2012 NASCAR Geico 400
Chicagoland Speedway – Joliet, Illinois
1.5 Mile D-Shaped Oval – (167 laps)
Sunday, September 16, 2012, 2:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Defending Champion: Tony Stewart
All Odds courtesy of Bookmaker
After 26 races, we finally are down to the 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Twelve drivers are still alive including #1 seed Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., and wild cards Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Notably absent from that list are such drivers as Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano who didn’t qualify for the Chase. Kyle Busch missed out one of the wild cards by 3 points, and was edged out by Jeff Gordon.
So the Chase begins at Chicagoland Sunday. Last year, Tony Stewart won the Chicago race, and it was the first of five wins in the ten Chase races. He won his third Sprint Cup Championship last year. It ended a streak of five straight championships for Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson won the pole for the Geico 400 this week, and Aric Almirola will start second. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified 4th but will start from the back of the field after an engine change. Here is a look at the complete starting grid.
Let’s take a look at the odds to win the Geico 400 with odds courtesy of Bookmaker.
Jimmie Johnson (4/1)
Johnson is the #2 seed for the Chase, 3 points behind Hamlin. Through 26 races, Johnson has 17 top tens, 12 top 5’s and 3 wins at Dover, Darlington, and Indianapolis. He came in 13th last week at Richmond. Johnson has never won at Chicago, but he does have 8 top 10’s and 5 top 5’s. He came in 10th in last year’s Chicago race. Johnson is always a threat to win every race he enters. He will also be motivated because he had a disappointing Chase last year, finishing sixth. It was the first time in his 10 year career that he finished outside of the top 5 in points.
Denny Hamlin (8/1)
Hamlin is the #1 seed for the Chase, because of his 4 wins at Phoenix, Kansas, Bristol, and Atlanta. He came in 18th at Richmond last week, to break a string of back-to-back wins. Hamlin also has 13 top tens and 11 top 5’s. He qualified 8th for this week’s race at Chicago. In six career Chicagoland races, Hamlin has never finished higher than 5th, and only has one additional top 10. He came in 31st last year in the Chicago race.
Matt Kenseth (8/1)
Kenseth is the #8 seed in the Chase 9 points behind Hamlin. He led the points for most of the season, but he has struggled a little down the stretch with only 3 top tens in the last 8 races. For the season, Kenseth has 16 top 10’s, 10 top 5’s and a win at the Daytona 500. He came in 5th at Richmond last week. He will start third at Chicago. In 11 career races at Chicago, he has 4 top tens’s and 2 top 5’s, but no wins. He has two runner-ups at the track, but has finished 13th or worse in his last 3 starts at the track. He came in 21st last year at Chicago. He has a good shot at a top 10 this week.
Kasey Kahne (9/1)
Kahne is the #11 seed in the Chase, as the first wild card. He is 12 points behind Hamlin. Kahne has 13 top tens, 7 top 5’s and wins at Charlotte and New Hampshire. He doesn’t get any bonus points for his two wins as a wild card. He came in 12th at Richmond last week, but with his place in Chase almost secured, he was allowed to be conservative. Kahne will start sixth at Chicago. In 8 career races at Chicago, Kahne has 2 top tens and a top five. He has never finished higher than 3rd at Chicago, and came in 12th last year.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (9/1)
Earnhardt is the #7 seed, 9 points behind Hamlin. He has 17 top 10’s, 10 top 5’s, and a win at Michigan. Earnhardt has only 2 top 10’s in his last 6 races, and came in 14th last week at Richmond. He will start from the back of the field after changing his engine after he qualified 4th. In 11 career Chicago races, Earnhardt has 4 top tens, 3 top 5’s and a win in 2005. He came in third last year, to end a streak of 4 straight 15th or worse finishes.
Tony Stewart (10/1)
The defending Sprint Cup Champion is the third seed, 3 points behind Hamlin. He has 12 top 10’s, 10 top 5’s, and wins at Las Vegas, California, and Daytona. He came in fourth last week at Richmond, to break a slump of 4 straight 19th or worst finishes. Stewart barely held off Kahne for the last automatic qualifying spot. Otherwise, Stewart would have been a wild card instead of the #3 seed. Stewart will start 29th at Chicago. In 11 career Chicago races, Stewart has 9 top 10’s, 8 top 5’s and 3 wins, including last year. I know he didn’t qualify well, but Stewart should be much lower than 10/1. Stewart is definitely worth a play to win the race.
Jeff Gordon (10/1)
Gordon barely qualified for the Chase as the second wild card , just 3 points ahead of Kyle Busch. Think about that. Three points equals three track positions in 26 races. Gordon is 12 points behind Hamlin. He has 12 top 10’s, 7 top 5’s and a win at Pocono in a rain shortened race. He has a third and 2 runner ups in his last 3 races, including last week at Richmond. Gordon will start 19th at Chicago. He has 7 top 10’s, 6 top 5’s and a win in 2006 in 11 career Chicago races. He came in 24th last year, after finishing 3rd and 2nd in the previous two races.
Brad Keselowski (10/1)
Keselowski is the #4 seed, 3 points behind Hamlin. He has 15 top 10’s, 10 top 5’s and wins at Bristol, Talladega, and Kentucky. He has 9 top 10’s in his last 10 starts, including a 7th place at Richmond last week. Keselowski will start 13th at Chicago. He came in fifth last year, his best finish in 3 career Chicago starts. He didn’t finish higher than 18th in his other two starts at the track.
Carl Edwards (10/1)
Edwards was the runner-up in last year’s Chase, but did not qualify for this year’s Chase. He has 11 top tens, and 2 top 5’s, but the lack of wins this season doomed him. He came in 17th at Richmond last week. He will start 5th for this race. In seven career Chicagoland starts, Edwards has 3 top 5’s, including a 4th place last year. You do have to wonder what his motivation will be though after missing the Chase. NASCAR does give a sizable cash bonus to the driver who comes in 13th in the final points standings. I don’t know if that will be enough for someone as competitive as Edwards.
Greg Biffle (11/1)
Biffle is the #5 seed, 6 points behind Hamlin. He has 15 top 10’s and 10 top 5’s along with wins at Texas and Michigan. He came in 9th at Richmond. He qualified 22nd at Chicago this week. He came in 4th in 2008, but otherwise doesn’t have another top ten in 9 career Chicagoland starts. He has finished 26th or worse in his last 3 Chicago starts.
Kyle Busch (11/1)
Busch had 12 top 10’s, 6 top 5’s, and a win in the spring race at Richmond. It wasn’t enough to make the Chase though. He came in 16th in last week’s Richmond race, despite running near the front for most of the race. Busch will start 21st at Chicago. In seven career Chicago starts, Busch has a win in 2008, and a third in 2006. He hasn’t finished higher than 13th in his last 3 Chicago starts. He could face the same motivational problems as Edwards.
It should be a great race and an exciting beginning to the Chase in 2012.