It's SVG vs The Field in NASCAR at Chicago but don't count everyone else out (2024)

It's SVG vs The Field in NASCAR at Chicago but don't count everyone else out (1)

The narrative all week surrounding the Grant Park 165 (5:05 ET, NBC) is that the NASCAR Cup Series race on the Streets of Chicago runs through Shane Van Gisbergen but Kyle Larson is saying ‘not so fast.’

He’s not actually saying it, of course, as he tends to let his driving do the talking but it was quite the statement that ‘Yung Money’ earned the pole and then went toe-to-toe with the reigning winner on Saturday in the Xfinity Series race too.

This entire weekend feels like SVG vs The Field but Larson is giving us all reasons to pay attention as he will have track position right from the start.

“It helps but he’ll probably be up there right away,” Larson said of Van Gisbergen. “We keep talking about him a lot but everyone in the Cup Series is really good so you can’t focus too much on him.

“So yeah, track position is really important, no doubt … but maybe less on Sunday because you’re always going to find yourself in traffic at some point with road course racing and stages. Some teams flip the stage or whatever. … So, it helps but you also have to have a good race car and execute good restarts.”

That’s certainly what happened on Saturday in the Xfinity Series race as they both got flipped outside of the top-10 and was just better at carving through the field and doing it without even having to nudge anyone out of the way.

Even when they swapped the lead back-and-forth a half dozen times to start the race, Larson felt he was being toyed with.

“He’s really good at creating shapes and angles and passing,” Larson said. “He was so much better than me, he was just being patient and playing with me.”

With that said, SVG holds Larson in high esteem as his legend has even reached as far the Aussie and Kiwi Sprint Car scene back home too.

“He’s just sharp, fast and calculated in taking risks in how he forces guys three-wide and having to concede,” Van Gisbergen said. “He places the car well in every type of track he races on and it’s something I aspire to be.”

Strategic options

It's SVG vs The Field in NASCAR at Chicago but don't count everyone else out (3)

For those with track position, the shorter distance this year is probably enough to make the Chicago Street Course Race just a one pit stop affair.

Cliff Daniels has the track position now, as driver Larson has the pole, so can he make it to the end by just coming down pit road once?

“I would only say if there are some cautions … I don’t know … I think you can almost guarantee it’s a one stop race but if the whole race goes green, and I don’t think it does, but I do think a two-stop car could contend,” Daniel said.

Is that because tires will make a difference?

“If you’re going to line up with, call it 20 laps on your tires to start stage two, what is the cutoff for guys that would have shorted stage one that are now lining up with fresh tires,” Daniels said.

Do tires make a difference here?

“Good cars could pass,” he said. “You saw (SVG) come from pretty far back to win but Shane is also special. The car was good but at the same time, good cars could pass, so I think all of this depends on what your situation is. I think the most common call will be one stop but never say never.”

Rodney Childers, crew chief for Josh Berry says a good car shouldn’t even think twice about the second stop.

“I don’t know if it will make sense for everyone but if you’re the leader and no one can pass you on even tires, all you need to do is stop one time,” he said.

Chris Gabehart, crew chief for Denny Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 says there will be enough of a mix of strategies that it could make for a really compelling dynamic.

“So, they took those seven laps away and put it right in the window of one stop,” Gabehart said. “It will be tight but you can do it. Certainly, if you get cautions, that should make it easier but it will be a tight window.

“I think there are some opportunities for teams to shake it up for those who are aiming for max points. None of us ran a clean street race last year because it was wet, soaked but never dry. The lap count was different so I think we’re all treating this like a brand-new race, with a lot of unknowns, and that usually makes for a treat for fans.”

Also Read:
This NASCAR season has been a rollercoaster for Rodney Childers

No bulletin board material

It's SVG vs The Field in NASCAR at Chicago but don't count everyone else out (5)

Everyone is chasing SVG this weekend, but despite all the added attention on the Kiwi, the likes of Larson and Ty Gibbs, starting on the front row on Sunday, don’t feel slighted.

It’s an opportunity to challenge the best at this discipline.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time reading the news and seeing it,” Gibbs said. “We have access to his data and that helps but I don’t know what people are saying. He’s obviously very fast and deserves a lot of credit.”

Larson echoed that sentiment too.

“I view it as a great opportunity,” he said. “Everyone knows he’s the best at this kind of racing. I appreciate the opportunity to learn by racing with him. Whether he wins or not, he helps us all get better and that’s pretty cool.”

Who else?

It's SVG vs The Field in NASCAR at Chicago but don't count everyone else out (6)

Don’t look now but Michael McDowell, one of the best road racers in the discipline and one who won on the Indianapolis road course last year, starts third.

He needs nothing short of a win over the next two months to qualify for the playoffs again and should be a threat.

It would completely shake up the provisional playoff grid if he can do it too.

Lost in the SVG hoopla is that Christopher Bell was in position to win this race last year until NASCAR made the sudden decision to shorten the race in a way that negated the strategy they were on.

Bell starts P7.

“Certainly nothing will apply from the race to the race that we have this weekend because of the conditions being different,” Bell said. “But, you know, last year I had a great practice and a great qualifying session and I was disappointed that it rained because I felt like I had a great shot at it if it was dry.”

Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace, Hamlin, Martin Truex and Brad Keselowski had the fastest 10 lap averages in practice.

That’s worth considering when setting fantasy lineups or Sunday projections too.

Starting lineup

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Ty Gibbs
  3. Michael McDowell
  4. Tyler Reddick
  5. Shane Van Gisbergen
  6. Bubba Wallace
  7. Christopher Bell
  8. Alex Bowman
  9. Daniel Suarez
  10. Brad Keselowski
  11. Denny Hamlin
  12. John Hunter Nemechek
  13. Carson Hocevar
  14. Ross Chastain
  15. Austin Dillon
  16. Chris Buescher
  17. Ryan Blaney
  18. Chase Elliott
  19. Kyle Busch
  20. Corey LaJoie
  21. Austin Cindric
  22. Chase Briscoe
  23. Justin Haley
  24. Martin Truex, Jr.
  25. Erik Jones
  26. Todd Gilliland
  27. William Byron
  28. Noah Gragson
  29. Ryan Preece
  30. Zane Smith
  31. Harrison Burton
  32. Joey Logano
  33. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
  34. Austin Hill
  35. Daniel Hemric
  36. Josh Berry
  37. AJ Allmendinger
  38. Joey Hand
  39. Josh BIlicki
  40. Kaz Grala

To the rear: Blaney (suspension), Byron (steering), Burton (damage repair), Keselowski (damage), Berry (damage), LaJoie (damage), Jones (mechanical repair), Buescher (control arm repair)

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him onTwitter.

It's SVG vs The Field in NASCAR at Chicago but don't count everyone else out (2024)
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