FREE NASCAR DFS Cup Series Chicago Street Course Breakdown, Cheat Sheet and Core

Welcome to my FREE NASCAR DFS breakdown of today’s inaugural Cup Series race on the Chicago Street Course. That’s correct – another road course is on the schedule for today’s race. So, get your pillows ready; road course races are an excellent chance to rest up with a nap after a long week at work.

A silver lining for today’s road course race, being nestled within the streets of Chicago, is that it offers stunning cityscape views as these cars maneuver around the track. Perhaps this is why F1, and now NASCAR, opt for street courses – the racing might suck, but at least they provide a visually appealing spectacle.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not brimming with enthusiasm for today’s race. Ideally, we’d be at Daytona, getting ready for pack racing and the Firecracker 400. Instead, we’re preparing for what might resemble more of a 4th of July parade through the streets of Chicago. Still, I know what you’re here for – you want “the picks”. So, regardless of my feelings about today’s race, let’s get to my breakdown.

Breakdown

Being the first time NASCAR has visited this track, our information is somewhat limited. However, the layout of the course suggests a technical challenge, where a driver’s skill in road racing could prove pivotal. In terms of today’s race, it’s advisable to focus significantly on the drivers’ performances on road courses since the introduction of the next-gen car at the start of 2022. These past performances could provide us with a baseline for expectations.

One other useful resource for predicting today’s race is the data from the 50-minute practice session NASCAR granted teams yesterday. This extended practice offered us a valuable chance to assess who might have the upper hand in today’s race. Generally, we don’t place too much emphasis on practice speeds, but given this is the inaugural race at this track, and considering the extra tuning and testing time teams had yesterday, I believe it’s worth weighing this data more heavily. In the context of today’s race, this practice data could be one of the most relevant indicators available to us.

Another critical factor I’ll be focusing on today is starting position. The course layout for this race consists of 12 turns, seven of which are tight, 90-degree hairpin bends. Given the narrow nature of this track and the demanding corners, passing and moving through the field will pose significant challenges for drivers. Hell, may not only be difficult, but could be near impossible.

With the advent of the new car, passing on road courses has become exceedingly difficult, and I anticipate this issue will be exacerbated in today’s street race.

Because of these conditions, I’m inclined to select drivers starting towards the front half of the field. Today’s race has a myriad of notable names and popular drivers starting from the back half of the field. Although one or two of these drivers might be able to navigate their way through the field, I don’t see this as a predictable outcome. Progressing through the field will likely be more contingent on pit strategy than on drivers’ abilities to pass cars. This unpredictability makes targeting position differential plays a risky proposition, which might not even pay dividends if cautions don’t occur at opportune moments.

Adopting this strategy will likely set my roster apart from the majority of lineups today. Many players might be tempted by the potential high points of drivers starting from the back, but I believe this presents more risks than rewards in today’s race. Case in point was Sonoma a few weeks ago when Blaney, Cindric and Byron all started in the back half of the field and none was really able to make any progress on a track that had limited passing zones like we will see today.

Yesterday’s 50-minute practice session brought to light the treacherous nature of this track, with numerous drivers experiencing problems. Harvick, Stenhouse, Elliott, Byron, and Haley will all be starting from the back due to necessary repairs or backup cars resulting from incidents during the session. With such a narrow margin for error, a slight misstep can quickly spell the end of a promising run.

This risk factor adds yet another layer of unpredictability to today’s race. I anticipate several strong performances may be derailed by unforeseen errors or incidents.

In light of these factors, it becomes even more critical to focus on drivers with a strong track record on road courses. Drivers who have consistently shown their ability to hit their marks lap after lap and bring their car home in one piece will likely be the safest picks for today’s unpredictable race in the streets of Chicago.

Cheat Sheet

Below, you’ll find my cheat sheet for today’s Cup Series race on the Chicago Street course. This sheet includes pertinent driver data from the last eight road course races since the introduction of the Next Gen car. Additionally, it incorporates data from yesterday’s practice session, which offers invaluable insights for today’s unprecedented race. The drivers I’m keen on for today’s race are highlighted: those marked in dark green are drivers I consider core plays – drivers around whom you can build your lineup. The drivers highlighted in pink are those who could potentially fly under the radar, making them excellent targets for achieving low ownership in GPPs.

 

Driver Notes

I think there is a good chance that Larson comes in vastly under owned today. A lot of the focus up top for most players will be on the favorites and the PD, which will leave Larson a surprising odd man out in most peoples line up. Not much to say here, Larson is a wheelman, and he’s great on road courses, car showed solid speed in practice and he starts with track position. He checks all the boxes today.

The Sonoma race winner, Martin Truex, looks to have another solid car in Chicago today. In fact, all of the JGR cars looked great in practice. They seem to have figured something out on road courses after a terrible 2022. Truex is a great option as to co-favorite starting 11th. He will likely be very chalky though.

No one has been better on road courses in the next gen car than Tyler Reddick. His 3 wins represents the most by any driver, and is the only driver with multiple RC wins in the next gen car. Seemed happy with his car, practice speeds were solid and he went out and put down a hell of a lap in qualifying. Co favorite with Truex will make him a popular play today as well.

Another guy who might surprisingly go overlooked with all the options surrounding him in this price range today is The Dinger! Allmendinger is one of the most talented road course drivers in the Cup series, and is probably one of a handful of drivers in the field who have actually raced on a street course before. Speed in practice was solid, not great, but I expect a driver like Dinger to get better with every lap he runs here and will be a contender as this race gets close to the checkered flag.

Guys who I am fading at the top are those PD plays I mentioned earlier. Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Ross Chastain. Chase and Byron will be starting in the rear forcing them to come from even further back than their starting position represents. You know my reasoning, it’s going to be hard to pass and these guys will need strategy to fall in their lap to find their way to through the field. It can happen, and their upside is huge if they get there. However, everyone will have some combination of these drivers in their builds and I think they bust more often than they get there in today’s race. This stance obviously has potential to blow up in my face and make me look dumb, so follow at your own risk.

Christopher Bell is another JGR driver that should be a contender in today’s race. He too was fast in practice and will start inside the Top 5. Great price at only $9100. Bell has dealt with a myriad of issues this year, but if he can have a clean race then there is no doubt he can contend today. He already has two RC wins in his young Cup Series career.

Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell are both guys who will likely be lower owned in today’s race who each provide Top 5 upside with an outside chance at finding the front. If I had to choose in a vacuum, I would go Suarez as I think he has better equipment with more win equity. But McDowell is a more disciplined road course driver who should be much safer.

As we move down the price chart, Chris Buescher is the first “PD” play we get to that I am considering on today’s slate. Buescher has been on an absolute tear on road courses with 3 Top 5’s and 8 Top 10’s in his last 9 Road course starts. He starts 15th, so not a ton of PD here, but I think he can gain 8-10 spots and find himself inside the Top 5 before this race is over.

If we think passing is going to be hard then we have to love Hamlin today from the pole for only $8000. Hamlin LOVES his car today, as he should after being one of the fastest cars in practice and then winning the pole. NASCAR has also put the restart zone for the race right in turn 12, which looks to give a massive advantage to the control car after watching Xfinity yesterday. He doesn’t need to lead a whole bunch to pay off this price tag, but if this race flows like I am expecting, then the possibility exists for Denny to just dominate this whole race.

I’m not going to pretend to know a bunch about Gisbergen here, because I don’t. But I do know he is in a fast #91 Trackhouse car and it looks like he knows how to get around this track judging by his P&Q effort. On our show this week, Ryan Larkin compared him to Marcos Ambrose, and honestly that is all I needed t hear to consider playing him today.

Like the rest of his JGR team mates, Ty Gibbs showed speed in yesterday’s practice session. He has potential to come in under owned as well with some of the PD plays surrounding him. He had a ton of Road Course success in his Xfinity Series career and we have not seen that really translate to cup yet outside of a 9th at COTA. The talent though is there and the JGR car has speed today. IF, big IF, he can keep it clean, I think he could be inline for another top 10 today.

Jenson Button is another Road Course ringer on the slate today. Even in a RWR car, he went out and put down some great laps in P&Q yesterday. He finished 18th after an impressive performance in his first ever NASCAR start in COTA earlier this year. Now he has a little more experience after his involvement in NASCAR’s Garage 56 endeavor at Le Mans a couple weeks ago. More than enough talent to hang around where he starts, as long as the equipment and team can hold up.

Cindric, Harvick, and Stenhouse are 3 other guys starting 30th or worse that I am fading today. This is for a lot of the same reasons I already pointed out in this article. However, if I was to play some PD options, it would be guys like Harvick and Stenhouse who are cheap enough to not need to gain a TON of spots to pay off. They can pay off their salary from these positions just by staying out of trouble IF this race turns to chaos.

Austin Dillon is a decent value option today starting 29th. He has gotten better on road courses in recent years, but he is still a boom or bust type play. In his last 10 RC starts, he has 6 finishes of 19th or better, and 4 finishes of 30th or worse. Shouldn’t be that heavily owned today though.

The most popular value option today is likely going to be Justin Haley starting 37th. He has been great on road courses with guidance from the Dinger. He has 6 Top 20’s on road courses since the introduction of the Next Gen car. Still think it will be difficult for Haley to move through the field, but he only needs to gain 12 spots to hit 5x value today.

Corey Lajoie is not someone you would typically think about when we get to a road course, but you have to start paying attention with his recent performances. He now has 4 Top 20 finishes in his last 5 road course starts. He showed a ton of speed in practice with the 7th ranked fastest lap and the 2nd best 5 lap average. Great low owned pivot off the chalk Haley.

Todd Gilliand is also a solid value option today with a price tag of only $5200. Like Lajoie, he showed flashes of speed in P&Q yesterday and came home with a Top 10 at COTA earlier this year. Gilliland has been much improved this season and road courses are a place where we seen him have success in the Truck series the last few years. Another solid pivot option off chalk Haley.

Core

 

 

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