– The Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill. – Most drivers seemed resigned to the idea that NASCAR officials will make changes, perhaps even radical ones, to the format used to determine stock car racing’s champion.

Going into Saturday night’s race at Chicagoland Speedway, one star actually sounded enthusiastic.

Well aware of skidding fan interest, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he understands the need to spice up the sport — even if it scares some fans who liked things the way they were.

“I think it’ll be awesome and exciting, and I kind of look forward to all the changes,” Earnhardt said. “I think that sort of extreme (step) is scary to the traditionalist, but it fits the world we live in today.”

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said recently that officials are considering changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format, although he didn’t offer specifics.

France essentially ruled out what he called a “winner-take-all” scenario, but said he wants to find a way to produce more big moments that feel like a Game 7 in other sports.

The idea of change is earning mixed reviews from drivers.

“I’m not a big fan of change so they know where I stand on it,” current points leader Kevin Harvick said.

Jimmie Johnson said he understands why officials are considering changes but still bristles at some of the more wild potential scenarios making their way around the garage: a system that would eliminate drivers as the Chase progressed, or even the possibility of a one-race playoff at the end of the season.

“I know there is a crazy thought floating around about one race to determine the champion,” Johnson said. “And I think through the garage, driver or owner, it doesn’t matter who it is, everybody is thinking that’s a wild one and wouldn’t want to see it.”

EARNHARDT JR. knew his emotionally stirring Nationwide series win at Daytona in a No. 3 car would rile some of the conspiracy theorists who questioned the legitimacy of his July 2001 victory at Daytona.

“I heard that stuff when we won in 2001, ‘It might have been a conspiracy, this, that and the other,’ ” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know, man. This sport’s got too much to lose pulling tricks like that.

“I believe as far as on our end, everything we can do about it, it was pretty legit.”

WITH TENSIONS running high in NASCAR these days, Tony Stewart was asked if he felt like he needed to carry a baseball bat around for protection. He said no. “Some of them should probably, though,” Stewart said. “They’ll need it to equalize (a fight). It’s getting wild out there.”

DESPITE GOING into Saturday night’s race ranked a respectable seventh in the Sprint Cup point standings, Matt Kenseth sure sounded like a guy who just lost his lunch money.

Roush Fenway Racing is mired in a slump, and Kenseth’s No. 17 team is feeling it.

“I don’t feel like I’m a last-place driver, I don’t feel like we have a last-place team,” Kenseth said. “And when you run like that, it wears on you after a while.”

Kenseth hasn’t had a top-10 finish since Charlotte in May.

“I know I’m probably cheering all you guys up today with my upbeat attitude, but it’s frustrating to go out at what I feel like is probably one of my best tracks, or our best tracks in the past, which is this place,” Kenseth said. “We were (37th) in the first practice and 40th in the second, and that’s as fast as I can go.”

Kenseth said he has offered suggestions to team executives.

“We all have our different ideas and theories, or whatever, and the people that run the place don’t like mine,” Kenseth said. “So we’ll just keep going the way we’re going and hope it gets sorted out.”

FORMULA ONE: Sebastian Vettel claimed his fifth pole position of the season, edging out Mark Webber in qualifying for today’s British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England.

Vettel, who won the Silverstone race last year from the pole, posted a fastest time of 1 minute, 29.615 seconds.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso qualified in third, 0.8 seconds off the pace. Points leader Lewis Hamilton was fourth.

BEECH RIDGE: Heavy rain forced the postponement of Saturday night’s PASS races at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway until next Saturday.

The PASS super late models are slated for 150 laps, a 40-lap feature for the PASS Mods and the speedway’s own Sport Series, Wildcat and Road Runner divisions. Post time is 6 p.m.