NASCAR drivers still savor chance to visit Chicago

Associated Press  |  Last updated July 22, 2012
Located on the far-flung outskirts of the city's southwest suburbs, Chicagoland Speedway isn't particularly close to Chicago itself. That hasn't stopped some drivers from coming to town a few days early for some fun in the Windy City. Elliott Sadler, his wife and some friends came to Chicago earlier this week. Sadler was laid up with a stomach virus for most of this week - and, conveniently, one of his friends on the trip happens to also be his doctor - but that didn't stop everybody else from having fun. ''We always come in a couple days early and go enjoy the city,'' Sadler said. ''It's such a beautiful city, and so many things to do, and the scenery is unreal. It's a 30-minute drive to the racetrack from where we're staying downtown.'' Although drivers often spend most of a race weekend lounging in their well-appointed motorhomes in a fenced-in area on the track infield, Sadler said that isn't the case when NASCAR comes to Chicagoland. ''It's something that when we first started (racing) here, I didn't do, I just was kind of lazy on the bus,'' Sadler said. ''And other drivers did, and then I kind of caught wind of it and I started doing it. But I think a lot of drivers do do that.'' What do they like to do? ''You ever been to downtown Chicago? Holy cow, you can do whatever you want,'' Sadler said. ''I didn't do anything (earlier in the week), but they did the water tour yesterday, were out on the beach all day long and went to Navy Pier. And, dang it, I think they're going shopping today.'' Sadler, who was one of four drivers eligible to win a $100,000 bonus in Sunday's race, joked on Saturday he wasn't making any big plans for the money. ''I think my wife's already spent it,'' Sadler joked. Fortunately for Sadler and his family's finances, he went out and won the race - and the bonus - on Sunday. --- STRATEGY PITFALL: Sam Hornish Jr. led 22 laps on Sunday, but he lost position on the track when he made a late green-flag pit stop before other leaders were able to pit under a subsequent caution. Hornish finished eighth, and questioned his team's strategy after the race. ''We had a good car throughout the race but for some reason, I got talked into pitting early on the final stop,'' Hornish said. ''We were on the same sequence that (Elliott) Sadler was on and we had the better car. They did the right strategy. We didn't. When you have a plan, you need to stick with it, not go do something else.'' Hornish later tapped the back bumper of Kyle Busch, touching off an accident. ''Sam Hornish came over and apologized to us,'' said Rick Ren, the general manager of Busch's team. ''He ran into us in the backstretch and turned us into Brendan Gaughan. Sam came over and apologized, Brendan Gaughan came over to see if Kyle was OK. Of course, Kyle had already left.'' --- SWELL SWINDELL: After leading all 100 laps to win Saturday's ARCA race at Chicagoland Speedway, Kevin Swindell made it clear that he sees his future in NASCAR. ''This is where they consider the best of the best, so this is where I'd like to be,'' Swindell said. But Swindell, the 23-year-old son of Sprint Car racing icon Sammy Swindell, says it takes more than talent to make it in NASCAR today. ''It's tough,'' Swindell said. ''Obviously a lot of the seats are filled by people with family money, or people that have found the right connections. You get calls from teams that say we'd love to have you - but can you help us? It's a little frustrating.'' Swindell, a three-time winner of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, hopes some NASCAR team owners will take notice. ''Hopefully this will continue to prove that I can do this,'' Swindell said.
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