Chicagoland Camping World 400
Sunday’s Camping World 400 is the 17th race of the 2019 season meaning there are only 10 races left in the regular season. Things are going to be getting tight among the drivers trying to make the 16 driver playoff field. Last year’s great Chicagoland finish featured Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson making contact with the wall and each other several times before Busch finally took the checkered flag. Busch has four wins in 2019, and is looking forward to Chicagoland for a shot at back-to-back victories. “Chicago is all about being good at the start, but also good in the long run since tire longevity is a big deal there,” said Busch, a two-time winner at the track. Despite Busch’s recent win, he’s not the hottest driver here. Truex has won 2 of the last 3 Chicagoland events, and Hamlin has finished in the top 7 in five straight races.
Keselowski, Menard, and Newman participated in tire tests here earlier in the year, and the drivers are using a new tire setup based on those tests. Kyle Busch is the only driver to have won from the pole, while 3 of the last 5 winners have started 15th or farther back.
Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5-mile D-shaped tri-oval speedway located in Joliet, Illinois. Banking is 18 degrees in the turns, 11 degrees on the frontstretch and 5 degrees on the backstretch. The first Nascar Series race here was in 2001, and was won by Kevin Harvick. The Chicagoland race will feature the 2019 base rules package that has been run at other intermediate tracks this season with a tapered spacer and expected horsepower of about 550. Cars will have aero ducts this weekend as well.
Past Chicagoland winners entered this week are Harvick (2), Kyle Busch (2), Truex (2), and Keselowski (2). Newman and Hamlin have one each. Johnson (519), and Kyle Busch (406) are the all time lap leaders at Chicagoland Speedway. Harvick, Keselowski, and Truex are each just shy of 200 laps led. As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.
Suarez has been a great play of late. His results have been steadily improving to the point he has to be considered on a weekly basis depending on his salary and starting position. At Chicagoland, Suarez has had two starts and has a combined average finish of 11.5. Atlanta is a similar track and Suarez finished 10th there. Suarez’ 10 lap average was right there just inside the top ten in happy hour. He slipped in qualifying and starts 29th, making him easily the best value on the slate.
Buescher is having a breakout year. In the last two races at intermediate tracks, he has back to back top ten finishes. Across all five combined races at intermediate tracks this season he has a 12.6 average finish and a 16.6 average running position. At Chicagoland, Buescher has three starts and all of his results are in the twenties, but that was before this season’s breakout. He’s certainly mid-teens good and possibly better this year. He starts 28th, and rates as the second best value on the slate.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex will be a heavy favorite at Chicagoland. He’s the most recent winner on an intermediate track in 2019, and at Chicagoland he’s won 2 of the last 3 races. Over the last three combined races here he has the best driver rating and a 2nd place average finish. Last year, Truex started in the back and drove to a 4th place finish. In 2017, Truex raced his way to victory lane despite numerous incidents throughout the event. He led 77 laps along the way. Truex has won 4 of the last 8 races this year and his odds of adding to that total at Chicagoland this weekend are fantastic. Truex didn’t do much in practice, but he’s Martin Truex Jr. and you can count on him finding his way to the front from his 18th starting spot when the green flag drops on Sunday.
Almirola is strong on intermediate tracks and could surprise at Chicagoland. Last year he had one of the best cars here. His final results here haven’t been good but he’s run much better than the results indicate. He could be a fantastic sleeper at Chicagoland. He led 70 laps last year, but a loose wheel cost him an extra pit stop and took him out of contention. In years prior to that, he wasn’t in his current competitive situation. Over the combined races on this track type in 2019, he has a 7.4 average finish and a 12.0 average running position. Almirola starts 15th and if he runs top ten he hits value. If he gets to his average, he’s high side value. I’m buying at his salary.
The younger Busch is the defending champion at Chicagoland. He’s finished 9th or better in 6 of the last 7 races while leading 399 laps in those six races. Last year, when the checkered flag waved he finished 1st, earned the 3rd best driver rating, and led 59 laps. In 2017, Busch started on the pole and led 85 of the first 87 laps. On lap 97 he made an unexpected pit stop because of a loose wheel and suffered a pit road violation at the same time resulting in a disappointing 15th place finish. In 2016 he finished 8th, had a 7th place average running position, and led 21 laps. Despite struggling with handling in happy hour, he posted the 6th best 10 lap average. Busch starts 17th and is listed as a mover this week. Toss in dominator points and a solid chance of winning and he’s an exceptional play. Just be wary of the sacrifices necessary to fit him into a roster.
Hamlin is a former Chicagoland winner, and over the last five races here he has a series best 4.8 average finish while placing in the top seven every race. Last year, despite starting near the back, Hamlin finished 7th. In 2017, when the checkered flag waved he finished 4th. In 2016 Hamlin finished 6th. In 2015 Hamlin drove to victory. He won by way of pit strategy and a great restart. There isn’t a much better cash play this week than Hamlin within his price range. Many observers in the garage felt Hamlin had the best car in practice this week…I agree. He rolls off just inside the top ten but there’s room for positional gain and dominator points.
Logano has been one of 2019’s best drivers at intermediate tracks this year. Over the last five races at Chicagoland, he’s finished 8th or better in every race, and has a 5.4 average finish. Last year at Chicagoland, Logano finished 8th. In 2017 he finished 7th. In 2016 Logano finished runner-up and he had a 6th place average running position. In the two Chicagoland races prior to that he finished 4th and 6th. Logano finished 1st and 2nd in the last two intermediate races this year. Logano impressed in both practices, showing good single and 10 lap average speeds. Logano qualified 19th and is a sure bet to find his way to front by the time the checkered flag waves on Sunday.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Special Mention)
I normally wouldn’t expect too much out of Stenhouse at Chicagoland based on past history, but he could surprise. It hasn’t been one of his better tracks and his average finish here is 18.2. However, he’s run better on intermediate tracks this year and could do marginally better than history suggests this week. In 2019 at races on this track type he has an 11.2 average finish and an 11.6 average running position. He rolls off 26th and if he comes even remotely close to his 2019 averages, he’ll easily pay off salary while providing a measure of salary-relief at the same time.
Other drivers I like are Harvick (he’s going to win sooner or later and this might be the week – with his dominator potential, he’s a solid play), Elliott, Menard, Jones, and Keselowski.
Salary-savers this week are Buescher, Stenhouse, Lajoie, DiBenedetto, and Ragan.
Dominator potentials this week are Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Truex.
Movers this week are Suarez, Truex, Kyle Busch, Buescher, and Logano.
Fades for me this week are Austin Dillon (he was a fade before he won the pole, which iced it), McDowell, and Hemric.
My pick to win the race this week is Denny Hamlin. He’s impressed everyone in practice all week, including his peers.
Noteworthy – Check with us in chat on Sunday after inspections are completed as any failures could dramatically change the landscape of values.NASCAR