Author Topic: Chicagoland  (Read 1865 times)


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« on: July 14, 2007, 05:22:22 PM »
This week we're off to ChiTown for a 400-miler at Chicagoland Speedway, another of the "cookie cutter" 1.5 mile tracks.  While it's true that the track is very similar to Kansas (and Vegas before the reconfiguration was done last season), I am perfectly fine with visiting the track once a year.  For those who hope for two-a-year there, don't hold your breath.  There are already 3 other races within close proximity to Chicago; two at Michigan and one at Indianapolis.

Thanks to the harsh winters, Chicagoland Speedway has turned into a multi-groove track in its short six year history.  Multiple grooves are great, as it allows drivers to move their cars around on the track to make passes, and to find speed.  This weekend should provide an entertaining race with good passing and cars running high, low, and in the middle.

In the past, we've seen all sorts of scenarios play out for the race winner at Chicago:

We saw race domination from the race winner with Kevin Harvick in 2001's inaugural race and again from Tony Stewart in 2004, where they led 113 and 160 laps, respectively, out of the 267 laps that were run.

Two-car Battle with a different winner
We've also seen two cars battle all race long, with Ryan Newman leading 87 laps and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leading 81 laps, but finishing 5th and 10th respectively (2002) after fading at the end of the race, while Kevin Harvick won his second Chicagoland race in a row.  Harvick is still the only repeat winner at the track.

Fuel Mileage
Then there was the 2005 race, where in the midst of a miserable season, and with an interim crew chief on top of the pit box, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. used fuel mileage to take a 20th place car to Victory Lane after leading only the final 11 laps.  The dominant car that day led 176 laps, but because of poor fuel mileage, Matt Kenseth could only get his #17 USG Sheetrock car back to second place.

Spin and Win
In 2006, Matt Kenseth again had the dominant car for most of the race, leading a race-high 112 laps.  With 27 laps to go (to the scheduled distance), Kenseth held a 3 second margin over 2nd place Jeff Gordon.  The problem for the #17 team though was that their car was fading, and fading fast.  Seven laps later, the lead had been cut in half, down to 1.503 seconds.  Two laps later, the lead was down under 1 second (0.978).  Three more laps (Lap 263 - four to go to the scheduled distance) and the lead had completely vanished.  Entering Turn 1, Gordon's #24 Dupont Chevrolet had a huge run on Kenseth.  Just the slightest tap, and the #17 was sent spinning into the infield grass, but hitting nothing.  On the ensuing restart, Gordon is the leader while Kenseth is in 8th.  Gordon went on to win the race after a Green-White-Checkers finish, while Kenseth would wind up with a demolished race car and a 22nd place finish after running out of fuel and, to add insult to injury, wrecking with David Stremme's #40 Coors Light machine.

I find it quite comical that most (all?) of the stories and videos you'll see this weekend always show Kenseth smashing the wall along with comments of Gordon wrecking him to win.  However, they never mention the fact that the spin off of Gordon's front bumper resulted in absolutely zero damage and left him in eighth place in the running order.  Nor do they ever mention that he ran out of fuel, and that it was David Stremme that destroyed Kenseth's car and left him with a poor finish.

With so many different scenarios playing out at Chicagoland in such a brief history, I see no reason why we should expect anything different this weekend.  So, let's get the second half of the season started off right!

Who to Watch
Who? #55, Michael Waltrip
Why? In six races, Waltrip has posted a 5th and a 9th place finish (2003, 2004).  He also has two 30-something finishes after being crashed out, but led in one of those two races.  Mikey is desperate for a good run, after qualifying for only his 4th race of the year.  He has shown that he knows how to drive a car at Chicago, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him with a 15th-20th place finish this weekend, after qualifying a respectable 28th.  Will he win?  No.  Can he score you some decent points for little cost in your salary cap?  Definitely.

Who? #25, Casey Mears
Why? The #25 Hendrick Motorsports team, long considered the weak link in the Hendrick stable, has really began to gel this summer.  In the last 7 races (Charlotte, Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Infineon, New Hampshire, Daytona) Mears has moved from 35th in points, 1,051 behind, all the way up to 19th, and only 1,012 behind.  To add a little more perspective to that, the current 35th place driver (Dave Blaney) is 1,576 points behind the leader, meaning that Mears has gained 525 points on 35th place in only 7 races.  I expect Casey to add another Top 10 finish this weekend at Chicagoland, where he already has 1 Top 10 finish and another Top 15 in his four previous trips to the track.

Who? #45, John Andretti
Why? Andretti is running a handful of races this summer in Petty Enterprises' #45 entry, sponsored this week by National Tire & Battery.  John had an excellent run in qualifying, putting the #45 into the show in 9th place on the starting grid.  "What's so special about that?" you ask.  Nothing, really.  Except for this little nugget of Andretti history: In three career Chicagoland races, John has never finished worse than he started.  The 2004 race saw Andretti start 31st and move up to 16th at the checkers.  In 2002, he moved up eight positions from his starting spot while finishing 22nd.  Kyle Petty drove the #45 to a 3rd place finish just 8 races ago (incl. Chicago) at Charlotte.  Could Andretti move up 8 spots this weekend as well??  Stranger things have happened.  Besides, John Andretti is the last driver to pilot a Petty Enterprises entry to Victory Lane, doing so at Martinsville in 1999.

Who? #5, Kyle Busch
Why? The kid is pissed.  He's got an ego the size of a Las Vegas jackpot, and a chip on his shoulder the size of the North American continent.  Busch feels like he has something to prove to his soon-to-be ex-teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, as well as to owner Rick Hendrick.  In the last 6 races, Kyle sits 4th in points scored, behind only Gordon, Truex, and Edwards.  In two career races at Chicagoland, he has an average finish of 8.5, including a 3rd in 2006.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him get win #2 on the season this weekend, and then foam at the mouth in his Victory Lane speech.

Who? #07, Clint Bowyer
Why? Bowyer is many people's pick as the next first-time winner in the Cup Series, and I can't say that I could argue against that.  Time and time again this season it seems as though he has a legitimate shot at picking up that first win... for the first 90% of the race.  But the #07 Jack Daniel's bunch just can't seem to close the deal in the final laps.  They're getting closer though.  If you keep putting yourself into position to win, eventually you will.  Gil Martin (crew chief) is a proven winner, and he has done a good job in guiding Bowyer's steady improvement.  Bowyer finished his rookie campaign (2006) with 11 Top 10 finishes in 36 races.  So far in 2007, Clint has steered the #07 to 9 Top 10 finishes in 18 races, compared to only 4 thru 18 races in 2006.  Looking briefly back to 2006 for Clint, two of his 11 Top 10s came on the similarly configured tracks at Chicagoland and Kansas (9th in each race).  Bowyer really seems to love the 7s lately, as last week at Daytona he finished 7th from the 7th pit stall, driving the #07 on 07-07-07.  Where does he start this week?  You guessed it, 7th.  My gut tells me that Bowyer gets that win before the 7th month is up, leaving him only this weekend at Chicagoland and then again at Indianapolis in two weeks to do so.  Which weekend will it happen?  I'm looking for a solid Top 10 from Clint this weekend, but I'm afraid there won't be a Victory Lane celebration in store for him this weekend.

Who's Going to Win
Tony Stewart has a 12.7 average finish at Chicago.  Matt Kenseth, 11.5.  (If Gordon passes him cleanly and Stremme doesn't wreck him in 2006, Kenseth's average finish jumps to 8.2.)  Jeff Gordon, 10.2.  Jimmie Johnson's average finish?  It's sick.  Just sick.  Disgusting.  Pardon me while I puke.  An infinitesimal 3.6.  Stewart and Gordon have both won at Chicagoland, while Kenseth and Johnson both have managed only a 2nd place finish at the track.

Kenseth has led 292 laps at Chicagoland, and there's a really good chance that he'll lead a bunch more this weekend.  He might even lead the last one.

Then there's Stewart.  I'm honestly shocked that he hasn't won yet this year.  I'm only speculating, but I can only guess that he has some sort of turmoil going on off the track that is costing him on the track.  After last week's Daytona Debacle and his post race interview, and following it all up with more wacky comments this weekend, I don't think Tony is ready to win yet.  Not this weekend.

Back in early March the Cup Series visited Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is similar in size and shape to Chicoland Speedway.  The result that day?  Jimmie Johnson 1st, Jeff Gordon 2nd.  Will we see the same finish order this weekend?  I don't think so.  Johnson 2nd, with Jeff Gordon taking the #24 Nicorette/Dupont Chevrolet to Winner's Circle, becoming only the second repeat winner at Chicago.

Happy racing.


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Re: Chicagoland
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2007, 05:28:43 PM »
I am hoping Jimmie will win (duh) but I would be happy with a 1-2 finish with Jeff in the lead. Make it even better and have all 4 HMS cars in the top 4 spots and I'd be on a natural high for a week! lol

Hey, a girl can dream...can't she? ;)

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Re: Chicagoland
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2007, 12:05:18 AM »
I had the 17 in a pool last year. Im putting my money on the loser in that deal will get his win at this track, tomorrow! 8)
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Re: Chicagoland
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2007, 09:48:41 PM »
Then there's Stewart.  I'm honestly shocked that he hasn't won yet this year.  I'm only speculating, but I can only guess that he has some sort of turmoil going on off the track that is costing him on the track.  After last week's Daytona Debacle and his post race interview, and following it all up with more wacky comments this weekend, I don't think Tony is ready to win yet.  Not this weekend.

Hmmmm....Crow again this week for dinner?
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