Enjoy Illinois 300 Race Analysis & Picks

by | Jun 1, 2022 | nascar

Race: Enjoy Illinois 300 Presented by TicketSmarter
Date: Sunday June 5, 2022
Track: World Wide Technology Raceway
Time: 3:30pm ET
Channel: FS1

What Did We Learn From Last Weekend?

Well, if NASCAR wasn’t already feeling the pressure, they ought to be by now. The question that everyone wants answered is when will the tire woes end? Granted, we expect growing pains with a new car and a totally new setup. But we’re about halfway into this season, and it seems like they never stop. Some are blaming Goodyear, but is Goodyear really where the blame should fall? I think a lot of it has to do with the actual car itself, along with the tire. NASCAR was the body that developed the new tire with one lug nut and no inner liner. Goodyear is doing its best to come up with something durable based on those configurations, but is it feasible? Me thinks someone needs to go back to the drawing board. That being said, Denny Hamlin was not a victim of tire failure or any of the other melee this past Memorial Day weekend and managed to take home the win despite others’ misfortunes throughout the day. One of the biggest complaints other than tires was a result of the aero package (or lack thereof) in these new cars. Previously, the cars were pretty flat. With that setup, it was easier to keep the cars from getting loose on these bigger tracks. As we’ve seen over this season at the intermediate tracks, there are definitely a lot more drivers who aren’t able to hang on with even the slightest bump.

Kyle Larson was one of the unfortunate ones who experienced a lack of aero control on his car when Austin Dillon made a brilliant move to go four wide. While Larson was set to become the first repeat winner of the 600 since Jimmie Johnson in 2005, Dillon managed to get in the way, causing Larson to clip him and take out quite a few top contenders. This created another race extension, as the drivers were already battling an overtime situation. Previous to this particular incident, the race saw a 12-car wreck initiated by Ryan Blaney getting too low on the apron, wiping out 11 other cars to include Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch. Another big deal happened when Chris Buescher ended up on his roof after flipping a total of 5 times. Luckily, he walked away relatively unscathed, but if nothing else, this was just another testament to a potential issue across the board with these new cars. While many fans and even some drivers liked the excitement all of these crashes brought to the race, we can’t ignore the massive carnage and cost to the drivers and teams. Not only that, but safety has to be considered. With the lack of downforce and overall inability to keep these cars from spinning at the slightest bump, NASCAR might need to reevaluate the template moving forward in the grand scheme of things.

Where Are We Headed This Weekend?

This weekend will be another huge test for these new cars. Everyone can take a deep breath, though, as we move away from the bigger intermediate tracks for a minute. However, we’re heading to a brand new track for everyone. This track is short track and intermediate combination. We always consider anything in the 1.5-mile range intermediate and the 1 mile and under range a short track…so what do we call a 1.25-mile asphalt oval? I don’t know to be honest, but it should definitely be different than what we’re used to seeing. In all honesty, there’s been a reversal of action with these next-gen cars. With the short tracks usually producing the most exciting racing and the intermediates being a bit of a blah show, this year has proven to be the opposite. I wonder if this weird track length will give us a good balance. I mean, it’s possible, right?

Odds And Value Picks

This track is based out of Madison, Illinois, which is just east of St Louis, Missouri. It has 11 degrees of banking through the first two turns and 9 degrees in turns 3 and 4. Overall, this track is kind of like our oddball Lady in Black. Darlington and Illinois seem to share some similarities in track shape; however, this track in Illinois is definitely flatter than Darlington, which should produce some interesting racing. With more braking throughout the race, we might see more of a focus on the cars themselves and the setup. The guys that have a history of running well at Richmond and Phoenix will likely do well at a track like this. They are both relatively short flat tracks, and that will help give us a gauge on what to expect this weekend. Let’s take a look at your potential winners heading into the inaugural race in Illinois:

  • Favorite: Kyle Busch +800
  • Mid-Range Pick: Kevin Harvick +1600
  • Dark Horse: Austin Dillon +6000

Austin Dillon has been running well as of late. With the tenacity he showed in attempting to make a four-wide run for the lead last weekend, I see him running pretty aggressively at an inaugural race where everyone is pretty much on an even playing field. With some strong runs on short flat tracks, I think that Dillon has as good a shot as any at coming away with a win here. Kevin Harvick is another one to watch. Although no one has run here in the Cup Series before, Harvick has been here in both the truck and Xfinity series, actually winning in both. With his recent finishes consistently improving, he might have an advantage with his history at this place and knowing how to get to victory lane already. What he will have to do, though, is beat Kyle Busch. Busch is a master of these types of tracks. He’s shown in the last few weeks that he still has what it takes, although he is looking for another shot at the checkers. Being an inaugural race for the Series, an oddball configuration and length, and also just being who he is, Kyle Busch has all of the ingredients needed to come away with a victory on Sunday. He’s also looking to best his current situation in the points and gain every last one that he can. Let’s see where everyone stands after an excruciatingly long Coca-Cola 600:

  1. Ross Chastain
  2. Chase Elliott
  3. William Byron
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Joey Logano
  7. Ryan Blaney
  8. Alex Bowman
  9. Martin Truex Jr.
  10. Kyle Larson
  11. Chase Briscoe
  12. Kurt Briscoe
  13. Austin Cindric
  14. Tyler Reddick
  15. Christopher Bell
  16. Kevin Harvick

Harvick is hanging on…barely. The 600 helped him, and I think that this weekend will help him as well. Again, with his history here and also his previous wins in the other series, he’ll have a fighting chance of redeeming his 2022 season. There are going to be a lot of guys trying to do the same thing. With the ability to run a 50-minute practice session on Friday and back to regular qualifying on Saturday, it’s almost nostalgic at this point to see some pre-COVID tradition in how these guys can get set up for the race. With it being the first time for many of these drivers, I’m glad to see the opportunity to get some rubber on the asphalt before the race. Stay tuned for a great afternoon of racing at a brand new venue for these guys! This inaugural race is sure to be an exciting addition to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule!