Last week it was Sonoma, a road course set in a beautiful background with curves and hills and places one could speed up and those where one had to slow down. This week it is Chicago. It is round.
Okay, so I am not excited by the wonder that is Chicagoland. The name of the 2.5-mile tri-oval gives one the impression of excitement, like an amusement park. If only that were true. Personally, I find the name a little hokey, and the action less than advertised.
Not so for Kevin Harvick, who won the first two races held there in 2001-02. Martin Truex Jr. has the last two. That comes as bad news for those still seeking that first win of the season. Still, others seeking another victory on this particular track will include Ryan Newman (2003), Kyle Busch (2008), Brad Keselowski (2012, 2014), and Denny Hamlin (2015). Newman needs it the most, but his odds are the longest.
What we won’t see this Sunday is drivers abandoning bonus points to have a shot at the win. That only paid off at Sonoma for Truex, who won the race. His 40 points matched the total of Keselowski (13th place), was two back of Jimmie Johnson (11th), and nine behind the haul of Chase Elliott (fourth). Bonus points do matter, but not so much if, like Truex, Harvick (second), or Clint Bowyer (third), you already have your golden ticket to the Chase.
The newly minted Overton’s (formerly the Tropicana, USG Sheetrock, LifeLock.com, GEICO, MyAFib, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tales of the Turtles) 400 is coming our way on Sunday. The Overton’s Windy City 400 would have been nice. Instead of an attempt to brand the event, next year it could well be the Viagra 400. Well, that is one way to get fans up for a race. Let the excitement begin.
As for our Hot 20…
1. KYLE BUSCH – 4 WINS – 695 Pts
The betting could come down to just three choices: Rowdy, Happy, or anyone else.
2. KEVIN HARVICK – 4 WINS – 1 E.W. – 624 PTS
His team learned that you do not play poker with Cole Pearn.
3. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 3 WINS – 546 Pts
Hey, a crew chief can change his mind, and Truex doesn’t mind at all.
4. CLINT BOWYER – 2 WINS – 544 Pts
Sometimes a driver is the hero. Sometimes it is a man named Thomas Selbe.
5. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN – 584 Pts
Won his race at Talladega and sits third best in overall points…
6. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN – 313 Pts
…while Austin won his race at Daytona and sits 18th in overall points.
7. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 554 POINTS
Still a bridesmaid, but with two previous Chicago wins, might this be his time?
8. KURT BUSCH – 524 POINTS
His Cubs have a World Series, Kurt has a Cup title, but he is still seeking a win at Chicagoland.
9. DENNY HAMLIN – 505 POINTS
Only Texas and Pocono were true duds this season, as the rest has been pretty stout.
10. KYLE LARSON – 472 POINTS
Won the pole, and sure looked good for about four laps out in California.
11. ARIC ALMIROLA – 471 POINTS
Except for Texas and Richmond, all have been Top 15 results. Danica who?
12. RYAN BLANEY – 466 POINTS
Ryan probably did not need to do any arm strengthening exercises this week…or next.
13. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 419 POINTS
No wins yet, but until two or three behind him get their own wins, he is sitting just fine.
14. CHASE ELLIOTT – 411 POINTS
Finished fourth last week, yet claimed the most points.
15. ERIK JONES – 376 POINTS
Like man-made climate change, the predictions as to young gun triumphs have been a bit off.
16. ALEX BOWMAN – 363 POINTS
…that is not to say a good number won’t make the Chase…but they might not shake many suds.
17. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 346 POINTS
I hope he enjoyed the view at Sonoma, as the race sure sucked for him.
18. PAUL MENARD – 338 POINTS
Unless that second career win is coming soon, he can not afford to lose any more ground.
19. DANIEL SUAREZ – 290 POINTS
On our charts, but only a win can give him a shot at the title this season.
20. WILLIAM BYRON – 289 POINTS
To mingle with the Universe, and feel, What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.*
* From “There Is Pleasure In The Pathless Woods” – A poem by Lord Byron