Chicagoland Speedway features several grooves, allowing cars to race all over the racetrack. It is a sister track to Kansas, as the dimensions at both tracks are very similar. Chicagoland is fast with room for a lot of passing which can push an engine to its limit. Cars run high rpm, and engine failures can result. Passes, and therefore crashes, most frequently occur in Turn 2. Tire wear is minimal here, but tire strategy could come into play. With the race run in the midsummer, the track can get hot and slick, causing cars to slide and increasing the chance for accidents.
Location: Joliet, Ill.
Length: 1.50 miles
Shape: D-shaped oval
Banking: Turns 1-4 18 degrees; front stretch 11 degrees; back stretch 5 degrees
Table: Do not bench
Leading the pack
Ryan Newman | No. 12 Kodak Dodge | Penske Racing
Newman's past few races have not given him good finishes; it has been awhile since his win in the Daytona 500. Newman has just two top-fives and six top-10s so far. Unfortunately his form has dipped in the last five races. His average finish in that period is 23.6. He ranks 16th in Cup points - 185 points behind Tony Stewart, who is in the final Chase spot. At Chicagoland Speedway Newman's average finish in six starts is 18.8 with one win, two top-fives and three top-10s. His last start there, the 2007 USG Sheetrock 400, netted him a top-10 finish (eighth). Look for Newman to reinforce his status as a top qualifier as he tries to climb the points ladder into Chase contention.
Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Racing
Busch turned in two top-five finishes in his last two starts. He won the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 and came home fourth in the Coke Zero 400. Those finishes helped haul him to 17th position in points, 191 out of the Chase. Busch's best finish this season prior to his win was second in the Daytona 500 back in February. He went 15 races without a top-five finish and had just one top-10 during that span. Dodge and Penske South Racing have come on strong recently, which could be perfect timing for Busch since he has five top-10 finishes in his seven starts at Chicagoland. His average finish at the track is 15.7 despite recording top-10 results in his last three starts.
Clint Bowyer | No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Bowyer turned in a top-10 finish in the Coke Zero 400, and that finish, along with his top-five in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, seems to have ended his streak of poor results dating back to the Dodge Challenger 500. He is 10th in Cup points and has a very slim 14-point margin to the 12th and final Chase spot. In two starts at Chicagoland Speedway Bowyer has not finished worse than 10th. Even in four NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at the track, he only finished outside of the top 10 once. If he can continue his finishing streak at the track and bring home another top-10, he will help to book his ticket into the Chase.
Mark Martin | No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Martin will take over the No. 5 car at Hendrick Motorsports full-time in 2009. His impressive showings in the No. 8 car this season have definitely contributed to that deal. In just 13 starts this season Martin has earned two top-fives and six top-10s. His latest top-10 finish was in the Coke Zero 400, where he qualified second and ran strongly throughout the race. Martin may not be expecting to get into the Chase this season due to his part-time schedule, but he should be looking to gear up for a run at the Championship in 2009. He has three top-10s in seven career outings at Chicagoland, and there is no reason to think that he won't be strong this week.
Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing
After an impressive first half of the season Vickers is only 112 points out of the Chase. He scooped up three top-fives and four top-10s in the first 18 races of the season, leading 128 total laps. Vickers missed the 2007 USG Sheetrock when the Toyota teams struggled last season, but with a guaranteed starting position by being in the top 35 in points, Vickers is now aiming to make a run at the Chase. He has one top-five finish at Chicagoland and could use his Toyota power to bring home his fifth top-10 of the season in the LifeLock.com 400.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Biffle hit a slow patch starting with the Pocono 500. He hasn't had a top-five or top-10 since the Best Buy 400, five races ago. Biffle is currently sitting 11th in points and has been falling down the order with his recent poor results. Only 10 points separate him from those drivers not in a Chase position. At Chicagoland Biffle has finished 11th in his last three starts and 20th in his first two tries. Biffle will definitely be a driver to watch at Chicagoland as he will be trying to retain and improve his 11th-place points position while finally breaking into the top 10 at the track.
Reed Sorenson | No. 41 Target/Maxwell House Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing
Sorensen's short history at Chicagoland has produced very positive results with a seventh-place finish and a 12th-place result in the last two years, respectively. In an otherwise dull 2008 season, he showed signs of life by finishing sixth in the LENOX Industrial Tools 301, his first top-10 since he came in fifth in the Daytona 500. He laid his foundation at Chicagoland in the Nationwide Series, in which he has two top-10s and a 15th-place result there. His familiarity with the track could help him grab a top-10, but he's a dark horse at best.
Casey Mears | No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Mears has apparently been inspired by his newfound free agency for 2009; he ran off a top-five and a top-10 in two races before he disappointed at 34th in the Coke Zero 400. This could be a great week for him to rebound; he finished fifth in Joliet last year and has another top-10 in his last three Chicagoland races along with a 15th-place finish in 2004. Mears ranks 24th in the points standings - a whopping 427 points out of the Chase - but he has momentum going and could be a sneaky play this week in leagues with deep driver pools.
Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports
Kahne has been leading the charge in Gillett Evernham's reversal of fortunes lately. He started the ball rolling by winning the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 before rolling off another win, a top-five and a top-10 from the following six races. Kahne moved into the eighth points position with those results and is now making a strong run to make the Chase. Chicagoland might be a struggle for Kahne; he has not finished well there in the past. His average finish is 33rd in four starts at the track, and if he can come away with a decent finish in the LifeLock.com 400 he may be in a good position to be a Chase competitor. His recent success could negate his poor track history.
Martin Truex Jr. | No. 01 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Truex grabbed one top-five finish in his last five starts and has an average finish of 14.2 in the same period. With two top-fives and five top-10s so far this season Truex was 15th in points and 88 points away from 12th, until a 150-point penalty was assessed following the Coke Zero 400. Chicagoland hasn't been a happy hunting ground for him in his two career starts. His best finish at the track is 16th in the 2006 USG Sheetrock 400, but he did qualify second for the 2007 edition of the same race. Truex might be more aggressive this week in an attempt to make up for his recent point deduction. He's not an outstanding play, but his second-place qualification last year makes him an intriguing selection if you're running out of luck in pick leagues.