NASCAR Series News & Notes - Chicagoland Speedway

June 27, 2018

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Overton’s 400

The Place: Chicagoland Speedway

The Date: Sunday, July 1

The Time: 2:30 p.m.

TV: NBCSN, 2:00 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (267 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)


NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Overton’s 300

The Place: Chicagoland Speedway

The Date: Saturday, June 30

The Time: 3:30 p.m.

TV: NBCSN, 3 p.m.

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)


NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 
Next Race: Overton’s 225
The Place: Chicagoland Speedway
The Date: Friday, June 29
The Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 225 miles (150 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 150)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series


Same Dale, New View

With the return to Chicagoland Speedway also comes the return of NBC Sports to the broadcast schedule…and a face very familiar to all NASCAR fans will be wearing a rookie stripe as a member of the on-air talent team.


15-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. joins the broadcast team starting this weekend. The two-time Daytona 500 winner retired from full-time driving following the 2017 season, but he’s been all over TV screens lately.  


He started his on-air work with NBC during the off-season. He traveled to Minneapolis for Super Bowl pre-game segments, flew to PyeongChang to cover the Olympics and appeared in Stanley Cup intermission reports.


His popular podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, now airs on NBCSN on Thursday nights following NASCAR America. And this week, he’s on a whirlwind trip to New York City, appearing on Megyn Kelly TODAY, the Dan Patrick Show, E! News and the Tonight Show.


Now with a four-person booth, NBC will employ a wide variety of unique and creative set-ups to best utilize the on-air talent. Included in that is the introduction of the "Peacock Pit Box," an on-location studio set designed to bring fans closer to the action.


Same Track, New Vibe

For the first time in eight years, Chicagoland Speedway’s place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is an early summer race.


This Sunday’s Overton’s 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the July return of the 1.5-miler after seven years as the Playoff opener. And it will undoubtedly be interesting to see how the shift in schedule affects the vibe in the garage.


Instead of just 16 drivers searching for a Playoff victory to advance – the race now becomes a high-stakes postseason qualifier in a season that currently has only six "guaranteed" Playoff positions secured by race winners.


Last week’s winner at Sonoma Raceway, Martin Truex Jr., is the defending race winner, having one the last two fall races at Chicago.  He has never won at Chicago in the summer. Interestingly, the 2018 season’s most prolific winner to date, five-time winner Kevin Harvick, won both his Chicagoland races (2001-02) in the summer.


Young Luck

There is some positive precedent for the Monster Energy Series’ youngest talent at Chicago. Second-year driver, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones, 22, has won two of the last four NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the track. Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott, 22, won here in the summer of 2014 in the Xfinity Series.


The former Xfinity Series champ Elliott continued to do well at Chicago after moving into the Monster Energy Series in 2016. He finished third and led 75 laps in his Cup debut. And last year he finished runner-up to Truex and led 42 laps. He boasts the top driver rating (125.6) at Chicago.


Rookie Bubba Wallace also has an impressive record at Chicago with three top-10 finishes in four Xfinity Series starts, including a best of third place in 2015. He had finishes of 11th or better in both his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at the track. His current rookie rival William Byron had a 33rd-place finish in one Xfinity start and a 30th-place finish in one truck start.


Seven-time Looking for "Breakthrough" Win

It’s not often that we think of a seven-time champion looking for a first-time win, but Jimmie Johnson has an interesting history at this week’s Chicagoland Speedway.


It is one of only three tracks (also Kentucky and Watkins Glen) on the Monster Energy Series schedule where Johnson has not won. He has finished runner-up three times (2004, 2008 and 2012). And in 2016 led a race-best 118 laps only to finish 12th. Johnson has won the pole position twice – the 2005 summer race and the 2012 fall race.


Interestingly, however, Chicagoland Speedway is the only place he ever won a NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Johnson won the Xfinity Series race there in 2001, edging out Mike Skinner and Jeff Burton. It was his only win in 83 Xfinity starts…and Johnson now has 83 Cup victories.


The champ heads to the Midwest ranked 12th in the 2018 Monster Energy Series points standings after an 11th-place result Sunday on the Sonoma road course. He has four finishes of 11th or better in the last six races. His best showing of the season was a third-place at Bristol in April.


Keselowski on Course

This week’s venue could well prove to be the place where Brad Keselowski earns his first win of the season. He is a two-time winner at Chicago – taking the trophy in his 2012 championship season and then winning again in 2014. And he won the 2011 Xfinity Series race as well.


He has finished eighth or better in the last seven races here, including fifth-place in 2011 and 2016. He’s led laps in six of the previous seven races.


He is ranked fourth in the Monster Energy Series standings – highest among those drivers still without a win this season and has three top-six finishes in the last four races.


Kyle Busch on Point at Chicagoland

Count Chicagoland Speedway as another venue where championship leader Kyle Busch has celebrated in Victory Lane – in all three NASCAR national series. His Monster Energy Series win in 2008 marks the only time the race has been won from the pole. His four Busch Pole awards in 12 tries at Chicago is an all-time best mark.


He is the 2011 Xfinity Series race winner at the track and has five Camping World Truck Series wins in the nine truck races the facility has hosted. Twice he won back-to-back truck races (2009-2010 and 2013-14).


As for the Monster Energy Series, Busch has finished among the top-10 in five of the last six races and has won pole position in three of the last four races, including the last two.


And Busch’s lone Cup win in 2008 – by 0.159-seconds over Jimmie Johnson – is the closest margin of victory in track history.


Going for Three

Not only is Martin Truex Jr. the most recent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner, toasting for the second time in California’s wine country over the weekend, he is the two-time defending winner at Chicagoland Speedway.


In the last three races, Truex has led 148 of his career 176 laps led at the track and his two wins for the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team are the only top-fives he has in 12 starts in Chicago.


He and Kevin Harvick are the only two drivers to win consecutive races at Chicago.


Statistically Speaking

Young driver Chase Elliott and his veteran Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson lead the six primary loop data statistical categories at Chicagoland Speedway (statistics from 2005-present).


Elliott, 22, has only two starts at the track and is always quick to caution about taking statistical signs too seriously with so few races under his belt. But his finishes were good enough to earn him the top driver rating (125.6). He is tops in average running position (2.9) and has the rare distinction of running 100 percent of the time among the top-15 on the track.


His teammate, seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Johnson, has 16 starts and although Chicagoland is one of only three track where he hasn’t won a Cup race, his driver rating is 113.0 – best among all the competition except his teammate Elliott. Johnson is tops in Chicago in Laps Led (637), Fastest Laps Run (412) and Quality Passes (421). 


Statistically Speaking, Part 2

Unlike most tracks the series visits, the majority of Chicagoland races have not been won from a front-row starting spot. Kyle Busch is the only Busch Pole winner (2008) to win the race and only 6 percent of the time has the race winner started from second through fifth place.


The winningest starting positions are sixth-10th, statistically speaking, with 29 percent of the winning drivers starting there on the grid. Even more interesting, 24 percent of the race winners have started in positions 11-15.


Historic Milestones

Three drivers are a victory away from impressive positions on NASCAR’s all-time win charts. Jimmie Johnson is one victory away from tying Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip with 84 wins.


Kyle Busch is one win away from earning his 48th victory, which would tie him with Herb Thomas, 14th on the all-time list. Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin is one victory away from tying NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett with 32 wins, which is the 24th best win total all-time.


NASCAR Xfinity Series

Illinois Native Justin Allgaier Looks To Make It Two In A Row
JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier returns to Chicagoland Speedway to not only defend his win from last season and become the first driver to go back-to-back at Chicago in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but if he accomplishes the feat, and wins this weekend he would also become the first driver this season to win consecutive races. Allgaier hails from Illinois and considers Chicagoland Speedway his home track, making his return for the Overton’s 300 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio extra special.

Allgaier and crew chief Jason Burdett have the No. 7 JR Motorsport Chevrolet Camaro team pointed in the right direction this season. In 14 starts, Allgaier has two wins (Dover and Iowa), three runner-up finishes (tied with Christopher Bell for season-most), seven top fives, nine top 10s and one pole. On top of all that he has been out front for 458 laps this season.

Allgaier is no slouch at Chicago, either. In 10 starts he has amassed two wins (2011 and 2017), four top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 7.5.

"There are so many reasons I look forward to Chicagoland," said Allgaier. "It’s my home track so it’s really cool to have my friends and family there cheering me on. Our No. 7 team took home the win there last year and it’d be great to do it again."

New Winners Aplenty In 2018
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 12 different winners in the first 14 races this season; which is the most through the first 14 races since 1996 (also saw 12 winners). Even though Allgaier became the second driver with multiple wins this season with his victory at Iowa, the chances are once again pretty good for the fans to see a different winner this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Allgaier will be going for two-in-a-row at Chicago this weekend, a feat not yet accomplished in the 22 races held at the famed 1.5-mile speedway. In total 14 different drivers have won at Chicago.

This season’s winners include Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (Phoenix and Charlotte), Joey Logano (California), Ryan Blaney (Texas), Ryan Preece (Bristol), Christopher Bell (Richmond), Spencer Gallagher (Talladega), Justin Allgaier (Dover and Iowa), Kyle Busch (Pocono) and Austin Dillon (Michigan).

Of the 12 different winners this season, five are entered this weekend, including some heavy hitters like Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson; along with series championship contenders Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell. But of the five previous winners this season entered, only Harvick (three Chicago wins) and Allgaier (two Chicago wins) have previously won at Chicago.

Chicago Could Be Where Cole Custer Breaks Through
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer is in the thick of the 2018 championship hunt, currently second in the driver standings, just four points behind Elliott Sadler in the standings lead. The young driver from California has been on the cusp of winning the last few races, and this weekend in the Overton’s 300 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) several key stats are pointing to him as a possible contender to get the victory.

Last season in his series debut at Chicago, Custer ran a solid race, posting an average running position of 3.3, led 41 laps (20.5% of the race), spent 99% of his laps completed in the top 15 and posted a driver rating of 124.5. He ultimately finished seventh in his track debut.

This season Custer has been lights out, in 14 races he has posted five top fives, 11 top 10s and three poles.

Sadler’s Luck Needs To Turn This Weekend

After 13 straight races with top-10 finishes going back to Miami, JR Motorsports Elliott Sadler’s luck has run out and in his last two starts has finished worse than 25th. This not only ended his streak of top 10s, but also greatly diminished a standings lead that he had built to more than 60-points over second-place.

Now the veteran from Virginia is looking to stop the recent skid this weekend at Chicago. Sadler still holds the points lead, but by a slim margin over second-place Cole Custer (-4 points) and third-place Christopher Bell (-7).

Sadler has made 15 series starts at Chicago, posting one win (2012), four top fives, nine top 10s and an average finish of 12.1. He has finished third in this race the last two seasons.

12 Races To Go: Playoff Bubble Grows

With just 12 races left in the regular season, time is of essence for the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers to start making a push for their postseason bids. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2018, a total of 23 drivers are eligible to make the 12-driver postseason that starts at Richmond Raceway on September 21.

Currently Ross Chastain sits in the 12th and final position to make the elimination-style Playoffs come September, but by only 24 points over 13th-place Michael Annett and 26 points over both 14th-place Kaz Grala and 15th-place Ryan Sieg.

Ross Chastain has been having a strong start to the season, posting three top 10s and an average finish of 17.6 (career-best). But he will have work cut out for him this weekend if he wants to hold on to 12th, both Annett (13.0) and Sieg (18.0) have better average finishes at Chicagoland than Chastain (23.0). It will be Grala’s series track debut this weekend at Chicago.

Chicagoland Statistical Quick Facts:

Below is a quick look at some information about the Overton’s 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

NXS Races: 22

Pole Winners: 12 (Kyle Busch and Brian Scott lead the series with three each)

Race Winners: 14 (Kyle Busch leads the series with four)

Race Record: Sept. 17, 2011 – Brad Keselowski (148.637 mph)

Qualifying Record: July 9, 2005 – Ryan Newman (186.438 mph)

Laps: Race Total (200 Laps) Stage 1 – 45 Laps; Stage 2 – 45 Laps; Final Stage – 110 Laps

Last Season’s Chicago Info

Pole Winner: Erik Jones (177.229 mph)

Stage 1 Winner: Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner: Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota)

Race Winner: Justin Allgaier (JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet)

Mid-Season Report: Xfinity Series

In comparison to other seasons, how has the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season faired statistically for the first half of the season? Below are several key stats with the answer.

  • 12 different winners in the first 14 races of the season are the most since 1996 (12 winners as well) - the series record for the most different winners in a full season is 18 – set in 1988 and tied in 2017.
  • Eight different pole winners through the first 14 races of the season are the fewest since 2013 (eight as well).
  • Average number of leaders this season is 7.00; the most since 2013 (7.93).
  • Average number of lead changes this season is 11.14; the third-most in the last five years.
  • Average MOV this season is 0.498 second – the smallest since the inception of electronic scoring in the Xfinity Series in 1996.

NASCAR Xfinity Series In Illinois
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has held 37 races in the state of Illinois among two tracks (Chicagoland Speedway – 22 races and Gateway Motorsports Park – 15 races). The first NASCAR Xfinity Series race held in the state of Illinois was on July 26, 1997, at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, and the event was won by Elliott Sadler, then driving for Gary Bechtel in the No. 29 Chevrolet. The first race held at Chicagoland Speedway in Juliet, Illinois, was on July 14, 2001, and it was won by seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, then driving for Stanley Herzog in the No. 92 Chevrolet. The victory is Johnson’s lone Xfinity Series career win to this day.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Justin Haley gets first win in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Gateway
It wasn’t easy, but Justin Haley drove into Victory Lane for the first time of his young career at the fifth-annual Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power at Gateway Motorsports Park, after an intense final 10 laps. This was his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in his 37th start for GMS Racing.

Todd Gilliland was right on Haley’s tail, fighting for his spot in Victory Lane, but Haley was able to hold him off and win in a two-lap shootout.

Although it wasn’t a win, Gilliland was able to post more career-bests with a season-high runner-up finish after passing Johnny Sauter on the Lap 158 restart.

With seven laps remaining, Haley took the lead from Noah Gragson and continued to battle with Gilliland for those remaining laps. The caution flag waved on the restart after Ben Rhodes stalled, which was the reasoning behind the Lap 158 restart. From there, Haley kept his momentum and held off Gilliland to the very end.

This season Haley has posted one win (Gateway), four top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 10.9. He is currently sixth in the series driver championship standings, but punched his ticket to the Playoffs with his win last weekend.

First Timers at Chicagoland Speedway

Of the 33 drivers entered in the Overton’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend so far, eight of them are making their track debut. They are - Austin Hill, Todd Gilliland, Robby Lyons, Brett Moffitt, Dalton Sargeant, Stewart Friesen, Bo LeMastus and Bayley Currey.

Two race winners at Chicagoland Speedway won for the first time in their track debut. Kyle Busch visited Chicagoland Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the first time in 2009 and won the race. He started in the fourth position.

John Hunter Nemechek did the same thing as Busch. His first time visiting the track was in 2015 and he won the race after starting 11th.

Sauter Wants Fifth Win

He’s never finished a season with more than four wins before but Johnny Sauter is hoping that the 2018 season will put an end to that.

Johnny Sauter, who has won four out of the ten races he entered so far this season, has dominated at each track. Sauter has not finished outside of the top five except for at the fourth race of the season at Martinsville.

Other than that, he has finished in either Victory Lane or in a top-five position. Lucky for him, Sauter won at Chicagoland last year and will head into this weekend with that momentum in hopes of capturing his fifth win and career-best record – with a lot of racing still to go.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

NASCAR Next Driver Posts Top-Five Finish In Truck Series Debut: 
Zane Smith made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Gateway Motorsports Park, starting 10th and finishing fifth. Although it was his first-time racing in the series, he had an impressive run at the track. Smith competes full-time in the ARCA Racing Series where he’s had a career-best season with three wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s and two poles under his belt.

Affarano Entered At Chicagoland: Michael Affarano is set to race at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the first time since June 2015. Affarano has seven starts under his belt, but is still looking for his first top 10. When Affarano visited Chicagoland the first time, he started in 28th and finished in 24th.

Crafton Still Craving A Win: Matt Crafton has visited Chicagoland Speedway nine times in his career but has yet to win at the tracks and is also searching for his first win of the season. He has three top fives, five top 10s and one pole at Chicago. He won the pole in his first visit to the 1.5-mile track. Crafton, Norm Benning and Johnny Sauter have all visited the track nine times, the most of all drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Sunoco Rookie Gilliland Posting Career Bests: Todd Gilliland proves to be a strong contender each week in his young NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. He has started in 12 career races and has posted three top fives and seven top 10s. Gilliland finished in second place behind Justin Haley at Gateway Motorsports Park posting his career-best finish. This was a great comeback for him as he crashed the weekend before at Iowa Speedway and was unable to finish the race. Gilliland is visiting Chicagoland for the first time this weekend. Will he be able to join John Hunter Nemechek and Kyle Busch on the list of those who grabbed a win at his track debut?

OEM Battle - So far, Chevrolet leads with six wins and 375 points and Toyota is behind them with four wins and 359 points. Ford has accumulated 325 points, but no wins, putting the manufacturer in third place. Heading into the race at Chicagoland Speedway, a Ford has never won at the track. Chevrolet has four wins at the track, including last year and Toyota has five wins.

Chicagoland Speedway Quick Facts

Track Length: 1.5 Miles
Race Length: 225 Miles (150 Laps)
Degree of Banking in Turns 1-4: 18 degrees
Degree of Banking on Tri-Oval: 11 degrees
Degree of Banking on Backstretch: 5 degrees
Length of Frontstretch: 2,400 feet
Length of Backstretch: 1,700 feet
Qualifying Record: Spencer Gallagher, 176.148 mph (09/16/16)
Race Record: Kyle Busch, 142.882 (09/13/14)
Most Wins: 5 (Kyle Busch)
Most Poles: 1 (7 drivers)
Most Top Fives: 6 (Kyle Busch)
Most Top 10s: 7 (Johnny Sauter)
Most Lead Changes: 17 (09/13/14)
Fewest Lead Changes: 9 (08/27/10)
Fewest Leaders: 4 (09/13/13)
Most Cautions: 10 (09/16/16)
Fewest Cautions: 3 (3 times, most recently 09/19/15)
Most Caution Laps: 41 (09/16/16)
Fewest Caution Laps: 14 (09/13/14)
Most Finishers on Lead Lap: 21 (07/21/12)
Fewest Finishers on Lead Lap: 6 (09/19/15)
Most Running at Finish: 20 (09/15/17)
Fewest Running at Finish: 20 (09/15/17)
Most Laps Led by a Race Winner: 121 (08/27/10)
Fewest Laps Led by a Race Winner: 2 (09/19/15)
Most Wins by a Manufacturer: 5 (Toyota)
Closest Margin of Victory: 0.186 seconds (0827/10)
Greatest Margin of Victory: 12.014 seconds (09/19/15)