Why stray from JJ?
When the week began, championship frontrunners Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth sat atop the driver rankings for the Chase opener at Chicagoland. After both drivers qualified in the top 10 and posted solid teams in practice, the two hold on to the top two spots heading into Sunday's GEICO 400. In fact, the entire top five from the start of the week remains intact.
While the top five drivers in the rankings remain the same, several drivers jump up into the top 10, including Joey Logano. He followed up a pole-winning run Friday with solid practice times Saturday, and he rolls into Sunday's race having scored the most points in the series over the past seven races. Logano also notched a career-best seventh-place finish at Chicagoland last year, and he could improve on that result this weekend.
Jeff Gordon also vaults into the top 10 of the final driver rankings, and he appears to be ready to make the most of his late inclusion in the Chase. He qualified sixth for Sunday's race, and he was impressive on the practice sheets Saturday. Meanwhile, Gordon has eight finishes of 11th or better in 12 starts at Chicagoland, including six finishes of fourth or better.
Outside of the top 10, Martin Truex Jr. is one driver that deserves heavy consideration, especially from owners that can afford to play it safe. He qualified 14th and has practiced in the top 15 throughout the weekend. In addition, Truex has finished in the top 10 in all six races at 1.5-mile tracks this year and has scored the most points of any driver in those events. Truex isn't the best pick for owners looking for a win this weekend, but he should be one of the safer options.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper this weekend have plenty of options as A.J. Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all crack the top 20 in the final rankings. Allmendinger qualified in the top 15 and has finished in the top 15 in three of his four starts at Chicagoland. He has also finished in the top 15 in his last three starts with JTG Daugherty Racing this season. Meanwhile, Montoya qualified a strong third and has five top-20s in six previous starts at the track. Stenhouse also qualified in the top five for Sunday's race, and the rookie enters the event in the middle of his best stretch of the year with top-20 finishes in five straight starts.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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