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NASCAR DFS Top Plays Preview: Grant Park 220

NASCAR loves to provide an absolute show for the Fourth of July weekend. And while Independence Day may fall on a Tuesday this year, NASCAR is giving us a treat. Well, “treat” may be subjective, but NASCAR returns to Northern Illinois for some street racing in Chicago. The NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series will turn some laps in the area of Grant Park in downtown Chicago. This is a whole new venture for NASCAR as it looks to expand its audience. It could be great, or it could be a disaster. Here is this week’s NASCAR DFS top plays preview for the Grant Park 220!

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NASCAR DFS Top Picks and Plays: Grant Park 220

Before we dig into this week’s action, there is a bit to discuss. This is brand new for NASCAR. They’ve run road courses and hybrid “rovals” but this is new territory for them. A.J. Allmendinger is a noted road course racer, but even he expressed concerns about the lack of runoff on a street course with this layout. Other drivers like Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell, and Aric Almirola weighed in with their own opinions on the layout of this track. The truth is, we really don’t know what to expect. It’ll be flat with more right turns than left. It’s a 2.2-mile layout and it’s entirely possible that there are plenty of cautions. But maybe I’m just trying to expect the unexpected.

Chicago Street Course Map
Click on the map to enlarge.

Can we look to the traditional road course ringers? Sure, they probably still have an edge. But we really won’t have any idea what to expect until Saturday when the Xfinity Series race goes green and we see practice and qualifying for the Cup Series. We will have 100 laps for Sunday afternoon’s race so we’ll be targeting position differential and overall good finish results for Sunday’s race in downtown Chicago.

NASCAR DFS Top Plays: The Top Picks

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet)

This isn’t the greatest analysis by any means, but it seems like a race that NASCAR would want Elliott to win. He basically needs to win at this point to get into the playoffs and with just nine races left on the schedule, the opportunities are running out for NASCAR’s golden boy. Let’s not forget how NASCAR pulled a few strings during the inaugural road race at COTA in 2021. That was a race heavy with rain that should’ve seen Kyle Busch or Kyle Larson take the win. Both drivers were leading past the halfway point in wet conditions. Conveniently enough, NASCAR waited until Chase Elliott was in the lead to finally call the race due to weather. Elliott’s team has been showing more speed of late and he seems primed to be more aggressive to secure a win to make the playoffs.

Martin Truex Jr. (#19 Toyota)

Truex is a noted road course specialist, especially after his impressive win at Sonoma a few weeks ago. This might be one track where even he may not know what to expect though. Joe Gibbs Racing will likely have this car tuned up perfectly. There’s been immense speed in this ride lately. MTJ won Dover and led over 60 laps. Truex led over 70 laps at Kansas. He got into an accident at Darlington but still led over 140 laps. And since the All-Star race he’s finished top five (including the win at Sonoma) in four straight races including leading 50+ laps in two straight races. There may only be a few drivers to quickly adapt to this track’s layout, and MTJ is one of them.

A.J. Allmendinger (#16 Chevrolet)

Allmendinger may be the driver best suited for this race. With no Cup drivers allowed to run in the Xfinity Series race, we can safely rely on a guy like Allmendinger who has raced in previous series on tracks that don’t have a ton of runoff. Overall, he’s an absolute stud on road courses and he’s coming off an Xfinity Series win at Nashville last weekend too. He even had speed in the Cup Series race grabbing a top 10 on Sunday. The car is trending in the right direction in terms of speed so it’s a good week to pay up for Allmendinger. I’m guessing he’ll qualify well and finish well if he can avoid potential carnage.

NASCAR DFS Top Plays: Wouldn’t Bet Against Them

Tyler Reddick (#45 Toyota)

Reddick is in a bit of a slump since his win at COTA. While he did blow the field out of the water with a 141.8 driver rating and 41 laps led, he’s definitely struggled with three straight finishes of 30th or worse. Last week was odd because the car was clearly fast, but he lost a tire on pit road immediately after his pit stop and lost multiple laps due to penalties. That doesn’t change the fact that he scored two wins on road courses last year and overall, there’s still talent here. I have no problem adding him to the NASCAR DFS Top Plays Preview because he truly is one of the more talented drivers in the field and he’s in good equipment.

Kyle Busch (#8 Chevrolet)

There’s an argument to include Busch in the “Potential Sleepers” section but honestly, with three wins on the year with Richard Childress Racing, he’s hardly a sleeper. There’s one driver who has finished second in both road course races this year, and his name is Kyle Busch. Busch had a driver rating of 101.1 at COTA and another driver rating of 112.0 at Sonoma. He was even able to overcome an early flat tire at Nashville last week to mostly run top 10. Busch does have four career wins to his name at road courses so there is win equity here. His boom-or-bust approach this season gives him upside in the Grant Park 220.

NASCAR DFS Top Plays: Grant Park 220 Sleepers

Joey Logano (#22 Ford)

It seems odd to put Logano in the “potential sleepers” section but hear me out. The aerodynamics of the Ford cars adds drag to the cars. But with this race being run later in the day, and temperatures dropping at night, that may help Logano. He isn’t a noted road course ringer, but he has good fortune whenever NASCAR runs an inaugural race on a new track. First race on dirt at Bristol? Logano won. First race at the L.A. Coliseum? Logano won. First race at Gateway? Logano won. I’m not saying this is a lock, but with so many unknown factors for this race, maybe we don’t count out a driver that’s known to surprise us when we least expect it.

Chris Buescher (#17 Ford)

Believe it or not, Chris Buescher has scored the most points on road courses in the NextGen car. When I think of drivers to include in the NASCAR DFS Top Plays Preview, I wish I could always find a way to include him. He finished eighth at COTA earlier this year and was fourth at Sonoma earlier this month. He also grabbed five top-10 finishes on road courses last year and RFK has been faster overall lately. Don’t write him off this week even if he does qualify well.

Michael McDowell (#34 Ford)

If you recall the note I made on Chris Buescher, he is indeed the driver who has scored the most points on road courses in the NextGen car with 252 points. Tyler Reddick is second at 250 points. Joey Logano is surprisingly third with 249. And Michael McDowell is fourth with 243. The secret is largely out with McDowell. He is a very good road course driver. Maybe we should temper expectations heading into this weekend, but he did finish 12th at COTA and seventh at Sonoma this year. Even last year he grabbed four finishes in the top eight on road courses so his price tag is likely to be elevated for this race, but he’s a dark horse to potentially win it if there are more cautions.

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