Driver Group Game Picks Chicago

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The Cup Series and the Xfinity Series will return to the streets of Chicago this weekend. The inaugural races in Chicago did not go as planned. Rain delayed the start of the Cup Series race and darkness caused the race to be ended sooner than expected. The teams headed into the race last year without any notes to work with. The race may have been a mess, but at least the teams know what to expect in their second trip to Chicago. I am expected a pretty exciting race in the Windy City this weekend. The Grant Park 165 can be seen Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

 

STRATEGY FOR CHICAGO

The Chicago Street Course race was really two different races last year. Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick and Shane van Gisbergen dominated the first two Stages. These drivers decided to short-pit to get enough fuel to reach the end of the race (lap 78). Some drivers stayed out (Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Justin Haley) and they were rewarded when NASCAR decided to shorten the race. We need to look at what happened in the race and not focus our picks on the stats from last year’s race. The drivers who ran up front in the first two Stages, should be good Sunday.

This is a good week to take a break from your top drivers in Group B and take a chance with the road course ringers in Group C. I will be using Tyler Reddick as an emergency backup plan and for qualifying points, but I really hope I do not need to use the No. 45 car in the race.

 

 

DRIVER GROUP GAME PICKS FOR CHICAGO

 

GROUP A DRIVERS

CHRISTOPHER BELL (6): Shane van Gisbergen got all of the praise for winning the Grant Park 165 last year, but I can make an argument that he wasn’t the best driver in the race. Bell qualified fourth, won both Stages and led 34 laps. Bell had a nine second lead over second place at one time in the race. That is crazy! The only thing that kept Bell from totally dominating the race in Chicago last year was NASCAR’s decision to shorten the race after Bell gave up all of his track position to pit for fuel. I look for Bell to dominated again Sunday.

KYLE LARSON (5): The only driver who could keep up with Christopher Bell in the first two Stages was Larson. He did not lead any laps (because Bell was so far ahead), but Larson had the second-best average running position in the first two Stages. The No. 5 team was also screwed by NASCAR’s decision to shorten the race. I am pretty sure I will use Bell in the race, so I will have Larson in the lineup for qualifying points and as a backup plan.

OTHER PICK: CHASE ELLIOTT (7): Elliott did not have a good race in Chicago last year, but he benefited from NASCAR’s decision to shorten the race and finished third. Elliott even said after the race, “We qualified horribly (26th), we had no speed in the first two Stages, but Alan (Gustafson) made the right calls and we were rewarded with a third-place finish.” I like Elliott this week because he said he is starting to figure out the feel he needs in the Gen-7 car on the road courses. Elliott finished fourth in Sonoma and he should run up front Sunday. You can use Elliott over Larson if you are afraid to use another allocation with the No. 5 car.

GROUP A RANKINGS: 1. CHRISTOPHER BELL, 2. KYLE LARSON, 3. CHASE ELLIOTT, 4.CHASE ELLIOTT, 5. MARTIN TRUEX JR., 6. WILLIAM BYRON, 7. RYAN BLANEY, 8. KYLE BUSCH

 

GROUP B DRIVERS

MICHAEL MCDOWELL (6): This is the week to use an allocation with McDowell. He looked really good in the streets of Chicago last year. McDowell qualified sixth, finished fifth in both Stages and finished seventh in the race. McDowell won on the road course in Indy last year and he finished second at Sonoma last month. He is no stranger to running up front on the road courses, so I plan to use an allocation with the No. 34 car Sunday.

CHRIS BUESCHER (8): Buescher has been the most consistent driver on the road courses. He has finished 11 of the last 12 road courses races in the top-10. Buescher looked lost last year at Chicago when the track was wet. He came to life when the track dried out and the race became a more traditional road course race. I am not sure Buescher will win Sunday, but he should extend his streak of top-10 finishes on the road courses.

TY GIBBS (4): Gibbs will be my backup plan for Chris Buescher. Gibbs is a really good road course racer. He started 12th, led one lap, finished ninth in Stage 1, sixth in Stage 2 and ninth in the race at Chicago last year. Gibbs also finished three of his last four road course races in the top-five. I hope to save an allocation with Gibbs Sunday, but I have a feeling he will be too fast in practice and qualifying for me to fade.

TYLER REDDICK (3): I am quickly running out of allocations with Reddick, but I can have him on the team for qualifying points and not lose an allocation as long as I keep the No. 45 car on the bench for the race. That is the plan this week. Reddick qualified second in the streets of Chicago last year. He should be fast again. I trust that I can get a start out of Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher or Ty Gibbs, so Reddick is on the team for bonus points.

OTHER PICK: DANIEL SUAREZ (9): Suarez said that the race through the streets of Chicago reminded him of his racing in Mexico. He showed last year that he can navigate this track. Suarez qualified fifth for the race, finished sixth in Stage 1, seventh in Stage 2, but was a victim of NASCAR’s decision to shorten the race and finished 27th. Suarez will be a good driver to use if you do not want to risk using an allocation with Tyler Reddick Sunday.

GROUP B RANKINGS: 1. TYLER REDDICK, 2. MICHAEL MCDOWELL, 3. TY GIBBS, 4. CHRIS BUESCHER, 5. DANIEL SUAREZ, 6. ROSS CHASTAIN, 7. AUSTIN CINDRIC, 8. JOEY LOGANO, 9. ALEX BOWMAN, 10. CHASE BRISCOE

 

 

GROUP C DRIVERS

SHANE VAN GISBERGEN (8): SVG will be in the No. 16 car for Kaulig Racing this weekend. He is back to defend his win last year. SVG really put on a show on the streets of Chicago last year. He has a lot of experience on these types of tracks and most of the Cup Series drivers were running a street course for the first time. I expect the competition to be much better in year two at Chicago, but SVG is still clearly the driver to beat Sunday.

AJ ALLMENDINGER (7): There is no doubt that Allmendinger is one of the best road course drivers in the field. He has a habit of wrecking some really good cars in these races, but Allmendinger is starting to become more consistent. He has finished his last four road course races in the top-four. That includes a trip to Victory Lane at the Charlotte Roval last year. Allmendinger was one of the best drivers at Chicago last year. I expect the No. 16 car to run in the top-10 again Sunday.

OTHER PICK: JUSTIN HALEY (9): The driver with the best chance to outrun Shane van Gisbergen in the final laps at Chicago last year was Haley. He qualified 37th, but he was really good once he got some track position. Haley led 23 laps and he took the lead from SVG with three laps to go. Haley could not hold off the road course ace and he finished second. Haley should be a good pick again Sunday.

GROUP C RANKINGS: 1. SHANE VAN GISBERGEN, 2. AJ ALLMENDINGER, 3. JUSTIN HALEY, 4. TODD GILLILAND, 5. NOAH GRAGSON

 

* Be sure to check back Sunday morning for my starting lineup.

 

 

XFINITY SERIES PICKS

* I know John H. Nemechek is going to start from the back. He should be able to make his way through the field with his fast car and pit strategy.

 

Good Luck This Weekend!

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