Once the Chase for the Sprint Cup starts, only two tracks remain on the schedule that teams haven’t competed at yet – Chicagoland Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Homestead closes out the postseason while Chicagoland has kicked off the Chase since 2011.
At Chicagoland, one of five 1.5-mile tracks in the Chase, qualifying has had little bearing on who finishes the day in victory lane.
Fifteen race have been held at Chicagoland since 2001. Only once has a winner started in the top five (Kyle Busch, 2008). That year, qualifying was canceled. Just five Chicagoland winners have come from the top 10 and there’s only been one (Matt Kenseth, 10th in 2013) in the last five races.
In 2015, Denny Hamlin won from 29th. Brad Keselowski‘s two wins, in 2014 and 2012, came from 25th and 13th. Qualifying has been canceled the last two years.
Of the 16 drivers in the Chase, six have won at Chicagoland and two have won twice (Kevin Harvick and Keselowski). Tony Stewart is the all-time leader with three wins.
Here’s a look at who is hot and cold going into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400.
Denny Hamlin: Won at Richmond, third win of season (second in the last five races). Eighth straight top-10 finishes, the longest streak of his career. Won this race last year after leading just nine laps. Only two top fives in 10 Chicago starts.
Kevin Harvick: Finished fifth at Richmond, fourth consecutive top-five finish (matches longest streak of top-five finishes by a driver this season). Finished top 10 in 12 of the last 14 races. Has 21 top-10 finishes in 2016, most by three. Only three finishes in 2016 worst than 15th. Two-time Chicago winner (2001-2002). Top fives in two of the last three races at Chicago.
Brad Keselowski: Finished fourth at Richmond, finished in the top 10 in 13 of the last 17 races, including three wins. Top 10s in the last five races at Chicago, including two wins (2012 and 2014). Finished top 10 in 18 of the last 19 races on 1.5-mile tracks, including wins in two of the last five.
Kyle Larson: Finished second at Richmond, top-three three finishes in the last three races (longest streak of career), including a win at Michigan. Finished top six in five of the last seven races. Two starts at Chicago, finished third and seventh.
Matt Kenseth: Finished 38th, DNF accident while running in top five at Richmond last week. Has only five top-10 finishes in last 12 races. Two wins this season, Dover and New Hampshire (two of the three races in round one). Top-10 finishes including a win in three races at Chicago with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Carl Edwards: Finished in top 10 in only seven of the last 17 races after having eight top 10s and two wins in the first nine races of 2016. Five poles this season, most of 2016 and his most ever in a season. Last top-five finish was second at Kentucky in the lower downforce package for 2017. Best finish at Chicago in 11 starts is second, twice, including last year.
Tony Stewart: Finished 21st or worse in the last four races. Five top-five finishes this season, only had three total in the previous two seasons combined. Three-time Chicago winner with top-10 finishes in 10 of his 14 starts. Finished 18th and 25th in the last two Chicago races.
Kurt Busch: Finished eighth at Richmond, only third top-10 finish in the last 10 races; finished top 10 in 14 of the first 16 races of 2016. Top-10 finishes in the last three races at Chicago, including his best finish of third last year.
Other notes of interesting entering Sunday’s races
- The driver leading the most laps won only one of the last six races at Chicagoland (Matt Kenseth in 2013).
- Chicagoland is one of three active tracks that Roush Fenway Racing has not won at (Indianapolis and Kentucky are the other two).
- Four drivers have won the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2016: Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski have two wins
each; Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr have one win each.
- Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick are the only drivers that have finished in the top 10 in all six races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2016.
- Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher are only Chase drivers without a top-10 finish at a 1.5-mile track this season.