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Chicagoland is new experience with rules package

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Joey Logano is making his 11th NASCAR Cup Series start at Chicagoland Speedway, and it’s just like his first race all over again.

Like so many other drivers, Logano is looking forward to seeing how the 2019 rules package affects Sunday’s stop at the well-worn, 1.5-mile oval.

“I mean it’ll change everything, just like it has everywhere else we’ve gone,” Logano said Friday as he relaxed in his trailer after spending some time on the track in preparation for the Xfinity Series race. “Whether it’s been a short track or a mile-and-a-half or a super speedway in this case, this rules (package), it’s changed the game.”

This year’s competition package reduced horsepower and increased downforce in an attempt to offer more passing opportunities. The engine has a tapered spacer, and this weekend’s cars will have aerodynamic ducts as well.

A modified version debuted at Atlanta’s challenging 1.5-mile speedway in February, and Brad Keselowski beat out Martin Truex Jr. for the win. The overhauled competition rules were fully implemented for the first time in Las Vegas in March, and Logano held off Penske teammate Keselowski for his 22nd victory.

Logano said the competition package has turned each track into a new experience.

“We’re all starting with a pretty new notebook,” he said. “There’s some things you can go back and look at, but for the most part, anytime I look back on what I wrote down last year, it’s not relevant anymore. It’s apples and oranges at this point.”

But it has been a full four months since Atlanta, and Cup drivers have much more to go on than they did in the beginning. Logano pointed to Auto Club Speedway in California when asked for a place that could shed some light on how the package might work at Chicagoland.

“I know it’s a half-mile longer, but I think that track probably is the closest to this track,” he said.

Logano finished second at Fontana in March, losing to Kyle Busch. Keselowski was third, followed by Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney.