As we roll into the Summer section of the schedule and get down to just 10 races left before the Chase Playoffs begin, the Cup schedule comes to Chicago this weekend and the 1.5-mile track in Joliet Illinois. It is not a standard 1.5-mile track as there are more racing grooves here than normal intermediate length tracks have and the surface of the track is older and slicker than just about all but Atlanta.

It’s also different because of the starting spots that have registered wins here in the 18 races that have been held. There have been 13 different starting spots to win with the pole sitter only winning once (2008) and 32nd also getting a win. Passing and three-wide racing on Sunday should keep the trends in place as three of the last five winners have started outside the top-15.

Outright Winners


Kevin Harvick – 5/2

Harvick has had the fastest car all weekend until he qualified P2 for the race behind Austin Dillon. Harvick has a pretty solid history here with numerous top-fives and top-10s in the last 10 races and he did win the first two races at this track in 2001 and 2002. He doesn’t have a win yet this year but he’s in a prime position to get one this week as the track matches will with Atlanta and Auto Club, two tracks he’s historically been dominant because of the tire wear this type of surface creates. Even with him being the odds on favorite, that’s still a nice 2.5x return on your bet.

Kyle Busch – 9/2

Busch won this race last year after he started 16th and that’s about where he starts this year (P17). He’s shown glimpses of a top-five car in practice this week and should be able to make to the front without much issue. Busch may not be his typical self this year, but he still has four wins on the season and has done well at 1.5-mile tracks in this package. These are about the longest odds we’ve seen in the last couple months for Busch, so now is a good time to take advantage of them.

Martin Truex Jr. – 11/2

Truex Jr. is coming off a win at Sonoma last week, is the last winner on a 1.5-mile track this year, has shown well in this package this year including a second-place finish at Atlanta, a similar track, and oh yeah, he’s won two of the last three races at Chicagoland as well. The qualifying spot isn’t great at P18 but he did say he’s comfortable with his car and the handling of it and that’s what he really goes for at tracks he’s won at previously. It’s hard not to take these odds this week on a guy who’s done so well here previously.

Middling Odds

Denny Hamlin – 13/1

Hamlin is another JGR driver making the list this week but how could he not? He’s won here in the last five and has five top-10s, one of only three drivers in the field to do that. His average finish of 4.8 is the best in the field this week and he’s shown a history to move up through the field with a +14.2 position differential in the last five races as well. Hamlin won at Texas earlier this year in this package and said throughout practice that his car felt “exceptionally good”. Hamlin showed good long run speed which is crucial here and starting ninth, he’s still in very good striking distance for the win.

Jimmie Johnson – 18/1

Johnson has one of the fastest cars he’s had all year, perhaps the fastest, and starts P4 on Sunday. He’s posted 11 top-10 finishes here in 17 career races and this season has three straight top-10s in the last three 1.5-mile tracks with this package. While he hasn’t found victory lane in a while now, this weekend poses the best chance in a while for him to end the winless streak.

Alex Bowman – 20/1

Bowman has been living up to his Bowman the Showman moniker the last few months as he’s been the fastest Hendrick Chevy on the track nearly every week. This week at practice he showed top-three speed in the short and long run before qualifying P8 for the race. If his top-three speed and ability to lock down top-five finishes shows up in the race than the 20/1 odds look even tastier.

Long Shots

Austin Dillon – 35/1

Dillon is the pole sitter this weekend after laying down a great qualifying lap. The practice speeds weren’t great, but they did get better throughout the day on Saturday as they made adjustments to the car. The pole sitter has only won this race once (2008) but if he can get ahead and stay ahead, he has as good a shot as any to win the race.

Daniel Hemric – 250/1

Hemric joins his teammate starting near the front as Hemric will start P3 and be right behind Austin Dillon in the starting grid. The practice didn’t go well for Hemric before he laid down the fast qualifying time but he has looked good at times this year at similar tracks, namely Atlanta in the second race of the year. He also has an average finish of 4.5 at this track in the Xfiinity level so could be able to make the starting spot stick. You can also bet on Hemric for top-three and top-five finishes if you would like as he’s got good returns there too.

Quick Hitters

Denny Hamlin – 79/20 (Top-3 finish)

Hamlin, as stated above, has an average finish of 4.8 in the last five races here with multiple top-fives and a win. Getting nearly 4x return on a bet for a guy who’s finished top-three here several times in the past is hard to turn down.

Jimmie Johnson – 49/20  (Top-5 finish)

Johnson is starting P4 and has shown top-five speed across the board all weekend. He’s finished top-10 here 11 times and has finished top-five here twice in the last 10. I’d like to see slightly better odds but it certainly beats the 4/11 odds for Kevin Harvick landing in the top-five.

Toyota – 19/10 (Winning Manufacturer)

For some reason, Ford is the odds on favorite to land a win at Chicago on Sunday. That’s fine though we’ll take the nearly 2x return and roll with Toyota. Toyotas have won the last four races here, five of the last six, and seven of the last 10. Eight of the 16 races this year have been won by either Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr. both JGR Toyota drivers, and throw in Denny Hamlin’s two wins and you’re up to 67.5% of the race wins going to Toyota this year. Take the bet and enjoy the 2x return.