Driver Handicaps: Chicago

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    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway for the USG Sheetrock 400. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 267-lap event.

    Who's HOT at Chicagoland
  • Jeff Gordon is the defending race winner and is tied with three other drivers with four top 10s.
  • Jimmie Johnson, who has made five starts, leads all drivers with an average finish of 3.6.
  • Kevin Harvick is the only multiple winner.
  • Matt Kenseth, who finished second in 2005, has led a combined 288 laps in the last two events.
  • Tony Stewart has one win and is second in most laps led with 276.

    Keep an Eye on at Chicagoland
  • Carl Edwards will be back behind the wheel of the same car that won at Michigan last month.
  • Kurt Busch has completed 74 quality passes in the last two events at Chicagoland.
  • Jeff Burton is driving the same car that he won the pole and finished second with at Chicago in 2006.
  • Reed Sorenson, Clint Bowyer and J.J. Yeley all finished in the top 10 in their first start at Chicagoland in 2006.
  • Martin Truex Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are both driving cars that performed well at Michigan.
  • In 2007, Mark Martin and Denny Hamlin have posted respective average finishes of 6.3 and 7.0 on tracks exactly 1.5-miles in length.
  • Ricky Rudd will make his return to Chicago driving the same car that he posted his best finish in 2007 with at Charlotte.

    Track Performers
    Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson lead all drivers with eight wins each on tracks exactly 1.5-mile in length. Johnson is the most recent winner among the two after his win at Las Vegas in March. Mark Martin (7), Tony Stewart (6) and Jeff Burton (6) round out the top five in wins. Martin leads all drivers with 46 top-10 finishes, followed by Gordon with 40. Ryan Newman is the current pole leader on 1.5-mile tracks with 10. In 2007, Gordon and Matt Kenseth lead all drivers in finishing average (three races) at 6.0 and 6.3, respectively.

    Chicagoland Rookie Report
    None of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates have made a NEXTEL Cup Series start at Chicagoland Speedway. Paul Menard and David Reutimann are the only ones of the group that have made at least one start in the Busch Series at Chicagoland. Menard has made the most starts with three and has finished in the top 10 once, achieving the feat in 2005. Rookie leader Juan Pablo Montoya tops the group in finishing average, 19.3, on tracks exactly 1.5-miles in length in 2007. Montoya was also the top finishing rookie (fifth) at Atlanta - a track 1.54-miles in length. Rookie Standings

    Qualifying Tidbits
    Jeff Burton won the pole in 2006 at Chicagoland Speedway, giving Chevrolet its fourth consecutive pole at the track. In 2005, Jimmie Johnson set the qualifying record in with a lap of 188.147 mph. Johnson's pole was the second-straight for Hendrick Motorsports after Jeff Gordon took the top spot the year prior. There has been a different pole winner each season since the inaugural race in 2001 when Todd Bodine won the pole in a Ford. Brian Vickers, who will need to qualify on time Friday, has the best starting average among all drivers with three or more starts at 3.7. Four times the race winner has started from within the top 15, the last instance coming with Gordon in 2006. Kevin Harvick won from the furthest position (32nd) in 2002. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Chicago Winners

    Chicagoland Speedway Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006)
    *Fastest Early in a Run
    *Fastest Late in a Run
    Avg. Running Position
    1. Matt Kenseth
    1. Matt Kenseth
    1. Matt Kenseth - 3.4
    2. Kevin Harvick
    2. Tony Stewart
    2. Kevin Harvick - 5.9
    3. Tony Stewart
    3. Kyle Busch
    3. Kyle Busch - 8.7
    4. Greg Biffle
    4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    4. Reed Sorenson - 9.0
    5. Jeff Burton
    5. Reed Sorenson
    4. Brian Vickers - 9.1
    Laps in Top 15
    *Quality Passes
    *Driver Rating
    1. Matt Kenseth - 529
    1. Kurt Busch - 74
    1. Matt Kenseth - 130.0
    2. Kevin Harvick - 499
    2. Casey Mears - 72
    2. Kevin Harvick - 112.1
    2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 473
    3. Kyle Busch - 68
    3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 106.8
    4. Tony Stewart - 444
    4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 67
    4. Jimmie Johnson - 105.4
    5. Casey Mears - 441
    5. Greg Biffle - 62
    5. Reed Sorenson - 104.9


    *Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
    *Driver Rating : Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes
    2006-18
    2005-17
    2004-20
    2003-13
    2002-19

    Average: 17.4

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps
    2006-34
    2005-47
    2004-43
    2003-36
    2002-35

    Average: 39.0

    *RacingOne Staff Picks
    Jeff Wackerlin: Reed Sorenson
    Pete Pistone: Johnny Sauter
    Jorge Mondaca: Casey Mears
    Rachael West: Ricky Rudd

    *Note: Drivers can be selected only one time per season. Race points will be added up each week. This is the 16th race of the season for this section of the handicaps. Standings

    Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

    1. Jeff Gordon (Points: 2773): Last season Gordon scored his first win at Chicagoland Speedway from the 13th starting position. The previous year Gordon scored his first DNF at Chicagoland after Mike Bliss hit him from behind and the two crashed in Turn 2. Gordon finished 33rd, his first finish outside the top 20 in six starts at the track. From 2002 - 2004 Gordon finished in the top five and led a combined 61 laps. In 2004, Gordon won his first pole at Chicagoland and led 14 laps en route to his second consecutive fourth-place finish.

    2. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -277): Last year, Hamlin finished 14th in his first start at Chicagoland Speedway after a loose wheel put him a lap down early in the race. This weekend he will be back in the same car (chassis No. 183) that finished 14th in its first start last month at Michigan after pit road incident took him out of contention.

    3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -383): Last year, Kenseth finished outside the top 15 for the first time at Chicagoland Speedway after he was spun out while leading the race with only four laps to go, then ran out of fuel to finish 22nd. His best finish, second, came in 2005 after dominating the race, leading 176 laps, en route to a second-place finish. The last two seasons saw Kenseth's first top 15 starts at Chicago of fourth and eighth. The team will run chassis No. RK-323 in the Cup race with a special USG Sheetrock paint scheme. This is the same car that led 112 laps last year at Chicago.

    4. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -407): Johnson has finished sixth or better in his five starts at Chicagoland Speedway, giving him the best average finish (3.6) among all drivers. After leading a combined 79 laps in his first four starts, last year marked the first time Johnson did not lead a lap. Johnson's Chicago primary car (chassis No. 48363) is the same car that won at Las Vegas earlier this year and finished 10th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. Chicagoland is the site of Johnson's only Busch Series win.

    5. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -428): Burton is coming off his best performance at Chicagoland Speedway after he won the pole and finished second in his second track start with Richard Childress Racing in 2006. With the exception of the 2004 race when he finished sixth, Burton has finished 18th or worse in his four other starts and did not finish the race in 2002. He will drive chassis No. 173 in Sunday's race. This is the same car that finished fourth at Lowe's in last month's All-Star Challenge and raced at Chicago last year.

    6. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -465): Edwards will be looking to turn his Chicagoland Speedway record around by driving the same car (chassis No. RK-272) that won at Michigan last month. Edwards 29.5 average finish at Chicago is his worst among all tracks.

    7. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -539): Stewart led 160 laps en route to his 2004 win at Chicagoland Speedway. His finishing average of 12.7 is coupled by a 33rd-place finish in his first start and a 32nd-place finish in 2006. This weekend Stewart will be behind the wheel of a new car (chassis No. 143) that the team believes matches the wind tunnel numbers of chassis No. 120, a car that has won three times.

    8. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -583): Last year Busch lowered his Chicagoland Speedway finishing average to 8.5 with a third-place finish. He will be racing the same car (chassis No. 394) that finished ninth at California Speedway earlier this season.

    9. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -601): Harvick won the first two events at Chicagoland Speedway in 2001 and 2002. He won his second race from the 32nd position, which is the deepest any Chicagoland winner has started. The win also gave him the distinction of being the only multiple winner at the Joliet track. Harvick, who finished fourth last year, is third in laps led at Chicago with 228. This weekend he will pilot the same car (chassis No. 179) that won the All-Star Challenge in May.

    10. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -616): Truex Jr. started 29th and finished 16th in his first start at Chicagoland Speedway in 2006. He will be back in the same car (chassis No. 053) that finished second last month at Michigan. Truex calls the chassis a "Hot Rod."

    11. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -631): Bowyer started 38th and raced his way to a ninth-place finish in his first career start at Chicagoland Speedway in 2006. This weekend, he will look to capture his 10th top 10 of the season driving the same car (chassis No. 170) that he used to capture his career-best Cup finish with at California last year.

    12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -733): Earnhardt Jr. is coming of a fifth-place finish and a win in the last two races at Chicagoland Speedway. A late race pit stop decision to take on two tires proved to be the winning move for Junior in 2005. Earnhardt's only other top 10 in the six starts came in the 2002 race when he led four times for 81 laps en route to a 10th-place finish. He will be racing one his best cars (chassis No. 039) for intermediate tracks in the USG Sheetrock 400. This is the same car that most recently finished fifth at Michigan last month.

    13. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -782): McMurray has raced in four events at Chicagoland Speedway posting an average finish of 20.5. Last year he captured his worst finish at the track, 39th, in his first track start with Roush Fenway Racing. In his first race, he led his only lap after starting a career-best 10th. This weekend, McMurray will be racing the same car (chassis RK-450) that finished eighth at Michigan last month.

    14. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -794): Newman posted two top-five finishes, including one win, in his first two starts at Chicagoland Speedway. Since then, Newman has gone on to post an average finish of 33.0. Last year's race saw Newman's worst performance at the 1.5-mile speedway after he finished two laps down in 36th place. In his first race at the speedway he won the pole and led 87 laps en route to a fifth-place finish. Newman, who has led three times for a total of 163 laps at Chicago, will drive a new car (chassis No. PRS-108) that was tested at Nashville last week.

    15. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -854): Last year Busch captured his second consecutive eighth-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway. The only time Busch has not placed in the top 10 at Chicago came in the 2003 and 2004 when he finished 39th (his only DNF) and 35th, respectively. Busch, who has not led a lap at Chicago, will be racing a new car (chassis No. PRS-109) in the USG Sheetrock 400.

    16. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -937): Biffle posted his best finish at Chicagoland Speedway in the last two races, finishing 11th, breaking a string of consecutive 20th-place finishes. In 2005, Biffle led for the first time at Chicago, holding the No. 16 up front for 34 laps. In doing so Biffle was able to post the seventh-best driver rating. He will be driving the same chassis (RK-421) that finished 38th at Michigan last month after a mechanical failure took him out of contention.

    17. J.J. Yeley (Points Behind: -969): Yeley finished 10th and finished 10th in his first start at Chicagoland Speedway. This weekend he will be the only driver to pull triple duty, running in the Silver Crown, Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series.

    18. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -999): In six starts, Martin has finished in the top 10 three times at Chicagoland Speedway with his best finish, of sixth, coming in 2001. Martin, who has held the lead in four Chicago races for a total of 44 laps, will be making his first track start in a Chevrolet with Ginn Racing.

    19. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -1012): Mears, the defending Busch winner at Chicagoland Speedway, will be making his first track start in a Cup car with Hendrick Motorsports. His previous four starts came with Chip Ganassi Racing where he posted an average finish of 20.8. This weekend Mears will be back in the same car (chassis No. 357) that he won the Coca-Cola 600 with in May at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

    20. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -1030): Labonte's best finish at Chicagoland Speedway came last season after finishing 12th in his first track start with Petty Enterprises. His only finishes outside the top 20 came when he posted DNFs for an engine problem in 2001 (finished 39th) and an accident in 2003 (finished 36th).

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