If it’s not feeling like summer yet to you, congrats for the cooler temps, but the Midwest is on fire this week with nearly 100-temps all over the map including in Chicago. A hot, old, bumpy, slick surface is a recipe for exciting racing even with the 550-horsepower, aero ducts package in place. Chicago is a track that, even though it’s a 1.5-mile track, is different than other intermediate tracks due to the racing grooves you can use as a driver and the surface of the track not being newly repaved like most of the other tracks of this size. It’s also one of the newer tracks on the Cup schedule as it opened and hosted the first race in 2001. In those 18 races, the pole sitter has only one once, Kyle Busch in 2008, while 13 different starting spots have notched a winner, only five in the top-10 and as far back as 32nd.

Another thing that sets this track apart from others of this type is that laps led dominators are tough to find in the track history. There are only a few races in the last 10 that have seen a single driver going over 100 laps led in a race despite there being 267 laps in the scheduled distance. Position differential is a key stat to pay attention to this week especially with it being an impound race and qualifying spots being forfeited if the car fails tech the first time on Sunday.

Pit road might play big role on Sunday as there have been 27 pit road speeding penalities in the last three years including eight last year by seven different drivers.

Check out the rest of the Track Breakdown, Practice Notes, and listen to the Podcast for some other tidbits and strategy notes on the race. You will also need to pay attention to the NASCAR chat Sunday prior to the race for adjustments to qualifying spots.

Prop Bet Challenge

  1. Will a different driver win Stage 1, Stage 2, and the race? I’m trying to read this correctly. To say “yes” would mean that three different drivers would win the three different stages. It seems safe to say YES which is the route I’ll take. Matt mentioned how difficult it is for someone to truly dominate this race and I’ll apply that to the stage aspect as well and pray for a diverse group of stage winners.
  2. O/U 17.5 lead changes? I’m going to take the OVER actually. Matt mentioned on the podcast and the Playbook how it’s rare to find a true laps led dominator going for over 100 laps led. I think there will be a lot of movement. Asking for 18 lead changes is a lot, but I’m hoping for a lot of movement on Sunday.
  3. Will Sunday’s winner start inside the top five? This may change as we approach the race because it’s an impound race and with tech inspection coming in the morning, it’s possible we see some qualifying spots being forfeited. The current top five are Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemric, Jimmie Johnson, and Kurt Busch. I don’t believe any of them win this race so if that top five were to hold then I’m saying “no,” but we’ll see how things shake up after tech.
  4. O/U 35.5 race points for Kyle Larson? I’ll take the OVER. Larson was an obvious fade last week in Sonoma, but this track caters to his style of racing and where he prefers to run his car. I expect Larson to have a nice bounce back performance and get at least 36 race points.
  5. Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott will each have the best finish for their organizations? Again this is one I’d like to wait and see for tech inspection. Off the top of my head I’ll say YES. Harvick hasn’t won yet this year, but he’s looked decent lately and he could still finish better than Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez, and Clint Bowyer. The same can be said for Elliott who would need to beat out Jimmie Johnson, William Byron, and Alex Bowman. Right now I’ll say yes, but this could change in the morning.
  6. O/U 2.5 drivers lead 35 laps? With 267 laps on the docket I’m pretty sure three drivers can lead 35 laps. If this was more like 50-60 laps I’d be less confident. Matt isn’t too confident in any particular driver leading more than 100, but 35 is a reasonable expectation so I’ll take the over.
  7. Which driver scores more points in the race? Blaney or Erik Jones? Blaney was cold for a while heading into the All-Star race, but he has four straight finishes in the top 13. Blaney has a top five finish and three top 20 finishes at Chicago while Jones has one top ten in a pair of races. I’m going to take Ryan Blaney based on his personal history, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jones performed well here based on the fact Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota cars have a great history at Chicago.
  8. O/U 33.5 stage points for Joe Gibbs Racing? Give me the OVER. Joe Gibbs Racing and those Toyotas have a great history at Chicago so 33.5 seems like an easy read. Based on qualifying the Toyotas will have to move up through the field, but when you’ve got drivers like Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones on your team, 34 stage points seems easy.
  9. Which Richard Childress Racing driver will finish higher? Austin Dillon or Daniel Hemric? Dillon won the pole and Hemric will be starting third. I fully expect Dillon to just go backwards in this race and Hemric has looked solid lately and has a good history at the track from the Xfinity series. I’m going to guy with my guy, Daniel Hemric.
  10. O/U 16.5 lead lap finishers? I’m taking the UNDER for this one. 267 laps could put a lot of guys down, which is a nightmare for DFS. But with the excess laps, the wear and tear on the tires, the potential pit road penalties, I’m assuming there will be mayhem at Chicago and I don’t believe 17 guys finish on the lead lap.
(Max 3)