The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is visiting Chicagoland Speedway this weekend for what could be a big opportunity for fantasy owners to post some big scores in season-long Fantasy NASCAR leagues.
Sunday’s Overton’s 400 is the sixth race of the year at a 1.5-mile track, and the mile-and-a-half ovals are the most fantasy-friendly tracks on the schedule because the top drivers tend to live up to expectations.
This year has been no exception, which is why I plan to be very aggressive when setting my lineups. I won’t be shy about using big names, especially in Fantasy Live where stage points are critical. Last weekend at Sonoma, we saw pit strategy cause many of the top drivers to miss out on stage points. Don’t expect a repeat performance this weekend. In last year’s race at Chicagoland, eight drivers finished in the Top 10 in both Stage 1 and Stage 2. There should be some big point totals out there.
Even in the Driver Group Game, Sunday’s race is a good time to burn up some starts from some studs in all three groups. Each start is valuable, but even more so from the top options. You need to maximize your results when you deploy the top-tier guys, and a 1.5-mile track like Chicagoland gives you your best chance to do just that.
The fact that Sunday’s race is an impound event has also created some opportunities in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto game. For one, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Chris Buescher failed post-qualifying inspection, disallowing their times and forcing both to start at the rear of the field. Meanwhile, there are a few bigger names starting a little deeper than usual because they elected not to go with a full-blown qualifying setup because the impound procedure prevents teams from making any adjustments prior to the start of the race.
Check out all of my season-long Fantasy NASCAR picks for the Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, and make sure to set all your lineups before Sunday’s race.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Aside from the Charlotte race when he cut a tire early, Harvick has been in his own league at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has three wins and a second-place finish in five races, finishing in the Top 5 in seven of the 10 stages. In fact, Harvick has finished second or first in six of those 10 stages. He also finished second in both stages at Chicagoland last year. Harvick qualified a little deeper than normal, but I don’t think starting 11th will stop him from delivering another dominant performance. After all, he had the best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour.
His finishes haven’t always reflected his speed, but Blaney has been a consistent Top 5 threat at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, and he has finished fourth or better in five of the 10 stages in those five races. After grabbing a spot on the front row, Blaney should be able to pile up some serious stage points again Sunday.
He’s been steady at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, finishing 12th or better in four of the five races, and Chicagoland is a track where he could take his performance to the next level. In two Cup starts here, he has finished third and second, respectively, leading more than 40 laps in both races. Last year, Elliott finished third and first in the two stages. Elliott cracked the Top 5 in the opening practice, and qualified third. He looks primed for another monster performance at Chicagoland.
I had Denny Hamlin tabbed for this spot, but after his qualifying time was disallowed, I don’t think he can grab enough stage points. Instead, I’ll go with Busch, who starts fourth and has finished eighth or better in four of the five races at 1.5-mile tracks this year. He should deliver a solid point total.
He’s been one of the best at Chicagoland, reeling off seven straight Top 10s and picking up a couple of wins during the streak. Last year, Keselowski finished sixth and fifth in the two stages here, and he has picked up points in seven of the 10 stages at mile-and-a-half tracks this year, finishing third or better in three of them. Starting in the Top 10, expect more stage points and another solid finish.
Garage Driver – Kyle Busch
Busch is the only driver who has finished in the Top 10 in all five races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, collecting points in all 10 stages in those events. He has also led more than 20 laps in five straight races at Chicagoland. Busch has been one of the safest options all year, and I’ll have him on hand if one of my starters has issues or if he ends up tallying a bunch of stage points.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
There was no way I was going with anyone other than Harvick, Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr. in this one, and it’s hard to go against Harvick at any 1.5-mile track right now. He has three wins and a second-place finish in five races this year, leading more laps than any other driver. Yes, he only qualified 11th, but Harvick posted the best 10-lap average speed in final practice. I expect him to come to the front in short order Sunday.
I’ve been saving most of my starts from Elliott, but Chicagoland is a perfect place to pull the trigger. He finished third in his track debut in 2016, and he was the runner-up in last year’s race. Elliott led more than 40 laps in both those races, so he didn’t steal though finishes either. He will start third Sunday, so he is well on his way to building on his impressive Chicagoland resume. I have Top 5 expectations for Elliott.
Blaney wasn’t someone I had penciled into my starting lineup coming into the weekend, but I had him on my roster because he’s shown Top 5 upside at the 1.5-mile tracks all year. He has finished fourth and 11th in two starts at Chicagoland, and after claiming a spot on the front row, he looks like a dark horse candidate to contend for the win Sunday. Blaney is one of the more valuable Group B drivers, but I still think it’s worth using up one of his starts this weekend.
He has been the most dependable Group C option at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, cracking the Top 20 in four of the five races. He actually finished in the Top 10 at Chicagoland back in 2016 as a sub for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and while another Top 10 might be a bit ambitious, I don’t think a Top 15 is out of the question, especially after a respectable 15th-place qualifying effort.