Race Weekend Central

Fantasy Friday: Will somebody copy Stewart’s magic of last year?

We’re off to the Chase, the first of 10 races for the playoffs. We learned last year that anything can happen and the magic started for Tony Stewart when he won his first race of the year here. Will same happen this season? Who knows?

Top 5 Picks

1) Tony Stewart – He has three wins in 11 races at Chicagoland. The victory there last year started his impressive run to the championship, so he’s got to be feeling good about that again.

2) Denny Hamlin – It’s true he doesn’t have a win at Chicago and has only one top 5, but he’s been on such a roll lately it’s hard not to pick him, especially since he could have easily had three consecutive wins.

3) Jeff Gordon – He’s feeling good about himself after the rally to make the Chase. He’s also got a solid record at Chicagoland with a win and six top 5s.

4) Jimmie Johnson – He doesn’t have a win at Chicagoland, but he has led 365 laps in 10 races there, easily the most of any active driver without a win.

5) Kevin Harvick – If there is someone who could do what Stewart did last year (enter the Chase ninth in points and not have a win on the season and then win the title), it’s Harvick. He has two wins at Chicagoland and six top 5s in 11 races there.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda – Kyle Busch. He would not be a bad pick here. He’s got a win and two top 5s in seven races and he certainly would like to make a statement that he’s still good, even though he didn’t make the Chase.

ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP
Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared at Richmond.

Kyle Busch – 16th. He had won four of the last seven at Richmond, but was never a factor for the win.

Denny Hamlin – 18th. He dominated while leading 202 of the first 275 laps. The decision to stay out when a short shower came probably cost him the win.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 14th. He was in contention for much of the night, but the rain caution also messed up his chances after leading 67 laps.

Jimmie Johnson – 13th. He was another victim of old tires when deciding not to come in on that rain caution, or he may have been in the top 5.

Tony Stewart – 4th. The defending champion broke out of a serious slump, helped by the fact that he pitted immediately when the final rain caution came.

Season Stats
130 Predictions
14 Wins
42 Top 5s
58 Top 10s

Grade for the week: C. It was clear that Hamlin had the best car on the track, but he and crew chief Darian Grubb made the wrong choice, as it turned out, when the final rain caution came. Earnhardt, Jr. and Stewart also led at times. That final rain caution changed the complexion of the race.

One last thing: Tony Stewart is the only one of the 12 Chase drivers to win at each of the 10 tracks in the Chase for the Championship.

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