Matts Driver Handicaps Chicago

Editor’s note: This is only the second race at Joliet, so there’s not a lot of historical precedent to use in handicapping this race. Because the banking is similar to Michigan and the configuration similar to Charlotte the races run at those tracks earlier this season may help show who will be strong this weekend.

Sterling Marlin
Marlin finished ninth at the inaugural ChicagoLand race. While he dominated at Charlotte last Fall, Marlin finished 11th there in May and had problems that dropped him to 21st at Michigan earlier this year.

Mark Martin
Martin finished 6th here last year despite the abysmal season he’d been having to date at that point. Won at Charlotte in May.

Jimmie Johnson
Johnson won last year’s Busch series race at Chicago (his first ever Busch series win), so I reckon he’ll be a factor come Sunday in a Cup car.

Rusty Wallace
Wallace arrives at Chicago with the momentum of a second place finish at Daytona behind him. 13th here last year and top 10 finishes at both Charlotte and Michigan this year.

Jeff Gordon
Gordon qualified poorly here last year, but charged his way up to fourth before mechanical problems slowed him down. Normally you’d expect Gordon to run well on this style of track. And for whatever reason Gordon seems to put special emphasis on winning at any track where he’s never won a Cup race before. I guess he doesn’t have a lot of mountains left to conquer other than this pesky winless drought he’s found himself in lately.

Ricky Rudd
Rudd finished a very strong third here last year. 4th and 8th at Charlotte and Michigan respectively but has shown a lot of strength on low-banked superspeedways as of late.

Tony Stewart
Typically when Tony Stewart has a bad weekend, and Daytona was pretty awful for the 20 team, he bounces back the next week with a fury and runs well. Had problems and finished 33rd here last year.

Matt Kenseth
This is the sort of track where Kenseth typically runs well. He finished 7th here last year. It really doesn’t matter if the track is more like Charlotte or Michigan to Matt. He finished second at Charlotte and won at Michigan. Could use a strong run to get himself back solidly into title contention.

Bill Elliott
Elliott was the long time master at Michigan and runs well on low banked superspeedways. 10th here last year.

Kurt Busch
Busch finished a solid 8th place here last year. Ought to be in the top 10 again if he doesn’t curse out race control this weekend.

Dale Jarrett
What a difference a year makes. DJ finished 4th here last year and coupled with Gordon’s mechanical problems left the track in the midst of a tight points battle with Jeff and Ricky Rudd. That’s unlikely to be the case after this weekend’s race. Jarrett did finish second at Michigan earlier this year and has had a lot of success there.

Michael Waltrip
Waltrip’s career is rejuvenated as of late and he arrives in Illinois with the strength of his Daytona win filling his sails. In sight of the top 10 in points Waltrip needs to better his 22nd place finish here last year this weekend.

Jeff Burton
Burton was 18th here last year, but as well as he runs at New Hampshire he could be a sleeper pick this weekend.

Ricky Craven
Craven’s theme song this season could be Robert Palmer’s “Simply Unpredictable.” You never know when he’s going to rip off a strong run, and my gut tells me he’s about due.

Dale Earnhardt Junior
Junior finished 11th here last year, but with the problems he’s been having lately everywhere but the plate tracks he’s a risky betting proposition at best.

Ryan Newman
Newman typically fares well on the low-banked ovals. 26th in the Busch race here last year but he did win the pole for that event.

Terry Labonte
People tell me the 5 team is improving lately, but going from running lousy to running lackluster doesn’t grab the headlines. 25th here last year.

Kyle Petty
Petty failed to qualify for this race last year. A somewhat unexpected sponsor search for the 45 team means they have to get on their game quick if they wish to survive.

Dave Blaney
Robert Pressley was at the wheel, but he drove the 77 car to a second place finish last year, so Dave should have a strong mount this weekend. Blaney didn’t have a bad run by his standards from last year either coming home 12th. We’re talking a dark horse you couldn’t find at noon with a flashlight, but given hero odds, Blaney might be a good roster filler.

Elliott Sadler
Not expected to be a factor. Finished 15th here last year. And lately some joker has been cutting the top off his ballcap.

Others To Watch
Kevin Harvick
Scored his last Winston Cup win to date here last year. And you thought Jeff Gordon was in a slump?

Jimmy Spencer
Spencer finished 5th here last year, a minor miracle considering the equipment he had to work with.

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2002

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