m. ET. Larson completed all 200 laps – including leading four of those – and finished 18th driving the No. 17 entry for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar Team.

After two helicopter rides and an hour-long flight from Speedway, Ind. to Charlotte, N.C., Larson arrived for the 400-lap race already in progress and driver Justin Allgaier starting in his place. Upon his arrival, weather brought the race to a halt with 151 laps left and that allowed Larson time to climb into his No. 5 entry during the delay.

Larson, however, never had the opportunity to turn a lap in the Coca-Cola 600 as the race was called after a two-hour rain delay and leader Christopher Bell declared the winner.

He was attempting to become the first driver to complete the feat since Kurt Busch in 2014 and join “The Double” crew of Busch, John Andretti (1994), Robby Gordon (1997, 2000, ‘02, ‘03, ’04) and Tony Stewart (1999, 2001).

RFK Racing driver/co-owner Brad Keselowski has been flexing some muscle this season, especially of late. During the most recent six-race stretch that began at Texas Motor Speedway, the 2012 Cup Series champion ended a 110-race winless streak with his May 12 victory at Darlington Raceway and also has recorded three runner-up finishes (Texas, Talladega, Charlotte).

Keselowski’s finish at Charlotte gave him a share of the series lead for top-five finishes (6) with points leader Denny Hamlin and Larson. Through 14 races, he finds himself just two shy of his combined total of top-five finishes over his last two seasons at RFK Racing.

The recent tear has moved him up nine positions in the points standings, 95 behind Hamlin. Keselowski is hopeful of keeping the run going at WWT Raceway, where he is seeking his first top-10 finish at the Madison, Ill., venue.

Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing continue to dominate the Cup Series season with a combined 11 wins in the first 14 races. Hendrick leads the way with six of those victories, including half by William Byron (Daytona 500, Circuit of the Americas, Martinsville). Kyle Larson has contributed a pair (Las Vegas, Kansas) and Chase Elliott (Texas) has the other.

Denny Hamlin (Bristol, Richmond, Dover) is pacing Joe Gibbs Racing with three wins while Christopher Bell has the other two (Phoenix, Charlotte).

The three other wins on the season have come from Daniel Suarez of Trackhouse Racing (Atlanta), Tyler Reddick of 23XI Racing (Talladega) and Keselowski of RFK Racing (Darlington).

Team Penske as a whole has been outstanding in the two visits to World Wide Technology Raceway. The trio of Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric has combined for four top-six finishes with no performance worse than 13th.

Logano paces the group with a victory and 22 laps led in the inaugural 2022 event that was followed up with a third-place effort last season. Blaney has been solid with a fifth in 2022, sixth last season and a combined 95 laps led. Cindric finished 11th and led 26 laps in the first event and ran 13th last year.

All three also have qualified among the top 10 in both races, including front-row starts by Cindric in ’22 and Blaney last season.