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This weekend marks a historic venture in NASCAR racing. For the first time, national series drivers will compete on a course comprised of city streets.
Saturday’s The Loop 121 NASCAR Xfinity Series race, the prelude to the Cup Series event on Sunday, will be run on a 2.2-mile, 12-turn course under the shadow of Chicago’s skyscrapers.
The Chicago Street Course is narrow and unforgiving. Other than using computer simulations of the course to gain familiarity, the Xfinity Series drivers have no experience dodging the manholes and potholes in the Windy City.
NASCAR Cup Series drivers are embargoed from racing in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race to prevent them from gaining an edge in seat time for Sunday’s Cup event.
Given the unique circumstances of this race and the absence of moonlighting drivers, we’re reluctant to suggest a long-shot pick for the event. Chances are, our choice would nail one of the concrete walls in the first corner.
That’s a far cry from last week, when our long-shot pick, AJ Allmendinger, prevailed at +1600, and our choice of Riley Herbst to finish in the top three at +800 also paid off.
There are so many unknowns in the Chicago Street Race, however, that the best we can do is to give you John Hunter Nemechek to beat Parker Kligerman heads-up at -115 via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Kligerman is adept at road racing. So is Nemechek, who has the better car.
After a slow start to the 2023 Xfinity Series season, Cole Custer is now in fine form, having finished in the top 10 in his last nine races.
That string included a June 3 victory on the Portland International Raceway road course. Custer has a knack for excelling on circuits that turn right as well as left.
Now that Custer has a victory—and an accompanying spot in the Xfinity Playoffs—he can race without pressure on a difficult course.
“No one has raced this course before, so we really won’t know what to expect until we hit the track for practice on Saturday,” Custer said. The good news is that we’re all on an equal playing field.
“It’s such an unknown on the schedule, but I’m excited for the challenge. We’ve been fast all year, so hopefully that continues this weekend at Chicago.”
We believe Custer will indeed be fast on the streets of the Windy City, and we’re picking him to win at +450 via DraftKings.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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