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ADAM ANSELL'S TOP 25 FOR CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson entered the 2010 season with six tracks he had yet to win at. He crossed Bristol Motor Speedway and Infineon Raceway off that list, and has a pretty good chance to knock Chicagoland Speedway off next. With five Top Fives, seven Top 10s and one pole in eight starts, he's done everything at the site but win. His Average Finish is 8.1 which ranks first among active drivers. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Johnson leads all competitors in Driver Rating (112.8), Average Running Position (7.3), Laps in the Top 15 (1,190) and Average Green Flag Speed (167.945 mph). He's led at least two laps in seven of his eight appearances at Joliet. Johnson, tied for the Series lead in wins (five) with Denny Hamlin, will press for wins down the stretch to secure the top spot once drivers are reseeded for the Chase.
2. Kevin Harvick: Up 212 points on second place, Harvick's 13-week reign atop the Sprint Cup Series standings has no end in sight; that is until the standings are reseeded for the Chase. If this were the case right now, Harvick (two wins) would find himself shuffled down to third. With eight races until this becomes a reality, closing the three-win gap seems a bit far-fetched, so Harvick will have focus his attention on distancing himself from the Busch brothers, who have two wins each. Harvick won the first two events at Joliet in 2001 and 2002. In addition, he has five Top Fives and six Top 10s. Three of those Top Fives have come in his last four starts at the site, with an Average Finish of 7.0. He ranks fifth in DR (106.8) and fourth in ARP (7.9). Harvick knows what's at stake, and will do everything in his power to get the win this weekend.
3. Tony Stewart: In nine starts at the site, Stewart has two wins (2004, 2007) and seven Top Fives. Despite winning one pole (2003), Stewart has an Average Start of 17th, so qualifying bonus points aren't a given. Whatever he lacks in the qualifying department he'll surely make up in laps led, leading at least one lap in seven of his nine Joliet starts, including at least one in his last four. He ranks second in DR (112.1), ARP (7.4), Laps in the Top 15 (1,183) and Average Green Flag Speed (167.891 mph). In his last three starts at Joliet, "Smoke" has one win, three Top Fives and an Average Finish of 3.3. Expect those numbers to carry over into the race on Saturday night.
4. Kasey Kahne: Kahne has three Top Fives in his last four Cup starts, and has finally found some consistency for the first time this season. He's been excellent at primary 1.5-mile intermediate tracks (Atlanta Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway) in 2010, with a 104.3 DR and a 10.8 ARP in those three events. Even though Chicagoland Speedway isn't a typical cookie-cutter track, and doesn't resemble the triumvirate of the three tracks listed above, it shows Kahne's crew knows how to set up the No. 9 Budweiser to compete on a 1.5-mile track. He finished third at the site in last year's event, his only finish higher than 15th in six starts. He ranks 22nd in DR (72.2) and ARP (21.2). Ignore the stats, drink the Kool-Aid and have some faith. Kahne will cash a Top Five this weekend.
5. Kurt Busch: Another 1.5-mile track master, Busch has two wins (Atlanta, Charlotte) and three Top Fives (fourth at Texas) this season. His 12th-ranked DR (86.8) and 10th-ranked ARP (13.4) at the site won't overwhelm Fantasy owners. Other than qualifying second in the 2002 event, his Average Start of 24.6 sure won't knock owners' socks off either. He has five Top 10s in nine starts at the site. Big picture, he's just 20 points behind the third-place Johnson in the Cup standings and he's tied for second with two wins amongst drivers in the Chase. Since the two drivers he's behind (Harvick and brother Kyle) are higher in the standings, Busch would be reseeded down to fifth. Look for him to buck the trends and take matters into his own hands at Joliet to the tune of a Top Five finish.
6. Jeff Gordon: Gordon now has just one win in his last 92 races. Don't put too much stock into this. He's second in the Cup standings, and is doing just fine with zero wins on the season thank you very much. In nine starts at the site, he has one win (2006), five Top Fives, six Top 10s and one pole. He's led at least six laps in four of his nine starts at Joliet. Gordon ranks seventh in DR (96.3) and ARP (11.2). He ranks eighth with 58 Fastest Laps Run and an Average Green Flag Speed of 167.036 mph. Gordon is the safest pick on the board, so Fantasy owners must decide what's more important to them; security or some uncertainty with a higher-ceiling for potential success. If playing it safe is your thing, Gordon's your guy.
7. Matt Kenseth: After a hot start to the season with an Average Finish of 5.4 in his first five starts, Kenseth has zero Top 10s in his last five races with an Average Finish of 18.6. In nine starts at the site, Kenseth has two Top Fives and four Top 10s. He ranks third in DR (107.8) and fifth in ARP (9.9). Since '05, Kenseth leads all drivers with 296 Laps Led and 156 Fastest Laps Run at the site. Seeing as he's led at least one lap in six of his nine starts, Kenseth is a good bet to make it seven of 10 and an even better bet his streak of non-Top 10 finishes this weekend.
8. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has an Average start of 7.8 and an Average Finish of 19.0 at Chicagoland Speedway. He collected his first Top Five at the site in last year's event, starting fourth and finishing fifth. He ranks 11th in DR (87.1) and 16th in ARP (17.7). Hamlin's never led a lap at the site, but don't let that deter you from starting him. He's in a battle for top spot in the Chase with Johnson, so he's not just points racing. If your league grants bonus points for qualifying, Hamlin is a quality start that will present value in Tiered/Grouping formats due to poor past performances.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt Jr. jumped two spots into 11th in the Cup standings with his fourth-place performance at Daytona, and you better believe he wants to stay in the Top 12. In nine starts at the site, he has one win (2005), two Top Fives and three Top 10s, but none in the past three years. In fact, over his past three starts at Chicagoland Speedway, he has an Average Start of 6.6, but an Average Finish of 16.6 with just two laps led. He ranks eighth in DR (94.0) and ARP (11.6). The pressures of staying in the Top 12 won't get to "Junior", and he'll rekindle some of that past success at Joliet this weekend. Expect a quality race out of him this weekend.
10. Kyle Busch: In five starts at Chicagoland, Busch has one win (2008), two Top Fives and one pole, but his inconsistency at the site is maddening. In the 2006 and 2008 events, Busch had an Average Finish of 2.0, collecting both of his Top Fives with 167 Laps Led. In the 2005, 2007 and 2009 events, Busch had an Average Finish of 20.0 with two Top 15s and zero laps led. Busch has compiled some impressive Loop Data at the site, with a 104.6 DR (sixth) and 10.2 ARP (10.2), but the stats don't always tell the story. It comes down to which Busch you think will show up at Joliet. There are far safer options in Tiered/Grouping formats, but if you're looking to go for the glory, look no further than Busch.
11. Greg Biffle: One Top Five and 77 Laps Led in seven starts at the site. 89.8 DR.
12. Clint Bowyer: Three Top 10s in four starts at the site, but has never qualified higher than fifth. 86.4 DR.
13. Jeff Burton: One Top Five, three Top 10s and one pole in nine starts at the site. 76.3 DR.
14. Ryan Newman: One win (2003), two Top Fives, five Top 10s and one pole in eight starts at the site. 78.7 DR.
15. Juan Pablo Montoya: One Top 10 and an Average Finish of 14.3 in three starts at the site. 69.2 DR.
16. Carl Edwards: 83.9 DR.
17. David Reutimann: 72.1.
18. Mark Martin: 93.0.
19. Marcos Ambrose: 80.5.
20. A.J. Allmendinger: 79.5.
21. Reed Sorenson
22. Scott Speed
23. Martin Truex Jr.
24. Brad Keselowski
25. Jamie McMurray
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