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NASCAR survivor pool: NASCAR.com’s 36 for 36 picks for Chicago

With Nashville in the rearview mirror, our players next pick their Cup Series driver for Sunday’s race at the Chicago Street Course.

NASCAR.com‘s 36 for 36 continues at the Chicago Street Race.

With 36 races and 36 full-time Charter cars, our players select one car per race, but there‘s a simple twist: once they‘ve made the pick, they can‘t choose that car again for the rest of the 36-race season. Yes, that means every car will be selected exactly once … a survivor pool, by another name. 

Follow along weekly as our panel of pickers — Dustin Albino from Jayski, along with Steve Luvender and Cameron Richardson from NASCAR.com — embarks on a season-long journey to think like strategists and prove their picking prowess. 

We‘ll also feature a fourth “community” 36 for 36 pick each week, as decided by fan vote on the r/NASCAR subreddit. Can the collective vote topple our trio of full-timers?

Current Standings:

  1. Steve Luvender: 474 
  2. r/NASCAR Community: -35
  3. Dustin Albino: -40
  4. Cameron Richardson: -67

Race 20 of 36: Chicago

It was a tough one for our pickers last week in Nashville. Dustin Albino and Cameron Richardson selected defending race winner Ross Chastain, who led 45 laps Sunday and appeared to be a threat to win … until late-race chaos took the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet out of the race. The r/NASCAR community pick didn‘t fare much better — Austin Dillon finished 32nd — while Steve Luvender‘s selection of Daniel Suárez netted just 15 points. 

The Chicago Street Race is an opportunity for our pickers to make a bold choice. Racing Insights favors Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick to have strong days, but road-course experts like Michael McDowell and last year‘s race winner Shane van Gisbergen might find themselves in the mix, too. How did the panel handle this one? 

Jayski‘s Dustin Albino: No. 16, Shane van Gisbergen
Dustin Albino

Dustin‘s pick last week: No. 1, Ross Chastain (4 points)

Total season points: 434 (third place)

Dustin: I feel like I‘ve been interacting too much with Kyle Busch at race tracks in recent weeks. We have about the same amount of luck, though he has a little bit more at stake than I do. Ross Chastain managed to find a way to be up front late at Nashville until he was dumped on an overtime restart. UGH! The goal this weekend is to get back on track, so let‘s go with van Gisbergen, who became the seventh driver in Cup history to win in their series debut last year in Chicago. Whether the city streets are damp or not, SVG knows how to get it done on street courses.

NASCAR.com‘s Steve Luvender: No. 34, Michael McDowell
Steve Luvender

Steve‘s pick last week: No. 99, Daniel Suárez (15 points)

Total season points: 474 (first place)

Steve: It‘s really, really difficult to not pick Shane van Gisbergen this weekend, but hear me out. As I‘ve said before, 36 for 36 is a game of points, not necessarily finishing position. So, while somebody like SVG who‘s not a points-collecting Cup driver might plan a strategy to ensure track position late in the race — think pitting before a stage break at the expense of meaningless-to-him stage points — I suspect a driver on the playoff bubble like Michael McDowell might take a more conservative approach and cash in during the stages Sunday. Either that, or being a contrarian will come back to bite me and I‘ll miss a lay-up. We‘ll see. 

NASCAR.com‘s Cameron Richardson: No. 16, Shane van Gisbergen
Cameron Richardson

Cameron‘s pick last week: No. 1, Ross Chastain (4 points)

Total season points: 407 (fourth place)

Cameron: Given my picks so far this season, I‘m not feeling great about SVG this Sunday but it‘s the most obvious as he‘s the defending winner. SVG finished 10th in his second Cup appearance on the Indy road course last year. While he‘s only competed on one road course this season, I‘m banking on SVG to put the No. 16 Kaulig Chevy out front all race long. Hopefully, Mother Nature stays away all weekend so we can get a fair shake of delivering a weekend full of entertainment in the Windy City.

r/NASCAR Community: No. 16, Shane van Gisbergen
r/NASCAR Community

r/NASCAR‘s pick last week: No. 3, Austin Dillon (5 points)

Total season points: 434 (second place)

From the voting thread

u/Dont_hate_the_8: “Either SVG here or AJ at the Roval, take your pick. I’m saying here because I think SVG is more likely to start at the front, and hence avoid trouble, then AJ at the Roval.”

A Reddit user: “We’ve been saving this car for this race so any other choice is foolish”

Check back next week to see how our pickers fared as the season-long 36 for 36 journey continues.

And, if you‘ve got a competitive itch beyond meticulously managing your Fantasy Live lineup each week, feel free to save or print your own 36 for 36 sheet and see if you can beat our pickers and the Reddit community!