The 16-driver field for NASCAR’s 10-race Chase to this season Sprint Cup title has been set heading into Race 1 at Chicagoland Speedway. Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 is set to get underway at 11 p.m. (PT) and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Brad Keselowski added the icing to the cake of a strong run to the Chase with his fourth Sprint Cup victory of the season last week at Richmond. Jeff Gordon tuned up for the Chase with a second-place finish, but Clint Bowyer did not make the field despite taking third. My value pick last week was Denny Hamlin at 10/1, but he fell back to 21st after starting 11th.
The following is a look at a few of the top favorites to win Sunday’s race along with my top NASCAR pick based on odds provided by Bovada.
Just like last week, we have the exact same trio of drivers listed as 5/1 favorites to win starting with the man at the top of the list in both points and wins Brad Keselowski. The Sprint Cup leaderboard has been reset for the start of the Chase so the No. 2 car will start at the head of the pack with 2012 points. This race team comes into the 10-race playoff smoking hot with three checkered flags in its last 10 races. Keselowski won the Sprint Cup title in 2012 with a strong performance in the Chase that included a victory at Chicago. He finished seventh in last year’s race and fifth in 2011.
Jeff Gordon is the second 5/1 favorite on the list and for good reason. The long-time Sprint Cup veteran is enjoying his best season in years with three victories and six additional top-five finishes. He is tied for second in the new standings with 2009 points. The No. 24 car has also built-up a head of steam coming into the Chase with recent victories at Indianapolis and Michigan. Gordon finished sixth in last year’s race at this track and he won here in 2006, but his average finishing position at Chicagoland is 11.6 which drains a bit of the value in these odds.
Rounding out this trio of favorites at 5/1 is Kevin Harvick. The No. 4 car is always a threat to win, but this team has not finished first since mid-April with a victory at Darlington. Harvick has led close to 1200 laps this season and he does come into this race with three top-five finishes in his last six Sprint Cup races including a fifth-place finish last week at Richmond. He has posted two career victories at this track and he finished second here in 2011 and third in last year’s race.
Top Value Pick
Dale Earnhardt Jr. may have cooled a bit in his last few Sprint Cup races, but he is still tied for second in the standings with 2009 points on the strength of three victories and eight more finishes inside the top five. The No. 88 car comes into this race with 10/1 odds to get its Chase off to a strong start making this team my top value pick of the week. Dale Jr. fell to 35th in last year’s race at Chicagoland due to engine issues, but he finished third here in 2011 and eighth in 2012. His lone career Sprint Cup victory at this track came in 2005.