CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One change to the Chase for the Sprint Cup has been highly publicized this season.
The addition of two "wild card" entries provided a boost in interest leading up to last weekend's Chase cutoff race at Richmond, Va.
There was another change, however.
For the first time since the Chase format was implemented in 2004, the site of start of the 10-race playoff has changed.
Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., which has typically held its annual race in July, is now the Chase opener, giving the Chase a slightly different look this season. The New Hampshire race, which traditionally opened the Chase, is now the second event of the Chase.
"This place is really getting racy as far as finally being able to move around and change lines and run anywhere from the bottom to the top," said Tony Stewart, who has won twice at Chicagoland.
"It's a fun track because of that."
NASCAR's Cup series has been racing at Chicagoland only since 2001, so there isn't a long history to revisit. However, several of the drivers competing for this season's championship remember the track fondly.
Along with Stewart, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all won races at the 1.5-mile track.
Of the 12 drivers in the Chase, Gordon owns the best average finish 8.6 in 10 starts.
Kyle Busch's win came in 2008, when he held off Jimmie Johnson to win the race. Johnson went on to win the third of his NASCAR-record five consecutive titles that season.
"Beating Jimmie was definitely neat. Ultimately, I have a lot of respect for him, Jeff Gordon, and anybody in this sport since it's so competitive," Busch said.
"To go out and beat guys like that, it's something pretty special, and I really cherished that, for sure."
Stewart and Harvick, who shares the points lead at the start of the Chase with Kyle Busch, are the only two-time winners at Chicagoland.
"I think I've always been good there. You look at the past and we've had some weird events. On Fridays I've had two events where I've crashed in practice," Stewart said. "It's one of those places where as long as I get through Friday, I feel like we've got a shot at it.
"But I don't watch the stats very much. Technology in this sport changes so fast. What was good the last time you were there doesn't mean it's going to be good the second time around."
Brad Keselowski, who qualified for his first Chase this season, has the least experience at Chicagoland, with just two previous starts. His best finish of 18th came last season.
What is his approach to the weekend?
"I feel like I'm doing it like a one-year-old that got his first box of crayons, you know, just amazed and happy to have them," he said. "Everything is fresh, new and (there's) a lot of positive momentum.
"No matter what happens in the Chase it's still an honor to be in it. And that doesn't mean I'm making excuses if we don't run well. I'm just going to go out there and run hard each and every week, do the best I can.
"It'll either come together or it won't."