Frequent fliers: ‘Chase Across America’ ratchets up playoff anticipation

Third-annual multi-city Media Tour previews 2013 NASCAR postseason

 Frequent fliers: ‘Chase Across America’ ratchets up playoff anticipation

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2013) – Twelve drivers, 12 markets, 10 race tracks, one ultimate prize – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy.

All 12 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors took part in the third-annual Chase Across America media tour on Tuesday and Wednesday, traveling throughout the country with one driver assigned to each Chase track market, as well as New York City and ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters.

No matter the stop, optimism ruled the day, as slates have mostly been wiped clean and each driver can dream big heading into the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 15 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN, Motor Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio).

Universally, this year’s edition of Chase Across America took on a feeling of remembrance and appreciation, with a number stops paying tribute to first responders, including police, firefighters, EMT and military members on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Below is a rundown of each event.

Edwards Dons Another Kind Of Fire Suit : On Nov. 17, Carl Edwards’ hopes to climb the six-foot high championship stage in Homestead-Miami, and triumphantly lift a trophy that weighs 27 pounds. But before all that possibly takes place, Wednesday he climbed a two-story ladder and hoisted a life-saving device that weighs 52 pounds. Edwards visited the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Training Headquarters, and went through rigorous exercises befitting an athlete of his stature. Among the gauntlet of training methods Edwards endured: operating the fire hose and extinguishing a car fire, breaking open a metal door with an ax, using the 52-pound jaws of life to open a vehicle that had crashed, climbing a ladder and practicing a second-floor rescue – all while wearing full fireman’s gear. At the day’s completion, Edwards gifted Fire Chief Dave Downey – a 30-year veteran of the fire department – his NASCAR fire suit, saying “After wearing your fire suit, I’ll never complain about how hot mine is ever again.”

Top-Seeded Kenseth Looks Down From Standings – But That’s It: As the top seed in this year’s Chase, Matt Kenseth is looking down at the other 11 drivers in the standings. That’s good enough for him, because Wednesday in Chicago, he wouldn’t look down at anything. After a visit to the Sky Deck at the Willis Tower and an interview held in a Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, the running joke all day was that Kenseth was scared of heights. "I did not stand on the glass (ledge) because I'm a big chicken, but I got to see a lot and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Kenseth said. "Honestly, the whole day was fun, even though I'm scared of heights, which you all know."

Johnson Not ‘Burned Out’ With New Addition To Family: Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson visited Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday in advance of its Oct. 12 Chase race, participating in a dual “burn out” with seven-time NHRA champion Tony Schumacher. Following the display of sound and smoke, fans and media tossed questions Johnson’s way – with his new baby girl Lydia among the hot topics. In reference to Johnson’s recent string of four consecutive finishes outside the top 25, one fan asked: “Jimmie, by the way you have been racing the past couple weeks it seems the new baby has been keeping you up all night. Is that true?” To which Johnson, who had his second child the Friday prior to Richmond, responded: “Whoa, it has only been one race post baby!”

Regarding his recent stumbles, Johnson said, “I have won championships with momentum and without momentum. There is a lot of racing in the Chase. Chicago will be a great gauge of where we are. We would love sit on the pole and win the race but if we come out with a top three or top five, I will feel really good about where the 48 is. The key is to not lose the Chase in Chicago.”

Biffle ‘Shines’ During Talladega’s Stop In Birmingham: Greg Biffle shook hands today, lots of them – all in appreciation for heroics in doing a job that saves lives. During a stop in Birmingham to discuss Talladega’s Chase race on Oct. 20, celebrate Birmingham’s Empowerment Day of Service and pay tribute to 9/11 First Responders, Biffle met the newest class of recruits to the Birmingham Fire Department – shaking the hands of a group consisting of around 50 members. In addition, he helped shine the wheels of a week-old fire truck, tested the fire hose, road in a fire truck bucket with Birmingham Mayor William Bell and tried on fire safety gear. Of Talladega, Biffle said, “All drivers have a love-hate relationship with Talladega. We love the track, but hate being in "The Big One."

Hometown Hero Logano Meets With Everywhere Heroes: Joey Logano’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. So, it’s only fitting that he opened his first Chase near the track that put him in the record books. Logano spent the day at Pease Air Force Base in Newington, N.H., meeting with members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, participating in a pit-stop demonstration, taking a tour of the refueling airplane and answering questions from fans and media. During his time on the base, Logano discussed growing up in nearby Middletown, Conn., a three-hour drive from New Hampshire Motor Speedway: “Yeah, I’ve got to round up a lot of tickets [for friends and family. I usually call the speedway and am like, ‘Hey…’ The speedway helped us out a lot. … We did a lot of stuff for some of the first responders from the Connecticut shooting [in Newtown]. Last race up in New Hampshire – between the speedway and the Joey Logano Foundation – we brought some tickets up and had a hospitality tent for them [Newtown first responders], and they all had a good time.”

Harvick’s Stop Hits Close To Home: Kevin Harvick knows first-hand how difficult a job it is to be a firefighter. His father was one for more than two decades. “My dad was a firefighter for 25 years,” Harvick said. “I remember going to the fire house as a kid to visit him and always having to go back home if they received a call.” Harvick met with first responders from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in advance of Texas Motor Speedway’s Nov. 3 Chase race, taking questions from media and fans and participating in a ride-along program at the track.

Rowdy Takes Bow For Bravery: Kyle Busch visited the Dover Air Force Base, participating in a 9/11 Memorial Unveil and Dedication Ceremony with Delaware Governor Jack Markell. During the day, he met with military members and airmen, as well as took questions from members of the media. On the anniversary of 9/11, Busch remembered where he was on the tragic day: “I reflected back to where I was when I first heard about the World Trade Center,” Busch said. “I was on my way to high school and it made everyone take a step back and evaluate what's important in life.”

‘Tat’ Was A Good One For Kahne: Upon arrival in Roanoke, Va., behind the wheel of a Gen-6 NASCAR Sprint Cup race car, Kahne was greeted by more than 1,000 cheering fans and the Patrick Henry High School cheerleaders and marching band. Roanoke Mayor David Bowers declared the day, “2013 NASCAR Day,” and Kahne answered some media and fan questions during a Miss Sprint Cup-moderated Q&A. One question in particular provided the sound bite of the event. One fan wondered what sort of thing fans have done to grab his attention. Kasey answered, “I've signed someone's body and a year or two later you see your signature as a tattoo in the same place. That gets my attention.”

Busch Breaks Bread (And Eats Ribs) With First Responders: Kurt Busch, the first driver from a single-car team to make the Chase, participated in a tour and meet-and-greet with firefighters of Fire Station No. 6 in Kansas City, Kan., before heading to Kansas Speedway to get a lesson in something Kansas City natives know a thing or two about – barbecue. “They always have said you can get fall-off-the-bone barbecue ribs in Kansas City, and we enjoyed some of those today.” A barbecue contest winner showed Busch around the kitchen and the grill, and gave the 2004 series champion some of the finer points of rib-making.

Phoenix Says ‘Hello, Newman’ During Morning Media Tour: Ryan Newman participated in an early morning media tour that included appearances on several television morning shows. “I look forward to a great opportunity and a chance for a championship. It’s been a lot of fun. … we’re in the Chase, and I look forward to the opportunity. We’ll do our best.”

Junior, Bowyer Kick Off Chase Across America on Tuesday: NASCAR’s Chase Across America kicked-off Tuesday with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in New York City and Clint Bowyer at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Earnhardt participated in variety of national broadcast and print opportunities, such as “CBS This Morning” and FOX Sports 1’s “Crowd Goes Wild,” and served as a guest DJ on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Meanwhile, Bowyer took part in an ESPN “Car Wash” that included interviews with numerous ESPN broadcast and online media properties.

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