NASCAR welcomes a new market to the Cup Series on Sunday with the inaugural Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter at World Wide Technology Raceway. The 1.25-mile oval, located outside St. Louis (Madison, Ill.), is the lone racetrack added to the 2022 Cup schedule.
The 15th race of the year will also be one of the shortest, a 240-lap event expected to take well under three hours. That’s quite a contrast from the longest race in NASCAR history last weekend, the 619.5-mile Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway that took five hours, 13 minutes to complete under green.
Related: Enjoy Illinois 300 Preview
That race produced some of the best competition we’ve seen on intermediate ovals this season. That’s left big shoes to fill up at Gateway, where drivers are extremely concerned about passing and track position after Friday’s practice. “Pit stops and restarts,” Chase Elliott said simply, “Will be vital on who wins.”
Team Penske had the top three speeds in that practice but wasn’t able to back that up in qualifying. Instead, Chase Briscoe of Stewart-Haas Racing won the pole, the first on speed of his Cup career while Penske could do no better than second with Austin Cindric. All three manufacturers landed inside the top five, continuing the parity we’ve seen through this 2022 season.
Two drivers had problems and didn’t take a qualifying time: Parker Kligerman had his car catch fire in Friday’s practice while Ben Rhodes made contact with the outside wall. Rhodes was only filling in for AJ Allmendinger in the Kaulig Racing No. 16 Chevrolet; he won’t race the car on Sunday.
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Only the 36 chartered cars guaranteed a starting spot entered this race. None of the “open” teams who need to qualify on speed made the trip, leaving the field four short of a full 40-car grid.
1. Chase Briscoe
2. Austin Cindric (R)
3. Christopher Bell
4. Tyler Reddick
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Joey Logano
8. Aric Almirola
9. Harrison Burton (R)
10. Ross Chastain
11. Kurt Busch
12. Kyle Busch
13. Martin Truex Jr.
14. Cole Custer
15. Kyle Larson
16. Chase Elliott
17. Michael McDowell
18. Bubba Wallace
19. Corey LaJoie
20. Kevin Harvick
21. Erik Jones
22. Todd Gilliland (R)
23. Daniel Suarez
24. William Byron
25. Alex Bowman
26. Ty Dillon
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
28. Justin Haley
29. Austin Dillon
30. Brad Keselowski
31. Cody Ware
32. Zane Smith (i)
33. Josh Bilicki (i)
34. BJ McLeod
35. Ben Rhodes (i)
36. Parker Kligerman (i)
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Chase Briscoe (first) earned the first Cup Series pole on speed of his career. He also started up front at Atlanta earlier this season when qualifying was rained out.
- Austin Cindric (second) was the top-qualifying rookie driver, running a Ford for Team Penske.
- Christopher Bell (third) had the best speed among the six Toyota drivers in the field.
- Denny Hamlin (sixth) was last week’s winner (Coca-Cola 600).
- Harrison Burton (ninth) has just the second top-10 starting spot of his Cup career.
- Chase Elliott (16th) is the current points leader.
- Zane Smith (32nd) is making his Cup Series debut this weekend in place of Chris Buescher. Buescher is sitting out this event for RFK Racing after testing positive for COVID-19.
- AJ Allmendinger (35th) had his car driven in practice and qualifying by NASCAR Truck Series regular Ben Rhodes while he raced at Portland. Allmendinger replaces Noah Gragson, who ran last weekend in Charlotte.
- Parker Kligerman (36th) replaces Ryan Preece behind the wheel of the Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. It’s his first Cup start of the season.
Related: Best World Wide Technology Raceway Drivers for DraftKings
NASCAR Race Breakdown
Race: Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter
Track: World Wide Technology Raceway (Madison, Ill.)
Date: Sunday, June 5
TV: FS1, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 240 laps (300 miles)
Stage 1: 45 Laps
Stage 2: 95 Laps
Stage 3: 100 Laps
Frontstretch Podcast host Bryan Nolen welcomes FOX NASCAR Xfinity play-by-play Adam Alexander to assess the 2022 season to date along with another new race this weekend as NXS tackles Portland International Raceway. Nolen and company then look ahead to a weekend of racing at NASCAR’s newest Cup track to see which team might have an edge.
Don’t forget about Athlon Sports’ 2022 Racing magazine with 144 pages of racing content. Click here to get your copy or purchase the digital edition for instant access.