The NASCAR Cup Series comes rolling into downtown Chicago this week for the Grant Park 165. It’s the third road race of the season for the Cup drivers and the second time on the Chicago street course. A first last year, it was a chaotic and exciting race that saw Shane Van Gisbergen win in a one-off NASCAR ride. What is it that we can take from that 2023 Grant Park 220 that we can use for the 2024 edition? Are there comparable road layouts to the streets of downtown Chicago? How are we approaching building NASCAR DFS lineups for this race? Who are the top drivers to use? All that plus the preview podcast in this week’s Grant Park 165 playbook.

NASCAR Road Course Race Trends

Even though each road race is different in layout, the style of racing produces results we can group together. The first thing that sticks out is that laps led aren’t huge at road races, mainly due to a lack of laps in the races. However, just because the sheers numbers aren’t as big as other races, we’re still seeing basically one driver counting as a laps led dominator for DFS. Sticking with laps led for the second noticeable trend, the drivers starting in the top-10 have led nearly 90% of the laps in the last 5 races.

To go along with those trends, we see that finishing in the top-10 generally requires a starting spot that’s around the top-12. It almost certainly requires a driver starting in the top-20 unless some chaos breaks out. Also in that vein, in the Next Gen era, winners on road courses have started P8 or better over 95% of the time. So if we’re looking for drivers likeliest to put up the highest point total, they’re likely starting in the top-10 quite often. As you look at the scoring charts below, you’ll notice that 7 of the top-10 scoring spots are P1 to P12.

Positive Place Differential181324202119.2
Six+ Place Differential Spots1381110910.2
Double-Digit Place Differential763645.2
Double-Digit Fast Laps221311.8
20+ Laps Led212111.4
50+ Laps Led000110.4
100+ Laps Led000000
Lead Lap Finishers273433312229.4
Top-10 Finishers Start>P123433128%
Laps Led From Top-107468103907389%

Grant Park 165 Practice and Qualifying Results

The following table shows the practice and qualifying results from Saturday for the Grant Park 165. It’s sorted by qualifying position and shows single-lap, 5-lap, and 10-lap averages to show who may move up and hold their positions during the race.

DriverAvg. Prac to QualQual1-Lap5-Lap10-Lap
Kyle Larson-711420
Ty Gibbs-523136
Michael McDowell-4395 
Tyler Reddick-748719
Shane van Gisbergen-155237 
Bubba Wallace16662
Christopher Bell-871316 
Alex Bowman68511
Daniel Suarez3948 
Brad Keselowski-61028155
Denny Hamlin6111024
John H. Nemechek512123 
Carson Hocevar-713143016
Ross Chastain-714262214
Austin Dillon-21524217
Chris Buescher-13162928 
Ryan Blaney-4171625 
Chase Elliott41871421
Kyle Busch-7192724 
Corey Lajoie420211018
Austin Cindric-6212232 
Chase Briscoe922111217
Justin Haley-13233933 
Martin Truex Jr14241993
Erik Jones-10253634 
Todd Gilliland4261727 
William Byron8271820 
Noah Gragson62831269
Ryan Preece429332913
Zane Smith1530151911
Harrison Burton-4313435 
Joey Logano1323231 
Ricky Stenhouse Jr1133302312
Austin Hill2034201110
Daniel Hemric635353815
Josh Berry193625178
AJ Allmendinger17372318 
Joey Hand2383736 
Josh Bilicki-13940  
Kaz Grala2403839 

DraftKings Scoring Trends on Road Courses

The following chart shows the average points scored by position on DraftKingsl over the last five road races in the Cup Series. It’s meant to show the general strategy and not necessarily hard-and-fast expectations for scoring.

FanDuel Scoring Trends on Road Courses

The following chart shows the average points scored by position on FanDuel over the last five road races in the Cup Series. It’s meant to show the general strategy and not necessarily hard-and-fast expectations for scoring.

NASCAR DFS Strategy for Chicago

With everything above, how are we turning that into lineups for DraftKings and FanDuel? Well perhaps more than any other tracks, track position is king at road courses. We’ve seen drivers have a tough time passing under green flag conditions at other road courses in the Next Gen era. At Chicago we’re likely to see more passes for the lead than elsewhere, but it’s still likely to be the same couple of drivers swapping the lead back and forth. Drivers starting further back in the pack can move up during green flag racing as well as using pit strategy but it’s significantly tougher to crack the top-10 simply by racing into it unless a car has elite speed. So unlike most race weekends, we’re treating PD as a bonus, aside from perhaps 1-2 spots in the build, and we’re banking on finish position points to really build up the score on both sites. Drivers who have the better road histories are clearly ones we want to focus on but drivers who are starting to have runs of success on them are also in play as sometimes drivers just figure out how to deal with right turns after more reps at it.

Top Drivers To Play For Grant Park 165

Top Tier Drivers

Kyle Larson

The pole sitter, again, at a road course is a prime spot to be in. We’ve seen him in this spot a few times before over the last 2 seasons and it’s usually resulted in a chunk of laps led for Larson and him winning a couple of times. When we factor in that he’s getting more track time in the Xfinity race on Saturday, that makes him more of a threat on Sunday. He’ll be quite popular for a few reasons and because it’s a road course, he’s playable in both formats.

Christopher Bell

Bell has nearly won twice in the last 4 road races along with his 5 top-10s in the last 8 such races. The speed wasn’t quite top-10 at practice but we’ve seen him struggle in practice before only to show up and run well in the race. This is shaping up to be another one of those weekends.

Shane Van Gisbergen

He won this race a year ago in his first ever time in a NASCAR at any level. He’s now back and doing the double this weekend after racing the Xfinity race on Saturday. SVG’s racing exploits are well known from his time in Australia racing series and he’s dominated road racing in the Xfinity series as well. The only downside this year is he’s in a Kaulig car rather than a Trackhouse which is a bit worse equipment. However, it likely won’t matter much as the skills are good enough to overcome it.

William Byron

Prior to having issues at Sonoma, Byron was coming off of 2 wins and a P2 in the prior 3 road races. Even when he’s not fighting for wins, he’s consistently been a threat for top-15s. Byron will have work to do to get into the top-15 this weekend starting P27, but dropping to the rear after needing a steering change after qualifying. Perhaps the dropping to the rear and the bad showing at Sonoma will give us a tad bit of leverage in playing him for PD upside.

Martin Truex Jr.

Speaking of disasters at Sonoma, that’s what MTJ suffered when he ran out of gas a few hundred feet from the finish. He was running P2 prior to that issue. Truex has been one of the better road racers in the Cup Series for a while now but has been on a bit of an every other pattern of late. Over the last 8 races, he’s followed every top-10 with a P17 or worse finish, so after a P27 at Sonoma he’s in line for a top-10 in Chicago. Assuming his pit crew doesn’t cost him.

Mid-Tier Drivers

AJ Allmendinger

Get ready to see Allmendinger as most people’s favorite PD play. We all know his bona fides across his career and how good of a road racer he is. Even with as bad as Kaulig has been in the Cup Series this year, Allmendinger still has 2 P6 finishes at COTA and Sonoma this year. That being said, him starting P37 on Sunday is easily the worst starting spot he’s had in the last 2 seasons so there’s work to do. Any finish inside the top-20 is enough for 5x value.

Ty Gibbs

Prior to wrecking himself out of Sonoma, Gibbs had five-straight top-12 finishes on road courses. Now he starts P2 with a shot to beat Larson into Turn 1 and lead some laps. The 54-car team has seemingly put together a top-5 car for Gibbs this weekend with a shot to lead laps. He’s also getting more track time by running the Xfinity race on Saturday. That being said, we’ll need that finish from him to get the points we’re looking for from Gibbs, even in the mid-tier. 

Daniel Suarez

We shouldn’t be that shocked to see Suarez starting this close to the front (P9) as he has the 4th-best average starting spot in the last 8 road races. He has been a bit hit and miss with the finishes though. In this race a year ago he started P4, ran P3 a good chunk of it and finished P27 after being caught in the big pile up in the final corner. If he can avoid disaster on Sunday, (getting more lap time on Saturday should help) the speed in the 99-car is there for him to nab another top-10, if not top-5 at the checkered flag, however he really only fits GPP builds.

Kyle Busch

It’s been a disastrous year for Busch. There’s no way around that. However, that hasn’t necessarily held true at road races. In the 8 road races with RCR, he’s averaging a 10.4 average finish which is 4th-best in the field. That includes a P36 finish too. Other than that his worst finish has been P14. Heck even at COTA and Sonoma this year he ran P9 and P12 respectively, though was better at Sonoma before being wrecked in the closing laps. There should be leverage with this play and he did finish P5 last year here after starting P18.

Alex Bowman

I thought highly of Bowman at the start of the week and he’s done nothing to dissuade that thinking. He’ll start P8 and ran some of the fastest laps in practice over the short and longer runs. Over his last 9 road races, Bowman has 4 top-8 finishes including 2 such finishes in his last 3 races. Starting P8 should keep him in the running to nab a race win if he can use that speed and stop making some of the mistakes he’s made this year.

Value Tier Drivers

Todd Gilliland

While we typically don’t think of Gilliland as a road racer, he has posted a P11 and P10 in half of the last four such races. The practice speed wasn’t elite but it was better, by a handful of spots, than his qualifying spot. Given the success and consistency we’ve seen from him this year, why not trust him once more coming off a top-10 at Sonoma a few races ago?

Zane Smith

Smith has run four road races in the Cup Series and improved his finish each time out. From P34 to P30 to P20 to P16 at Sonoma and now he flashed top-15 speed in practice on Saturday. That was before his bad qualifying result. If the practice speed shows in the race, his habit of moving up in these races should show up again. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, those finishes came from his starting P30 or worse in 3-of-the-4 races.

Bubba Wallace

We talked about him a bit on the podcast above, but then he went out and ran better than expected in practice and qualifying. He’s starting to find speed more consistently on road courses and has talked about the work he’s been putting in on this discipline. There’s always a risk of him going backward during the race from his P6 starting spot. However, if the speed is real and he keeps it clean, holding a top-10 spot at this price is nice value.

Ryan Preece

We usually associate Preece with short tracks but he’s been sneaky good at picking up spots on road layouts too. While he’s been only so-so this year, he does have five top-20s in his last eight Cup road races. That includes a P15 here a year ago after starting P28. The speed was decent at practice and perhaps with the right pit strategy he can sneak another top-20 in Chicago.

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