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Best Bets for the Grant Park 165 to Place Before Practice and Qualifying 

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The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to downtown Chicago this weekend for the Grant Park 165. This will be just the second street course race ever for the Cup Series. The street circuit for this event features 12 turns running through downtown Chicago along the banks of Lake Michigan.

We don’t have a ton of data to handicap this race with. As mentioned, this is just the second street course race ever for the Cup Series. Last year the race was advertised as 100 laps (220 miles) but was cut short due to darkness after weather delays. The same weather that delayed the start meant the track was wet for the race. 

Given that the only street course data is from a wet and shortened race, most of the data we have to use this weekend is from road courses. While road course history can be helpful, it is important to remember that technical accuracy is even more important on a street course than a road course because there is no runoff on a street course, if you miss a turn you are in the wall.

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It’s also important to remember that last year, practice speed was highly predictive of race speed. Given this, I am extremely light on bets before practice and qualifying. Hopefully, once we have seen cars in the track, we will be able to find some value on cars we know have speed. However, there is one driver I think is undervalued given his need to win and his performance over the 2023 2024 seasons at road courses.

Kyle Busch Top 10 | +175 (Bet365)

(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch has had an absolutely rotten two months. Over the last three races, Busch has finished 35, 35, and 27. He hasn’t had a Top 10 finish since Kansas on May 5th. In that time, he went from 12th in the points standings to 17th. He has gone from being 31 points above the cut line for the playoffs to 104 points outside of the playoffs. With two drivers outside the Top 16 in points having won, he has slipped to the third driver outside of the playoffs on points.

All of Busch’s misfortune over the past seven races means that his only realistic chance of making the playoffs is to win. This means I don’t expect him to points race on Sunday. He should be on the optimal strategy to try for a win.

Busch has been surprisingly good on road courses

Kyle Busch probably doesn’t immediately come to mind as a particularly strong road course racer for most NASCAR fans. His results over the 2023 and 2024 seasons are quite strong, though. That said, as I mentioned when I talked with Eric Estepp on the 4th, over the eight road and street course races in 2023 and 2024, Busch has five Top 10 finishes. If he hadn’t run out of fuel at Sonoma, he would almost certainly have finished Top 10 there as well.

Looking at Front Runners from Win the Race, we can see that over the eight road and street course races of 2023 and 2024, Busch had the fifth-best average running position of full-time Cup drivers. His average running position is still sixth best if Shane Van Gisbergen is included. He also has the fourth-best average finishing position.

The Chicago Street race was Busch’s worst race of these races in terms of average running position. Last year his average running position was just 20.54. He had multiple issues early in that race, though, which buried him deep in the field. Despite this, he used strategy to work his way to a fifth-place finish in that race.

This year at COTA and Sonoma, Busch’s the average running position was 10.29 and 11.86. His average across these two races is good for fifth best in the Cup Series. His driver rating in those two races was 95.2 and 99.2. So he has run very well on two technical tracks in 2024.

Bottom Line

Busch needs a win. He will almost certainly be on the optimal strategy to win, putting him up front.

His strategy will likely give him a leg up on some other strong road course drivers like Ty Gibbs and Ross Chastain, who are likely going to look to get stage points. +175 for a driver who needs to be up front at the end and who has shown speed on road courses is enough to get me to jump in. That said, given the uncertainty in this race, I’m only making this a half-unit bet.

Given his mixed performance here last year though, I wouldn’t bet this under +165, though, so make sure you shop around for the best price.

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