GEICO 400 Free Picks
(The Spread) - NASCAR kicks off its Chase for the Championship this weekend with the GEICO 400 Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
After 26 races, the field is now set and the next 12 events promise to be exciting with this year’s field more bunched together than in the past.
It’s always important for drivers to get out of the gate quickly, but at the same time they also have to think points since they really only get one bad finish during the chase. The thinking has always been that you get one mulligan during the chase, so drivers are less inclined to take any big chances early on. So don't look for much excitement from the top drivers in the standings in the first few races.
Like so many other tracks on the schedule, Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5-mile D shaped oval but it's also unique in some ways. Chicagoland has the least amount of banking than any 1.5-mile track other than Kentucky Speedway and Kansas Speedway and with no real straightaway, it doesn't give drivers much time until they enter a turn. Kansas Speedway is the track most similar to it, so look for drivers who ran well there.
Jeff Gordon and his team have hit the chase hotter than any other squad in NASCAR. Gordon and his team have really turned things around on the cookie cutter tracks the last part of the season, with a win at Atlanta, a sixth place finish at Michigan, and a 10th place finish at Kentucky in July. Statistically, Chicagoland is Gordon’s third-best track on the circuit with an average finish of 8.6 in 10 career races. He won here in 2006 and in his last two starts, Gordon has a second and a third place finish, respectively. We look for Gordon to kick off the chase with a convincing win.
This year has been a disappointment for Stewart but the last few weeks have proven that his team has not given up. In 10 races here, Stewart has eight top-10s with seven of those finishes in the top five, and his 9.5 average finish is third best. At the cookie cutter tracks this year, Stewart has been as good as anyone, with top-10s at Las Vegas, Kansas, Atlanta and both races at Michigan. Just like Gordon, Stewart enters this race after some very good runs the last few weeks and a win wouldn't surprise us one bit.
In five starts at Chicagoland, Vickers has a pole and has qualified on the first three rows a total of four times, which is always important here. In those five starts he's never finished worse than 14th and his 8.8 average finish is second best behind Gordon, who leads all drivers with an 8.6 average finish. Vickers has shown speed all year on the cookie cutter tracks and if the chase drivers play it to safe he could pull off one of the bigger upset wins of the year.
2011 GEICO 400 Information
Race Date: Sunday, Sept. 18
Location: Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.
Pre-Race: 1:00PM ET
Green Flag: Approx. 2:14PM ET
TV Coverage: ESPN
Radio Coverage: MRN
Track Type: Oval (267 laps)
Opening Odds: GEICO 400 Opening Odds