400 Preview and Picks to Win

Race: 400
Date: Saturday July 10th, 2010
Track: Chicagoland Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
Channel: TNT

After leaving a track with so much history, we are heading to a track with a rather short time on the NASCAR circuit. This weekend, Chicago takes center stage as we head into the 1.5 D-shaped oval. This track has only been with us on the Cup side since 2001, so we are hitting the 9 year mark right now. This track is a fan favorite and tends to bring out some new NASCAR fans since this city is so full of tourists.

This track boasts 18 degree banking in the turns and 11 degree banking on the frontstretch. The backstretch evens us out with 5 degrees of banking. The frontstretch is nothing to sneeze at coming in at 2400 feet with the backstretch slightly smaller at 1700 feet.

This track requires some good tires, so Goodyear better bring their best game. Tire wear is key here and so is debris. For some reason, this track causes a lot of stress on the tires. The debris in the top grooves could be a reason for that. Unlike Daytona last weekend, Chicago tends to have more issues with equipment and tires instead of the racing incidents that you see at the superspeedways with guys bumping each other down the straights.

There is still a pretty good speed element here because it’s a 1.5 mile track, but this is no Daytona. This track is a little trickier to figure out and to stay clean at. If the guys can get their pit strategies right from the get-go, that’s their best bet. Another issue here is rain. Call it what you will, but Chicago is no stranger to the rain.

The drivers that do well here are typically the Hendrick drivers, the Gibbs crew, and Kevin Harvick. With his win last weekend, Harvick has a pretty strong record going this year. Additionally, Harvick won the first two Cup races seen at Chicago. Kyle Busch is another driver to watch as with every week, and I also think that we are going to see strong runs from all 4 Hendrick drivers this weekend. Even Jr. is stepping up his game. Teammate Mark Martin is the defending winner here, so he’s going to be a competitor if he can stay out of trouble. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are also very strong contenders. Jimmie had a strong run before getting involved in a wreck at Daytona. Gordon almost had a win but was freight trained by Bowyer and Harvick in the closing laps.

This weekend, I think that I am going to have to pull for Jeff Gordon. I pick him and pick him, but I really think that this is a strong track for him. Gordon has been inching closer and closer to getting his win, and this could be his weekend. Other than Gordon, your top 5 and top 10 contenders are going to include Johnson, Martin, Kevin Harvick, both of the Busch brothers, and Carl Edwards. Edwards has struggled recently, but he has a strong record at this track. I think that he is going to have a solid weekend.
Here’s a recap of the points after Daytona:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kurt Busch
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kyle Busch
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Jeff Burton
9. Tony Stewart
10. Greg BIffle
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. Carl Edwards

It’s nice to see Jr. jump back into the top 12. There are a few chasers though, like Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer, who have jumped in and out of the top 12. Even Ryan Newman in 15th position is still a contender. There are only 50 or so points separating 12th through 15th.

Stay tuned for another exciting Saturday night race as we head to Chicagoland Speedway!