Scorching hot temperatures and a racing surface nearly old enough to vote await the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday. Chicagoland Speedway plays host to the Overton’s 400, where 39 of the best stock car drivers in the world will battle high heat, a slick track, and each other for 267 laps.
High temperatures approaching the mid-90s this afternoon will make this one of the most physically demanding races of 2018.
Friday and yesterday, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier carried a thermometer in his car. Temperatures exceeded 130 degrees inside his car during Friday’s practice session, and were too high for the thermometer to read in yesterday’s race. Drivers asked for cold drinks and ice bags at every pit stop yesterday, and that is to be expected today as well.
Think @NASCAR drivers aren't athletes? Think again.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) June 29, 2018
The track surface at Chicagoland Speedway has never been repaved since the track’s opening in 2001. Seventeen years later, the track surface is well-worn, lacks grip, and is riddle with bumps on the bottom lane in the turns. All of that will have drivers searching high and low for grip this afternoon.
Drama unfolded after qualifying yesterday, with cars failing inspection and having their times disallowed.
Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex, Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Chris Buescher all failed inspection on their first trip through the line and had their qualifying times wiped away, forcing them to the back of the pack. Hamlin had qualified in fourth position, Truex, Jr, in 12th, Johnson in 22nd and Buescher in 23rd.
Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.
1.5 mile tri-oval with curved backstretch
267 laps = 400.5 miles
Green flag: 2:32 pm eastern
Stages end: lap 80, lap 160, lap 267
Coverage: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
Paul Menard earned his second career pole on Saturday evening, posting a time of 29.998 seconds around the 1.5 mile track. He’ll be joined on the front row by Ryan Blaney in another Ford.
Hamlin, Truex, Jr., Johnson and Buescher will have their hands full with working their way to the front due to their inspection failures. But Kyle Larson proved it is possible, winning yesterday’s Xfinity Series race after starting at the back.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will also surrender his 20th qualifying spot to start at the back for making adjustments to his car after qualifying.
Ford drivers showed their speed in Saturday’s two practice sessions, taking the top spot both times. Blaney had the fast time in first practice, followed by the Chevrolet trio of Johnson, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott. In final practice, Ford had four of the top five times, with Brad Keslowski leading the way, Joey Logano in third, Kurt Busch in fourth and Aric Almirola fifth. Truex, Jr. spoiled the party with the second fastest lap in his Toyota.
39 cars entered, so all will start.
Kevin Harvick is the favorite to win today’s race, currently at 5/2 odds according to VegasInsider.com. Kyle Busch and Truex, Jr. follow at 4/1 each. Top qualifier Paul Menard is at 100/1 odds to win.
Last Time at Chicagoland
This race was the start of the playoffs a year ago, and Truex, Jr. wasted no time advancing to the next round. It wasn’t without drama though, as he was caught speeding on pit road during a round of green-flag pit stops in stage one. He also had loose lug nuts at the end of stage one and had to get those fastened before the start of stage two.
Meanwhile, Kyle Busch started at the front and led 78 of the 80 laps to win stage one.
Trouble found Busch as well though, as a loose wheel brought him to pit road shortly after the start of stage two, then a crewman stepped over the wall too soon resulting in a penalty. Busch ended up a lap down and never recovered.
Chase Elliott ended up winning stage two and finishing second in the race.