CUP: Chase Notebook

Stewart Is Bonus Baby – Tony Stewart had qualified for the Chase prior to Saturday night’s regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, but he still entered the event with a big task.

Stewart’s goal was to remain in the top 10 in Sprint Cup points and receive the nine Chase bonus points he would receive for scoring three seasonal victories. He accomplished that task with relative ease, finishing fourth in the Federated Auto Parts 400, and he’ll start his eighth Chase Sunday in Chicago.

And he has 2,009 points – versus the 2,000 he would have had as a wild-card qualifier. That puts him in a tie for second with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski opening the Chase.

Every point matters, as was illustrated quite clearly last season in Stewart’s championship run. He and Carl Edwards tied for the title, but Stewart won on the victory tiebreaker.

“Those nine points are huge right now,” Stewart said. “Nine points doesn't sound like a lot – three points doesn't, but when it came down to it, one point was the biggest you've ever seen in your life.

“It was a big deal for us … to make sure we stayed in the top 10 and make sure we got those bonus points and didn't lose them.”

Chasing Chicago – The heart of downtown Chicago will be the center of the NASCAR universe Wednesday as the 12 Chase drivers gather at the House of Blues for media and fan events.

After a morning media session, the drivers will participate in a fan event in the afternoon.

SPEED will televise NASCAR Contenders Live Sponsored by Toyota & Sprint Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET).

Championing The Chase – Chase drivers will be fanning out across the country Monday and Tuesday to promote the championship run at events at or near Chase tracks or in news media capitals.

Jimmie Johnson is in New York City Monday to do a number of appearances on television shows and radio programs.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is scheduled to visit the ESPN facilities in Bristol, CT and will appear on numerous ESPN shows.

Brad Keselowski will visit firefighters in Chicago. Denny Hamlin will be in Concord, NH, where he will meet with National Guard soldiers and area media.

Kevin Harvick will be at Talladega Superspeedway both to promote the Chase and to participate in an event with the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Martin Truex Jr. will be in Kansas City for an appearance on the campus of series sponsor Sprint.

Jeff Gordon will participate in media and fan question-and-answer sessions in Phoenix.

Greg Biffle will be in Martinsville, VA, which has proclaimed Tuesday “Greg Biffle Day”. He will be greeted by, among others, a football stadium full of cheering students.

In Texas, Clint Bowyer will join more than 3,000 high school students from Byron Nelson, Northwest and Steele Accelerated schools in an assembly on Texas Motor Speedway’s frontstretch to honor members of Fort Worth's fire and police departments.

Matt Kenseth will be participating in activities with members of the Coast Guard in Miami Beach, FL.

On Sept. 18, Tony Stewart is scheduled to participate in a Bank of America event in support of the United States military at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A Title For Junior? – Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally score the Sprint Cup championship he seemed destined for when he broke into the sport?

“We've got the team and everything really poised to make a run at it,” he said. “You've got to put the guys that have won the championship at the top of the list for the people that are favorites. But we are in the conversation, and we're going to work hard to still be in that conversation at Homestead."

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.