400 Preview and Picks – 2009

Race: 400
Date: Saturday July 11th, 2009
Track: Chicagoland Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
Channel: TNT

After a wild weekend at Daytona super speedway, we are headed to the intermediate track of Chicagoland. This track is a 1.5 mile D-shaped oval with 18 degree banking in the turns, 11 degrees on the frontstretch, and 5 degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch is where the speed happens as the drivers have 2400 feet of pavement, while the back stretch is a mere 1700 feet.

For some reason, this track has the personality of a short track. Although it’s only been around since 2000 and been raced on in the Cup series since 2001, drivers have managed to cause some of the greatest wrecks here. It’s can get pretty wild at Chicago for an intermediate track, especially this weekend as we see the continuation of NASCAR’s new double-file restart policy.


Kyle Busch is the defending winner at this track, starting from the pole position last year. Other winners include 2-timer Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Ryan Newman, and another 2-time Kevin Harvick. It doesn’t seem as though pole position is any big deal here though as Jr. won from 25th position and Harvick even won from 32nd starting position.

What will drivers have to contend with this weekend? If anything, their biggest enemy isn’t going to be fuel mileage, tires, or even pit strategy. It’s going to be Tony Stewart, who seems to have become the new Jimmie Johnson of the series. Stewart has won twice this year, dominating the points and dominating a good part of the racing this year. Another driver they are going to have to watch for is Matt Kenseth. He has led the most laps at Chicagoland of any non-winner here. I think that he could be a force to be reckoned with this weekend.

It’s so hard to pick a winner for this weekend because I’m stuck. I hate picking the same person from week to week, but how do you not go with 2-time Chicago winner, current points leader, and last week’s winner Tony Stewart? It seems like the safe choice, yes, but it also seems like the most logical choice. Stewart’s team has nailed their pit stops, picked their strategies perfectly, and Stewart has driven a heck of a race nearly every single weekend. He’s just that good right now. I picked him to win last weekend and he did, so I’m going with my boy Stewart again this weekend. This is a great track for him and a great year for him.

The other drivers that you should look out for are Matt Kenseth of course, Gordon, and Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman. Although Newman has yet to really outshine Stewart at all this year, being his teammate certainly hasn’t hurt him. Newman has won here before and is running consistently well as a member of Stewart-Haas racing this season. I’d look for him to be solid.

Someone else that you can always count on to see up front is Kyle Busch, but as we saw last weekend, Busch is unpredictable. He doesn’t quite have his head on straight yet and has been very inconsistent as of late. He should take this weekend as an opportunity to drive with a brain and make some smarter choices instead of throwing everything out the window. There’s always time for that when we get to the Chase. Busch has to get there firstin one piece.

Here’s a recap of your current top 12 in the points after Daytona:

1. Tony Stewart
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kurt Busch
5. Carl Edwards
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Ryan Newman
8. Kyle Busch
9. Greg Biffle
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Juan Montoya
12. Kasey Kahne

There’s only 156 points between 11th and 16th place right now. That may seem like a lot, but as we’ve seen, all it really takes is for someone to have one really bad week and they’re out of the top 12. Those bubble drivers need to get some consistency going as we head into the closing races before the Chase. Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, and Clint Bowyer are some of the best in the business, but their struggles have pushed them out of championship contention. Let’s see how Chicago treats them as they battle for the win and the points this weekend!