For an age Route 66 has been a legend among motorists that travel this great nation. Once a year those “kicks” seeking fans of the famed highway join NASCAR spectators in Joliet IL., for the thrill of stock car racing.
The fan friendly facility ,that was built as an answer to the demands of the fans that had cried out for more of the popular and exciting sport, has been a yearly stop on the circuit since 2001. Seven drivers have had the honor of winning in the nine race history at the 1.5 mile oval, among them only two have been able to repeat their success.
This week’s guest has been to Chicagoland Speedway for each of its Cup Series events. Mike Calinoff, spotter for the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford of Matt Kenseth, hopes he can guide his driver to the long awaited first victory here.
Kenseth is ranked seventh among all active drivers at the Illinois track, finishing as high as second. The team hopes that this is the year they pull off the win.
“Chicagoland is really good. A relatively newer track, but it’s got a lot of room.” Calinoff began.
“The spotter stand gets a little loud here sometimes. The tracks P.A. system is really close to us and it gets a little scrappy sometimes because you can hear the race broadcast in the background when we speak.” Calinoff explained.
“I like spotting here a lot. I know we run well here, so that’s a plus.” He continued.
Kenseth has run well at this track. Since the inaugural race he and his team have recorded two top five’s, four top ten’s, and seven top 20 finishes. His average finish is 11.22 and he has finished as runner up twice. With no DNF’s and no finish here worse than 23rd it is a good track for Kenseth and crew.
With statistics like those of the Roush-Fenway Fords there was no surprise that Calinoff had a firm grasps on the unique challenges this track poses to a team as a whole.
“The track changes a lot with temperature. When we first started out here it was a one-groove racetrack. It took it a while to become two-groove. Now we have two really good distinct grooves which make for really good racing now.” Calinoff said.
Just like most tracks on the circuit Chicagoland Speedway is all about the right set up for the pending weather.
As a veteran spotter coming to a place like Chicagoland, I asked Calinoff about his personal favorites about the area, and the track.
“I like the restaurants in the area. There are a couple really good steak places downtown we like to go to. I really like coming here I hope they get a second date. I know Kansas might get a second date and Kansas is a really similar track with very similar night life. I always look forward to coming here.” Calinoff said. Competitively speaking his favorite thing about the track in Joliet, “we run well.” Calinoff said. “Not just us,” Calinoff continued, “but a really good track for all the Roush guys. We all know we have a pretty good fighting chance when we get here.”
“You can’t really say anything negative about this place.” Calinoff said. “I like that it’s a Saturday night race, get Sunday all to myself. The racing is good; the stand is good with a good view, no real blind spots. I really don’t have any least favorites when it comes to being out here.” Calinoff looks forward to the weekend ahead as he guides Kenseth and the Crown Royal Black, Roush Ford are the 1.5 mile oval at Chicagoland.
Keep an eye on the No. 17 as it tries to best it’s runner up finishes of the past and see if Kenseth with be this year’s “Romeo” in Joliet.