Kevin Harvick – Kevin Harvick will be the driver to beat at Chicagoland. He’s an elite performer here and it ranks as one of his best intermediate tracks. In his career at Chicagoland he’s a two-time winner who’s finished in the top five 53% percent of the time and in the top ten 59% percent of the time. Last year Harvick was a contender. When the checkered flag waved he finished 3rd, had a 2nd place average running position, earned the 2nd best driver rating and led 59 laps. Additionally he finished 2nd in Stage #1 and Stage #2. In 2016 Harvick had a great car but finished 20th. In the race he started in the rear of field but charged up thru the field quickly. By lap 27 he was up to 10th. Unfortunately his race wasn’t incident free. On lap 50 during the middle of green flag pit stops he was on pit road and the caution came out which trapped him a lap down. The race had few cautions so he was unable to bounce back. In 2015 Harvick was likely top 3 good, but unfortunately his race wasn’t incident free. While he was racing with Johnson for the lead on lap 135 they had contact which cut his tire and sent him into the wall hard leading to his 42nd place finish. In 2014 he had a great car that ranked as one of the best. In the race he earned the 2nd best driver rating, finished 5th, had a 5th place average running position and led the most laps (79). In 2013 he finished 3rd. One attribute I love about Harvick is how strong he’s been at 1.5 mile tracks this year. This year at these venues minus Charlotte he’s won 3 races and has finished in the top 2 every event. On Sunday look for Harvick to finish in the top five and compete for the win.
Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. will be a favorite to win at Chicagoland. He’s won back to back races here and he’s been strong at 1.5 mile tracks. This year at 1.5 mile tracks minus Texas, he has a 3.3 average finish and he’s had a result in the top five every race. In the last two races at tracks of this length he’s finished 2nd. Last year at Chicagoland, Truex Jr. didn’t have an incident free race but he still emerged victorious. On lap 42 while he was running in 2nd he was caught speeding on pit road. After that he hit the after burners and still finished 10th in Stage #1 despite there being no caution in that Stage. Additionally he finished 3rd in Stage #2 and led 77 laps. In 2016 Truex Jr. had a great car, but it should be noted if there wasn’t a late caution that he was able to take advantage of he probably would’ve finished 2nd. Additionally in the race he earned the 2nd best driver rating and led 32 laps. In 2015 Martin Truex Jr. had a great car that ranked as one of the best. From a performance perspective he was really about 5th place good. In 2015 he was about 5th place good but came home with a misleading 13th place finish. During the final restart he was a big loser and lost quite a few positions back to 13th. Additionally in the race it should be noted he earned the 4th best driver rating, had a 5th place average running position and led 39 laps.
Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch will be tough to beat at Chicagoland. He’s a past champion who’s performed at an extremely high-level. Since 2012 among drivers who competed in every race he has the best driver rating, has led the most laps (340), has the 2nd best average finish (7.5) and has the 2nd best average running position (6.5). Last year, Kyle Busch had a phenomenal car but finished a misleading 15th. “Performance Wise” he arguably had the best car, but his afternoon wasn’t incident free. In the race he started on the pole and led 85 of the first 87 laps. On lap 97 while he was in 2nd he made an unexpected pit stop because of a loose wheel and as he was coming to his pit stall he was penalized when his crew went over the wall too soon. He wasn’t able to overcome that and that’s why he finished 15th. In 2016 he had a strong showing. He finished 8th, had a 7th place average running position, earned the 7th best driver rating and led 21 laps. I will note his race wasn’t incident free. On lap 174 while he was running in 4th he was caught speeding on pit road and had to serve a pass thru penalty. In 2015 Kyle Busch was easily top 3 good. He would’ve finished in the top 3 if the late caution didn’t come out. When the checkered flag waved he finished 9th, had a 3rd place average running position, earned the best driver rating and led a race high 121 laps. In the three races prior to that he had results of 7th, 2nd and 4th. Charlotte is the last 1.5 mile track visited and at that venue he led 377 laps and won from the pole.