The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, and for a "cookie-cutter" 1.5-mile oval, this track in particular has delivered some memorable moments on and off the track over the years. We have seen a giant Tropicana orange rolling down the straightaway, and then there was the time the Muppets were locked out because of a dispute between promoters. There have also been some great racing moments, including Kyle Larson's slide job and battle with Kyle Busch just last year.
I'm not sure if Sunday's Camping World 400 will add to Chicagoland's lore, but as the sixth race of 2019 at a mile-and-a-half track, I do think we have a pretty good idea of how to set up our DFS lineups for success.
A lot of the talk coming into the season focused on whether NASCAR's reduced-horsepower package would be a game changer at these bigger, faster ovals. The answer has been both "yes" and "no" depending on what you are looking at.
At the end of the day, the top drivers from the top teams are still running up front on a routine basis. On the flip side, it has been even tougher to pass the leader under green after the initial restart, so we have seen the dominator points become more spread out as any driver who can grab clean air is able to stay out front for a while.
Don't get me wrong. The dominator categories are still important, and there is still going to be that No. 1 option who leads the most laps that you simply have to hit on if you want to bring in the big bucks. However, I don't think you have to go with the top-heavy lineups and punt plays that have worked in the past. We just aren't seeing one or two drivers monopolizing the dominator points at the 1.5-mile tracks this year.
Qualifying always plays a role, but in general I like the idea of going with one high-priced driver starting near the front and several of the stronger midrange options. Cheaper options who start up front and steal some laps led points (William Byron, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) can also be great. If I can pair with the top dominator with three drivers who all lead double-digit laps, gain some spots and finish in the Top 10, I like my chances of beating any lineup with two high-priced guys and a punt play or two.
Head back after the starting lineup is locked in for my final DFS picks and favorite lineups strategies. In the meantime, I've highlighted the drivers who I expect to lean on at DraftKings for Sunday's Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Kyle Busch ($11,500)
Busch is the defending winner of Sunday's race, and more importantly, he has been piling up dominator points at Chicagoland. He has led more than 20 laps and recorded double-digit fastest laps in the last six races here, leading at least 46 laps five times. Busch has also led the second-most laps at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2019, leading laps in four of the five races.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900)
Fresh off his win at Sonoma, Truex will try to add to his impressive resume at Chicagoland. He has two wins and a fourth-place finish in the last three races here, and he has led 30-plus laps in three of his last four starts at the track, recording double-digit fastest laps in all four and 60-plus fastest laps twice. Not to mention that the last time the series visited a 1.5-mile track, Truex led 116 laps in a win at Charlotte. Don't be surprised if he piles up the dominator points again this weekend.
Brad Keselowski ($10,600)
The only driver with multiple wins at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year is Keselowski, and he has led double-digit laps in four of the five races. He also has an excellent resume at Chicagoland. Keselowski has reeled off eight straight Top 10s at the track, winning twice and leading laps in seven of those starts. He looks like a safe bet for some dominator points Sunday.
Difference Makers and Value Plays
Kevin Harvick ($11,200)
The victories haven't been there for Harvick, but it is not for a lack of speed. In fact, he has led the most laps in the five races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, leading double-digit laps four times and 40-plus three times. Harvick has also logged double-digit fastest laps in four of those five races, notching 50-plus twice. His resume at Chicagoland checks out, as well. Harvick has led double-digit laps in four of his five starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing, leading 59 laps and 39 laps, respectively, in the last two races. It hasn't been a smooth 2019 campaign for Harvick, but he can still anchor a DFS lineup.
Chase Elliott ($9,700)
Elliott become a staple at the front of the field at the 1.5-mile ovals, leading at least 35 laps in the las three races and notching back-to-back Top 5s at Kansas and Charlotte. He has also a history of success at Chicagoland, finishing in the Top 3 and leading 40-plus laps in two of his three starts. Elliott should have a great shot at delivering dominator points this weekend.
Clint Bowyer ($9,100)
Only two drivers have managed three Top 5s through the first five races at 1.5-mile ovals this season, and Bowyer is one of them. He also led 21 laps and finished in the Top 5 at Chicagoland a year ago. This new rules package has definitely given his ceiling a boost at the intermediate ovals, and Bowyer could be a sneaky source for some dominator points this weekend.
Erik Jones ($8,900)
When he isn't having terrible luck, Jones is typically running in the Top 10, and he has been at his best at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has three Top 10s in the five races this season, including a couple of Top 5s, and he finished sixth at Chicagoland last year. You can't ignore a driver who offers Top 5 upside for a midrange price.
Alex Bowman ($8,700)
Bowman has come to life at the mile-and-a-half tracks, leading 63 laps and finishing second at Kansas and leading eight laps and finishing seventh at Charlotte in his last two starts. He has also cracked the Top 10 in both of his starts at Chicagoland for Hendrick Motorsports. I'm not sure if the momentum will last, but for now, Bowman offers Top 5 upside and some dominator potential for a great price.
William Byron ($7,800)
He has taken a big step forward at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2019, posting a 13.6 average finish in the five races overall and logging two Top 10s in his last three. Byron has also been excellent in qualifying at this type of track, and it has helped him lead laps in four of his five starts. With Top 10 upside and the potential for a few dominator points, you have to consider him at this price.
Paul Menard ($7,300)
Menard is never flashy, but he has snuck into the Top 15 in three of the five races at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, and he has back-to-back Top 15s at Chicagoland. As long as he starts somewhere near the middle of the pack, he should be a solid lower-priced option for cash lineups.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,100)
This 2019 rules package has been working out for him at the mile-and-a-half tracks, and Stenhouse heads to Chicagoland with an 11.2 average finish in the five races. He has finished 18th or better in all five of those starts, leading laps in three of them and finishing sixth or better twice. Stenhouse has never been the most reliable option, but he needs to be on your radar this weekend, if only for GPP contests.
Chris Buescher ($6,800)
He has been a DFS monster at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, posting a 12.6 average finish in the five races and gaining an average of 10.6 spots per race. Buescher has gained at least eight spots in four of those five starts, logging three Top 10s. If he starts towards the middle of the pack or deeper, he should be one of the best values on the board.
Matt Tifft ($5,400)
Tifft has been trending in the right direction at the mile-and-a-half tracks, finishing in the Top 25 in the last three races and gaining at least five spots in each of them. He finished 21st at Kansas and 20th at Charlotte in the last two races at 1.5-mile tracks, and Tifft could end up being a cheap source of 20-plus fantasy points as long as he continues his trend of qualifying outside the Top 25.