The Sprint Cup Series kicks off the Chase for the championship at Chicagoland Speedway for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400. Rain wreaked havoc on qualifying for yet another week, so Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch ($10,500) will start from the pole for Sunday’s race.
Busch checks in second in Driver Rating at 115.4 according to NASCAR’s Loop Data over the past five stops at the track, leading 241 laps while running 97.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 to lead all drivers. He also picked up a victory in the Camping World Trucks Series at the track Friday night, so he has a good idea of how to race at this track and is a strong DFS play despite the relatively high price tag. Of course, his truck also failed a post-race inspection. But anyway…
Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski ($10,100) will go off second in Sunday’s race, and he is among the favorites to do burnouts at the end of the race. He has raced at the track just seven times in the Sprint Cup Series, but he has already collected two checkered flags with five Top 10s and 144 laps led with an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 10.3. Kes is third in Driver Rating at 110.0 over the past five starts. His teammate Joey Logano ($9,900) hasn’t been as sure at Chicagoland, posting just one Top 5 and three Top 10s in seven career starts with a marginal 15.3 AFP. Avoid Logano at his high price, as there are better values to be had elsewhere. He will go off ninth on Sunday.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($8,800) has a much softer price and therefore should not be overlooked. Over the past five races at Chicagoland Speedway the No. 48 has been out front for 251 laps, most among all drivers. He is also tops in Driver Rating at 116.6 during the span while running 96.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. His AFP of 8.0 during the stretch is also third-best among all drivers. Among all racers with at least three starts at the track, Johnson is tops in AFP at 9.3 while posting seven Top 5s in 14 career starts. While he has never won at the track, Johnson has led a circuit-best 577 laps. Johnson will start from the eighth spot and he could pick up quite a few Place Differential points.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson ($9,600) is rolling into the Chase with as much confidence as anyone. It all starts with his first-career Sprint Cup Series win at Michigan, and has carried over with a third-place run at Darlington and a runner-up at Richmond last weekend. No one is performing better than Larson, yet he still has a bit of a soft price given his recent success. Take advantage. In two career Cup starts at Chicagoland he has finishes of third and seventh, so look for the good times to continue to roll.
Rookie Chase Elliott ($8,500) took a step back last weekend, finishing 19th at Richmond, but he had been on a roll before that with four consecutive Top 15 finishes. This will be his first try at the track on the Sprint Cup Series, but he has fared well in his Xfinity (formerly Nationwide) Series days. In four Xfinity starts at Chicagoland he posted a win, two Top 10s and four Top 20s with a 9.8 AFP while leading 88 laps. He isn’t a bad DFS option at a mid-tier price.
Elliott’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion) is sidelined for the season, and Jeff Gordon is unavailable this week. So Alex Bowman ($7,900) steps behind the wheel of the No. 88 for the third time this season. He has had advantageous starting spots, but he hasn’t done much with the good fortune. He started sixth at Michigan Aug. 28, but slipped to a disappointing 30th position, and he has a 28.0 AFP in two outings this year, collecting a total of just four Fantasy points. He is set to start 17th at Chicagoland. In two career Sprint Cup races at Chicago, he has finished 35th and 37th, and in three Xfinity Series he finished 11th, 17th and 31st, so don’t expect much.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon ($8,300) rolled into the Chase thanks to four straight finishes of 16th or better. He starts in the 15th spot, and looks to tap into his knowledge of the track from his days on the Xfinity circuit. In two Sprint Cup starts he has finished 16th and 43rd, but on the Xfinity Series he dominated with four Top 5 finishes in five starts for an AFP of 3.8.
Don’t forget about the Stewart-Haas Racing stable of cars, either. Tony Stewart ($8,100) has three wins in 14 starts with a 10.4 AFP, posting eight Top 5s. Kevin Harvick ($10,800) has a huge price tag, but with two wins and eight Top 5s in 15 career starts no one can argue with starting the No. 4 in DFS. He also starts from the fourth position, while his boss Stewart will fire out from the 11th spot in the starting grid.
Going back to JGR, Denny Hamlin ($9,700) will start from the third spot in Sunday’s race. He has one win in 10 career starts with a 17.1 AFP, but he has struggled over his past five starts at Chicagoland and finds himself outside of the Top 10 in Driver Rating during the span. Matt Kenseth ($9,400) is the much better JGR play than his teammate Hamlin, posting a win, seven Top 10s and 12 Top 20s with an 11.3 AFP in 15 tries at Chicagoland, which could be considered the Wisconsin’s native home track.
ON THE DOWN LOW
As far as the lower-priced options are concerned, there is plenty of good picks for a high-low DFS lineup strategy.
There are plenty of nice low-priced DFS options this weekend. HScott Motorsports driver Clint Bowyer ($7,000) has had a ton of success at Chicagoland, posting seven Top 10 finishes in 10 career starts with a 13.8 AFP. Bowyer will start from the 28th spot, so if he can come close to his career AFP at Chicagoland he’ll be a quality low-priced DFS option. Front Row Motorsports driver Chris Buescher ($7,200) is an unlikely participant in the Chase, and he looks to start out on the right foot. It is his first-career Cup start at Chicagoland, but he has four starts under his belt in the Xfinity Series. He has three Top 10s and an 8.0 AFP in Xfinity, so he knows this track well and has had success in the past. Buescher goes off in the 13th spot and is a decent option as your No. 4 or 5 DFS driver.
Ryan Newman ($7,600) didn’t make the Chase, partly due to a dust-up with Stewart last week. He might still make a little noise during the Chase, however, starting at Chicagoland. Over the past five races at the track he has a 96.0 Driver Rating, ninth-best on the circuit with an 8.4 AFP, fourth-best among all drivers. As a No. 4 or 5 DFS option he is a sharp play.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne ($6,800) is looking to build on his solid 14th-place finish at Richmond. While he is not in the Chase, he could be a factor in a few races down the stretch, including Sunday’s run at Chicagoland. In three Cup starts he has finishes of 20th, 23rd and 28th, and he will start 20th in this one. Bayne isn’t a bad No. 5 or 6 option based on his decent results in the past. Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola ($6,000) is an intriguing pick based on his history at Chicagoland. He has four starts under his belt in a Cup car, posting one Top 10 with three Top 20 finishes, averaging a 20.3 finish.
If you’re really in a salary pinch, or just prefer four high-priced studs and two low-end drivers in your high-low strategy, Cole Whitt ($4,800) might be an option. Sure, he has never been higher than 29th in four career Sprint Cup Series starts. However, he was ninth and 14th in two Xfinity starts. He started out of the 36th spot, and if he can finish between 25th and 30th he’ll be a help.