Race: GEICO 400
Date: Sunday September 16, 2012
Track: Chicagoland Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
What a wild Saturday night Richmond turned out to be! I guess I better ask if everyone has caught up on their sleep since the race really didn’t end until well into Sunday morning! Richmond proved to be awesome and proved that it comes down to the last laps before we know the final Chase contestants. We knew it would be close, but there was no telling that Gordon was going to have such a comeback and that Busch would end up struggling late in the race.
Jeff Gordon ended up getting the last spot in the Chase while Kyle Busch fell out after what was looking like an initially disastrous night for Gordon. Props to the 24 team for wrenching that car until the very last moments and giving Jeff an opportunity to drive back to a 2nd place finish after being a lap down at one time. Kyle Busch ended up in 16th one lap down.
This Sunday, we start the Chase. These are the last 10 races of the season until we close it out for the year.
Chicago is where we will begin. This track is an intermediate track at 1.5 miles. It is a true D-shaped oval with 18 degrees in the turn, 11 degrees on the straights, and 5 degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch boasts 2400 feet, while the backstretch comes in at 1700. This track is a fast track and one that is liked by most drivers. It’s pretty standard and nothing too out of the ordinary actually.
When we take a look at the historical winners here, we see that Tony Stewart is the defending champ at Chicago. He actually has multiple wins along with Kevin Harvick.
The one interesting point about this track is that it doesn’t have a long history. It just started hosting Cup races in 2001, and there’s only 1 race a year here. That being said, I think that we will stick with Tony Stewart as the winner this year. He went into the Chase last year and won nearly everything. He had a good car for at Richmond for a good part of the race before things went a little awry for him. He is going to carry some momentum into this race though.
Jeff Gordon is one to watch as well. He is going to have a car full of adrenaline after getting into the Chase by the skin of his teeth. He wants this championship more than ever in my opinion. He’s got a win here and definitely wants to add to that. He said after Richmond that they were going hard for the championship. I’d believe that from his team! Here’s a complete rundown of your potential winners for Chicago:
My Pick to Win: Tony Stewart
Middle of the Road Pick: Paul Menard
Dark Horse Pick: Marcos Ambrose
Ambrose came home with a top 15 finish. He’s getting stronger and stronger and constantly hanging in there with the top pack. although Paul Menard has struggled, Chicago is the type of track that their team tends to excel on. The intermediate and faster tracks are more home to him than the short tracks.
This week, we start with an entirely new points lineup also as the top 10 are reset according to wins throughout the regular season. Here’s a look at your current top 12 drivers in the Chase and where they are starting off in this battle:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Tony Stewart
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Greg Biffle
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Jeff Gordon
As you can see, there’s a huge difference from where these guys were last weekend before the race and now after their runs at Richmond. Resetting due to wins really switched it up. Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon have a lot of ground to make up because they are the wildcard guys. Those guys are cemented into 11th and 12th despite any wins during the season. But, heck, I’m sure they are happy to have the opportunity to run.
This weekend will really be interesting to see the style of racing and the strategy for the guys driving for the championship. We are really going to have an opportunity to see who’s going to risk it all and who’s going to play it safe, at least at the beginning of the Chase. Stay tuned for Sunday’s start to the Chase for the Sprint Cup!
Good luck with your Geico 500 picks!