Why he'll win: There's a strong feeling in the garage that Johnson is poised to make a second-half charge. In six career starts at Chicago Johnson has finished sixth or better five times.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- Busch, who's won one-third of the races this season, has obviously emerged as the driver to beat each week. He finished third in this race in 2006.
Don't expect much from: Ryan Newman -- Newman won this race back in '03, but since then he's finished 29th or worse at Chicagoland three times. Plus, he's in the midst of one of the worst slumps of his career; he has only one top-10 run in his last eight starts.
My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: We know he likes it here -- he earned his second victory at Chicagoland last July, and altogether has finished in the top five all but two of seven career starts. Besides, I don't know that there's been a more perfect meeting of man and moment yet this season ... and we all know Stewart has a flair for the dramatic.
Keep an eye on: Jeff Gordon -- He's had some tough luck this year from the first race on, but his Hendrick Motorsports team is rounding into form. Besides Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gordon seems the most likely Hendrick driver to win a race these days.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- Historically, the Windy City has not been kind to the No. 9. Kahne has only finished two of his four starts at Chicagoland, and never finished higher than 23rd.
My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: I've said it once and I'll say it again -- anytime Stewart is in the news, he follows it up with a solid performance on the track. Still winless on the year, Stewart is the defending champ of this race and needs a victory to try and distance himself from his current 12th place standing in the Chase. What better way to announce his departure from JGR than to start the process of going out on top?
Keep an eye on: Matt Kenseth -- For the last three years, the No. 17 team has been knocking on the door at this track. Collecting two second place finishes and a 22nd after being spun out of the lead by Jeff Gordon, Kenseth feels like the track owes him one. Anything less than a Top 5 finish would be a major disappointment for one of the hottest teams in NASCAR as of late.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- The driver of the No. 9 Dodge is known for his success at intermediate tracks, but Chicagoland comes as the exception to the rule. In four career starts there, he's led just ten laps and has yet to finish better than 23rd.
My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: Yes, he just announced he's leaving to run his own team next year. Yes, he left the No. 20 Toyota and required bags of intravenous fluids at the Coke Zero 400. Yes, his season has been otherwise pocked by bad luck or bad performance to the point he's called his season "terrible." If he can avoid the fresh tomato and cilantro salads and stay healthy (I made that up. I don't know why he got sick) and rally the boys for one more "screw-it, let's show them" run like when he missed the Chase for the Championship in '06, this could be an interesting last half of the year.
Keep an eye on: Kevin Harvick -- No one has scored more points at Chicagoland. He won the first two races there, coming from 32nd to do it in '02, and following three blip performances has finished fourth the last two years. He's 13th in the standings, out of the Chase, but just two points behind Stewart. Should be interesting.
Don't expect much from: Ryan Newman -- He's won at Chicago, but he's adrift, languishing 16th in points. His sit-down with team owner Roger Penske regarding the team's performance and his future with the organization loom. Has to be a tough situation in the No. 12 Dodge camp.
My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: This guy can do anything. You'd have to be a fool to pick against him. So what if "Shrub" has never won a race at Chicagoland Speedway. He'll check that off his list Saturday night just as he did at Daytona last Saturday night and at Infineon Raceway a few weeks ago.
Keep an eye on: Matt Kenseth -- Kenseth has finished second in this race in 2005 and last year and could have won the 2006 race before he was bumped out of the way by eventual winner Jeff Gordon. This seems to be the perfect track for the driver from Cambridge, Wisconsin although he has yet to make it to victory lane in the Cup race.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- Not only has Kahne never won at Chicagoland, he's never finished in the top 10 at this track.
My Pick: Kasey Kahne
Why he'll win: Kahne is undoubtedly happy to be back on a horsepower-and-aero track. He won the All-Star and Cup races at Lowe's, followed up with a victory at Pocono and was second at Michigan. It seemed like a turnaround for the Dodge driver, but it really wasn't on these types of tracks. Kahne had been sixth at Atlanta and ninth at Las Vegas (both 1.5-milers like Chicagoland) earlier, so he and crew chief Kenny Francis were close. Kahne's best finish in four starts at Chicagoland is 23rd, but this will be the first there for the Car of Today.
Keep an eye on: Matt Kenseth -- He and crew chief Chip Bolin have developed the No. 17 into a consistent top-10 car in their first season together. After a more-down-than-up start, Kenseth has seven top-eight finishes in the past eight races, including thirds at Michigan and Daytona. He's been good at Chicagoland, second in '05 and '07, and was knocked out of the way leading with a few laps to go by Jeff Gordon in '06.
Don't expect much from: Clint Bowyer -- He's having a Chase-contending season, 10th in the points with nine top-10s in 18 races, but he's had trouble on many of the long, wide and fast tracks like Chicagoland. Bowyer was 19th at Fontana, 28th at Las Vegas, 25th at Lowe's and 26th at Michigan. Bowyer was sixth at Atlanta and 10th at Texas, but they're the exceptions and the other results point to lacking a good baseline setup on the 1.5- and 2-mile tracks.
My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: Johnson is overdue, and there's no place he likes as much as a intermediate track under the lights. He's never won a Cup race at Chicago, though he has won a Nationwide event there. Chevrolets have won six of seven races at Chicago, while Johnson has finished sixth or better in all but one of his six starts at the track.
Keep an eye on: Tony Stewart -- Stewart has dominated the news this week and you can expect the spotlight to continue to shine on him during Saturday's race. There have been seven Cup races at Chicagoland, and Stewart has finished in the top-five in five of them. He's won twice at the track.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- Kahne may be battling for a spot in the '08 Chase, but he's struggled at Chicagoland in his career. In four starts, he's best finish is 23rd and twice he's had to park his car before the end of the race.
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