The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes a stop at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, and after being able to get a little creative with our season-long Fantasy NASCAR lineups for last weekend’s road course race at Sonoma, it will be back to the basics for Sunday’s Camping World 400.
Chicagoland is the sixth mile-and-a-half track the series has visited in 2019, and despite the new rules being used this year, the top drivers and top teams have continued to flex their muscles at these intermediate ovals. Heading into Sunday’s race, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch ranked first through eighth in points scored at the 1.5-mile ovals. Heard of any of those guys before?
I’m all for allocating starts and thinking about the big picture in the Fantasy Live and Driver Group Game contests, but Chicagoland probably isn’t the track where you want to go overboard with sleeper picks. Starts from the top options are the most valuable commodity in these contests, and since the big names tend to be both reliable and an excellent source of stage points at these mile-and-a-half tracks, it only makes sense to load up your lineups.
I’ll also lean on bigger names for the Slingshot contest. Obviously, any strong option who also has a decent amount of place differential points available gets a boost in value. However, I’d rather give up a few differential points to roster a bigger name than roll the dice on a mid-level driver just because they qualified deeper in the field. Stage points and strong finishes have plenty of value in their own right.
Don’t forget that NASCAR’s schedule this weekend has inspection scheduled for Sunday morning after qualifying. This means that any driver who fails will have their qualifying time disallowed and be scored from the rear. This could have huge ramifications in all contests, especially Slingshot Fantasy Auto.
Make sure to check back Sunday for any updates, and you can always reach out to me on Twitter at @BPolking with any specific questions. In the meantime, take a closer look at my preliminary Fantasy NASCAR lineups for the Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Busch is a great option at any track, but with five starts left for him and 10 races to go, I think this is a good spot to use one up. He is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and he has been at the front of the field at Chicagoland a lot recently, leading 20-plus laps in each of his last six starts. Yes, he starts back in 17th, but the Joe Gibbs Racing cars are set up for the race. Plus, Busch has earned points in eight of the 11 stages at 1.5-mile tracks this year, finishing in the Top 5 in five of those stages. He should work his way to the front in short order.
Martin Truex Jr.
Chicagoland has been one of his strongest tracks lately, and after winning here in both 2016 and 2017, Truex finished fourth in last year’s race while finishing third and fourth in the two stages. He rolls off 18th, but again, JGR decided to focus on a race setup. I expect him to power towards the front and continue his dominance at Chicagoland.
Elliott has been coming on strong in general lately, and his performances at the mile-and-a-half tracks have followed suit. He has led at least 35 laps in each of the last three races, picking up Top 5s at Kansas and Charlotte. He has earned stage points in eight of the 11 stages at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, finishing fourth or better in five straight stages. Elliott has also finished in the Top 3 in two of his three starts at Chicagoland, and starting 13th, he won’t have far to go to start piling up more stage points Sunday.
Normally a little to hit and miss for my taste, Hamlin has been a consistent source of stage points at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, earning points in seven of the 11 stages in the five races and logging five Top 5 stage finishes. He has also been reliable at Chicagoland, notching five straight finishes of seventh or better. Hamlin qualified ninth, which is even more impressive when you consider JGR’s focus on race trim. He could be headed for a big point total.
Bowman has been on a roll in recent weeks, and the last two times the series visited a 1.5-mile track, he led laps and finished in the Top 10. In fact, he nearly won at Kansas. He has also finished in the Top 10 in both of his starts at Chicagoland in the No. 88, and he grabbed a Top 10 starting spot with a car that was fast throughout practice. I think he can provide some stage points and potentially challenge for a Top 5.
Garage Driver – Jimmie Johnson
He has fond a little speed at the mile-and-a-half tracks lately, reeling off three straight Top 10s coming into Sunday’s race. Johnson kept the momentum going in qualifying with a fourth-place effort, and he has been happy with his car all weekend, posting great long-run speeds. It has been a while since he has delivered a dominant run, but if Johnson can hang near the front and earn some stage points, I can swap him in and save a start from one of the bigger names in my lineup.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
I debated between Truex and his teammate, Kyle Busch, but with both drivers starting outside the Top 15, I opted for Truex. Yes, Busch won here last year, but Truex has two wins and a fourth-place finish in the last three races at Chicagoland. He also has a little more momentum, and he won the most recent race at a 1.5-mile oval, picking up a victory at Charlotte.
Aric Almirola (B)
He’s been the model of consistency at the 1.5-mile tracks since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, and in the five races this year, Almirola has a 9.0 average finish and hasn’t finished outside the Top 12. He also had an excellent run at Chicagoland last year, leading 70 laps early before dealing with some loose wheels. Almirola qualified 15th, and his overall safe floor combined with the upside he showed here last year makes him an easy choice this weekend.
Erik Jones (B)
I thought long and hard about using Denny Hamlin this weekend, but if I am going to maximize Jones’ value, I think I need to use him heavily at the 1.5-mile ovals. Throw out his tire issue at Charlotte, and he has three Top 10s and a 6.8 average finish in his other four starts. He also finished sixth at Chicagoland last year. Like most of his JGR teammates, he is starting in the middle of the pack, but expect him to have his typical Top 10 speed in the race.
Chris Buescher (C)
I have been saving my starts for Buescher for the next 1.5-mile track, and it’s time to take advantage. He has cracked the Top 20 in all five races at mile-and-a-half ovals this year, logging three Top 10s and posting a 12.6 average finish. I know he starts way back in 28th, but that has been the trend with Buescher at the mile-and-a-half tracks all year. When that green flag drops, he comes to the front.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Joey Logano ($11,900)
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are going to be great plays, but Logano has been a steady Top 5 performer all year. He is also a lot cheaper and basically has the same upside in the place differential category. I’m going to hope that my balanced lineup ends up outscoring a lineup led by Busch and Truex.
Erik Jones ($10,800)
His salary helps me build a balanced lineup, and Jones has three Top 10s and a pair of Top 5s in the five races at 1.5-mile ovals this year. No, he isn’t anywhere close to being as safe of a play as Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr., but Jones at least has similar upside at the 1.5-mile ovals and has plenty of differential points to earn in his own right.
Daniel Suarez ($10,500)
He completely missed it in qualifying and will start 29th, but with the other three Stewart-Haas Racing cars showing some muscle, I think Suarez will figure things out. After all, he has a 12.4 average finish in the five races at mile-and-a-half tracks this year, and if he can just approach that Sunday, he is going to put up a big score thanks to all the place differential points.
Paul Menard ($8,500)
Menard has back-to-back Top 15s at Chicagoland, and he has cracked the Top 15 in three of the five races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, finishing outside the Top 20 just once. After qualifying 25th, he has a legit chance to gain double-digit spots and plenty of differential points.
Chris Buescher ($8,000)
He has piled up place differential points at the 1.5-mile ovals all year, posting a 12.6 average finish in the five races while gaining an average of 10.6 spots per race. Buescher has gained at least eight spots in four of those five starts, and after qualifying back in 28th, he is positioned for another big point total.