Back to School: Busch gives lecture on new playoff during Chase Across North America stop

Tina Akouris - NASCAR Wire Service Thursday, Sep 11 1541

A student at George B. Swift Specialty School on Chicago’s North Side asked Kyle Busch who were some of the people he admired most during his childhood.

“I always watched Jeff Gordon, and he was my hero growing up,” Busch said. “And now I have the chance to beat him.”

Busch is hoping to do just that against Gordon when NASCAR's playoffs -- the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- begin with the 400 Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet (2 p.m. on ESPN).

The race is also the debut of the new Chase format — the Challenger Round begins Sunday — where four drivers will be eliminated after every three races. The last four drivers eligible in the Chase are the Championship Four, and will race for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16.

Busch’s appearance at Swift School Wednesday morning and later at Pioneer Court on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago are part of NASCAR’s Chase Across North America, where the 16 Chase drivers made appearances in cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico to promote the 10-race Chase.

Busch told the students at Swift School how the new Chase format works and that each class would have the chance to compete in a Chase Grid competition ( The winning class with the most accurate results at the end of the Chase would get a pizza party, Busch said.

“I’ve been to a few school visits over time and I like to share my passion for the sport and my passion for school,” Busch said.

Busch is doing the triple at Chicagoland for the fourth time this season, starting with Friday night’s Lucas Oil 225 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race before the Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 NASCAR Nationwide race on Saturday.

“I enjoy doing it, and I enjoy racing more so than just sitting in the motor home watching the races every weekend,” Busch said. “Since I’m there, I might as well participate and get my take on the race track.”

Busch said he is hoping the truck and Nationwide races will give him a better idea of how Chicagoland’s track is holding up and how a new Goodyear tire will perform.

Busch has had success at Chicagoland. He’s won a total of seven races in Joliet: the 2008 Sprint Cup race, three Nationwide series races and three in the trucks series since 2009 when the track hosted its first truck event.

“Chicagoland Speedway is a cool race track ... it lends itself to good racing because the asphalt is a little bit older,” Busch said. “You can run from the bottom of the race track all the way to the top by the wall. It gives up options to race more.”

Busch is hoping the weekend cumulates with a victory Sunday afternoon in the Sprint Cup series. He’s entering the Challenger Round with one victory, six top-five finishes and is nine points behind standings leader Brad Keselowski and six behind Gordon.

“We need to pick up our mile-and-a-half program, and this is the first of five mile-and-a-half races in the Chase so this is the first for us to get going better,” Busch said.

“There are some guys in the Chase that you wouldn’t expect to be in it, which is great for the sport and for those teams and their sponsors. The first couple races are going to be interesting to see how all this plays out.”

Busch is also appearing in Toyota and Sprint’s two-hour Chase Grid Live, alongside the other Chase-eligible drivers on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. CT at Pioneer Court on Michigan Avenue.

Chase Week entertainment kicks off with a free concert Wednesday at 5 p.m. CT, also at Pioneer Court, with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.