This week, NASCAR travels from its restrictor plate Demolition Derby in the Southeast to one of its 1.5-mile cookie cutters in the Midwest, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Now, while I personally wouldn’t normally look forward to this Saturday night’s race, I’ve got an important mission at hand: rebuild some fantasy rosters, including my own. After the disaster that was Daytona, and the beating my team took in a single lap, it’s a welcome change – and I know many of you are in the same boat.
So without further delay, here’s your fantasy breakdown for Chicagoland Speedway, perhaps the tamest cookie cutter on the circuit capable of getting the right team back on track before summer vacation.
This week’s “must haves” include Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 9 of Kasey Kahne and Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 driven by Mr. Tony Stewart himself. We’ll start with the owner/driver first. Smoke will pretty much be a stud all summer, as NASCAR fans know he’s the man to beat come July and August. At Chicagoland, he has seven top fives in nine races, with a pair of wins already under his belt. You can’t get much better than that.
Kahne gets featured here more because of his 2010 consistency at these types of tracks. A ninth at Las Vegas, fourth at Atlanta, fifth at Texas and 12th at Charlotte show his team has these cookie-cutter ovals figured out. He has momentum, too, with three top fives in the last four races, blowing an engine after leading 110 laps in the other. At 16th in points, he is still a relatively cheap midseason pickup, so look for both of these guys to slide inside the top 10 this Saturday night.
Who Will Carry You
This week, take a good, long look at Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. The ‘Dinger has become a regular in this section, and with good reason. He had six straight top 15s before the crapshoot at Daytona ruined that streak, and still hasn’t cracked the top 20 in points, making him an inexpensive top 15-20 pick each week. ‘Dinger’s two previous races at Joliet ended in 13th-place efforts, and he has an average finish of 13th for 1.5-mile events in 2010. In comparison, Ambrose is another solid sleeper with good top-15 potential. He has just one start at this place, but it ended with an 11th-place run back in 2009. At the 1.5-mile tracks this season, he’s been decent, posting top-17 runs in the first three before a wreck in Charlotte ruined the fourth.
Logano isn’t quite the solid pick the first two drivers are, but he’s well worth the risk. He finished 18th here last year, then ran sixth at Vegas and 13th at Charlotte earlier this season. His average finish at this type of track is a solid 19th, and he is looking to bounce back from a poor effort last week at Daytona – part of a Joe Gibbs Racing slump in which all three drivers have combined for just one top-10 finish in their last nine starts. Look for him to pull off a solid top 20, with both Allmendinger and Ambrose a few positions ahead when the checkered flag flies Saturday night.
Who Will Bury You
This week, you are going to want to avoid Mark Martin. I know he’s the defending race champ, but he has just one top five in the last nine races and has slid to 13th in the standings. Since the Coca-Cola 600, his best finish is 14th, and the man’s finished outside the top 20 three times – including a pair of DNFs.
Well, I don’t know how you did last week, but my team flat out stunk. Everybody on it was in the big wreck, and I went from having our Game of Tomorrow league’s highest point total at New Hampshire to one of the worst at Daytona. Hopefully y’all did better than me, although I can’t imagine how you couldn’t have unless you didn’t pick a full team.
So there you have it, your fantasy breakdown for Chicago. My confidence is high you’ll be in good shape this week if you follow my picks… mainly because last week couldn’t get any worse! Check back two weeks from today, as we delve into the numbers and see who you’ll want running for you at the Brickyard. Until then, good luck in your leagues!