Chase Elliott won’t be racing in it, but the show will go on.
The NASCAR Cup Series will race on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. The race — which most fans still refer to as “Gateway,” which is what the racetrack was called before April 2019 — will be on TV on FS1 and on the airwaves at MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
Why won’t Elliott, NASCAR’s five-time most popular driver award winner, be competing on Sunday?
The driver of the No. 9 Cup car is serving his NASCAR-mandated one-race suspension this weekend as a result of an on-track incident he had with Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Corey LaJoie will drive in Elliott’s place.
“I hate the circumstances that it’s under, but I’m very grateful for the opportunity that Mr. H has provided,” LaJoie wrote in a tweet responding to the news. “I’m looking forward to being with Hendrick Motorsports this weekend and supporting a Chevy family driver.”
LaJoie is a full-time Cup driver for Spire Motorsports, one of the smaller teams in the Cup Series. If he wins in the 9 car, he will make the drivers’ playoffs.
LaJoie currently sits in 20th in the points standings. Popular Truck Series driver Carson Hocevar will sub in for LaJoie in the 7 car on Sunday.
Here are four other things you should know ahead of Sunday’s race.
1. One last note on Elliott’s absence. This isn’t the first bit of racing Elliott will miss this season. The driver missed six race weekends earlier this year after sustaining a fractured tibia in his left leg thanks to a snowboarding accident in February. (His return to Martinsville in April was a welcomed one — for both the star driver and for NASCAR.) All these absences have buried Elliott in the points standings and make it all the more important he finds Victory Lane before the playoffs.
2. Chase Briscoe is slammed by NASCAR with penalty. NASCAR dealt Stewart-Haas Racing and Briscoe, driver of the No. 14 car, a huge penalty earlier this week for a counterfeit underwing part, per NASCAR’s penalty sheet. Briscoe’s car was the one that was taken to the R&D Center in Concord for teardown after the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. The penalty: 120 driver and owner points, 25 playoff points and a six-week suspension to crew chief John Klausmeier (as well as a $250,000 fine to Klausmeier). SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said in a statement that the team had a “quality control lapse” and that a “part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte.” The race organization won’t appeal NASCAR’s decision. This puts Briscoe deeper into a hole in the points standings than he already was and basically makes it so the only way he can earn a playoff spot is with a win.
3. Speaking of which: There are still some drivers who will win a race this year who haven’t yet. Who are they? Elliott, for one. But who else? Some names to keep an eye on include Kevin Harvick, one of the all-time winningest drivers in Cup Series history who easily could’ve won at Phoenix earlier this year if it wasn’t for a devastating late caution there. Harvick broke a long winless streak last season with two wins in a row at Michigan and Richmond. Other candidates? Alex Bowman of Hendrick Motorsports won a race last year but hasn’t yet this year. Same with Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon and Daniel Suárez. Ross Chastain is the series points leader but hasn’t yet won, either. Could a new winner emerge Sunday?
4. Gateway is a unique racetrack. Who might it benefit? Turns 1 and 2 are completely different than Turns 3 and 4 around the 1.25-mile oval — in their angles and in their banking. This type of configuration generally produces the kind of challenge drivers relish, and the track’s difficulty was reflected in who won in the racetrack’s debut in the Cup Series in 2022: two-time Cup champion Joey Logano. Here is who the bettors think will win Sunday’s race: Kyle Larson (9-2) and William Byron (13-2) each opened as predictable favorites. Martin Truex Jr. (10-1), Christopher Bell (10-1) and Denny Hamlin (10-1) are right behind them. A value pick to look at? Brad Keselowski, who’s making his 500th career Cup start on Sunday, is at 30-1.
How to watch NASCAR race at Gateway
Race: Enjoy Illinois 300 Presented by TicketSmarter
Place: World Wide Technology Raceway
Date: Sunday, June 4
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (240 laps)
Stages: Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 240)
Starting lineup at World Wide Technology Raceway
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.