Chicagoland 400 Preview

As we head to the Windy City, NBC will take over the reigns for the final 20 races of 2018, and we’ll finally get to see Dale Jr’s color commentary debut behind the microphone. In the spirit of also keeping things fresh, I figure it’s a good time to change my coverage too. Going forward, I will not be profiling Truex, Harvick, or Kyle Busch in these posts anymore. Between author and reader alike, it’s probably a waste of time regurgitating the obvious. Instead, I want to focus on the next-bests, and hopefully highlight someone who might otherwise gets screwed over that week.

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses”
Hit it.


Somewhere near a farm in Joliet, Illinois is Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5 mile tri-oval, and the epitome of 21st century, metropolitan marketing for NASCAR (we will never forget you Rockingham and Wilkesboro!). Whatever, there’s a sharp edge on both sides of the sport growing sword. Anyway, Chicago is one of those unique tracks of it’s own shape and configuration, but most closely resembles Kansas, Las Vegas, and Kentucky. There are 18 degrees of banking in each of the four turns, which is about average for an intermediate track. However, because of the unique design, no part of the track is truly straight, not even the backstretch. Okay okay, pit road is straight, but that’s about it.


This section is less about prognostication, and more about highlighting drivers catching my eye at a given moment. We all play in different formats and have different strategies, but hopefully this adds some value to your results. Harvick, Truex, and Kyle Busch have been purposely omitted because they are obvious options each week. Good luck!

THE DOWNFORCE (start ’em)

Chase Elliott (Pit Stall Rating 502.40, 1st) – Another limited resume spot for Chase with only 2 starts here, but both were in the top-3 with an average loop rating of 125.6 (best among active drivers). Chase looked good for most of the day at Sonoma en route to a 49 point gathering, so let’s see if he can build upon the momentum here.

Brad Keselowski (Pit Stall Rating 201.30, 2nd) – Brad is a two-time winner at Chicagoland. He has averaged 35 pts/start on the intermediates this season, and has a career top-5 percentage of 44% in 9 attempts at Chicagoland. Even better, his top-10 percentage of 78% is the highest for him at any venue on the schedule.

Denny Hamlin (Pit Stall Rating 98.80, 10th) – Denny has a couple clunkers tarnishing his stats over the last 7 seasons, but his last 4 races have been exceptional, averaging a finish of 4.3 (2nd) and a loop rating of 106.8 (5th). He won this race 3 years ago and would love to solidify his playoff hopes by getting back to victory circle this weekend.

Joey Logano (Pit Stall Rating 90.09, 11th) – 5 of the last 6 races for this #22 team have finished in 7th place or better, including a runner-up effort as recently as 2016. Joey has averaged 38 points per start on these 1.5 milers this season, which ranks 3rd in the series.

Kyle Larson (Pit Stall Rating 116.99, 5th) – Also with 38 avg points/start on intermediate tracks this year, Kyle Larson. Kyle has finished 3 of his 4 Chicagoland attempts in the top-10, and half of them in the top-5. He came home 14th last weekend after winning the pole, but this is a good place for him to get reacquainted with success.

THE DRAFT (dark horse)

Ryan Blaney (Pit Stall Rating 116.67, 6th) – Like Chase Elliott, Ryan only has two career starts at Chicagoland, finishing 4th in 2016 and 11th in last year’s race. He’s been too much of a wildcard on the intermediates this year to rank in my top five; some of which was his fault, and other times just bad luck. However, this is as good of time as any to spot-start the #12 to try and save a big name. I really give Blaney a hard look whenever both Logano and Keselowski receive top billing, hoping his teammates might share a little knowledge with him.

THE DRAG (use caution)

Paul Menard (Pit Stall Rating 36.16, 18th) – I usually try to throw a big name in here. You know, to be edgy and whatnot (aka “wrong”), but nobody sticks out at me very much this week. Thus, like every other week outside of the plate tracks, use caution with Paul Menard.


2.5, #9 Chase Elliott (2 races)
5.4, #2 Brad Keselowski
7.5, #12 Ryan Blaney (2 races)
8.2, #18 Kyle Busch
8.3, #42 Kyle Larson (4 races)


125.6, #9 Chase Elliott
120.1 #18 Kyle Busch
108.7, #2 Brad Keselowski
107.9, #48 Jimmie Johnson
105.9, #78 Martin Truex Jr.

2018 MOMENTUM (last 5 overall races this season)

46.0, #18 Kyle Busch
41.2, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
39.6, #4 Kevin Harvick
37.8, #2 Brad Keselowski
37.0, #42 Kyle Larson

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