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Podium Preview: Kwik Trip 250 at Road America

Chase Elliott may be warming up at Road America. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Chase Elliott may be warming up at Road America. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

As the first half of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season comes to a close, Road America plays host to an Independence Day festival known as the Kwik Trip 250.

At 4.048 miles in length, this 14-turn road course is one of the quintessential motorsports venues in the world. This charming Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin track offers beautiful nature laden scenery with a track that proves beloved among racers and teams.

Moreover, racing at this track is like a page in the past with today’s machinery. Stock car competition at this venue may be a relatively new concept compared to sports car and INDYCAR action. However, it’s still a wonderment to see NASCAR thundering around this famed road course.

Last year’s Cup race saw Chase Elliott capturing his second and final Cup win of the year. With the pole and coming off an Ally 400 win at Nashville, Elliott hopes to keep with his victorious ways, but he’ll likely need to fend off the likes of Kyle Larson, AJ Allmendinger, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Joey Hand, among others.

This weekend, Cody ShoppeKobe Lambeth, Luis TorresMatt SisolerNathan SolomonTaylor Kitchen and yours truly apply the heel and toe method with Chase Elliott’s chances and teams that have made the grade after 17 races.

Podium Preview: Kwik Trip 250 at Road America
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Question 1
Catch me if you can. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Catch me if you can. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

With Chase Elliott’s most recent win in Nashville and known prowess on the road courses, is he the man to beat for Sunday’s Kwik Trip 250 at Road America?

Tiongson : Certainly, Chase Elliott comes to mind as one of the top contenders on Sunday. Winning the pole and entering the race as the defending winner, Elliott hopes to reinforce his reputation as a road course warrior after Kyle Larson’s three wins last year.

However, I think it may be a battle between Eliiott and Larson if the cards are played right for Hendrick Motorsports. Larson learned some valuable lessons from Saturday’s Xfinity race, particularly with how to try to close out a race after being bested by Ty Gibbs. Perhaps a defeat in the Xfinity race may motivate Larson to fight and claw his way for a second win in 2022.

Solomon : I absolutely believe that Elliott is the man to beat on Sunday at Road America. He’s unbelievable on road courses and he won this race last year. Plus, he’s already won two races this season and leads points. There are many capable road course racers in Sunday’s field, but Elliott is for sure the favorite. 

Lambeth : I think Chase Elliott is definitely the favorite to win for the second consecutive year at Road America. He certainly has a bit of momentum on his side entering Sunday’s race after winning last weekend at Nashville Superspeedway and taking the Road America pole yesterday. However, we’ve seen the two competitive and unpredictable road course races so far in 2022 at Circuit of The Americas and Sonoma. 

That could mean Elliott may have his hands full if he wants to repeat in Elkhart Lake. Trackhouse Racing drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez have swept the road courses this year and look to remain perfect. Chris Buescher showed great speed at Sonoma recently and qualified in the top-10 for today’s race. Plus, AJ Allmendinger is always a threat whenever he’s entered in a NASCAR road course race. Elliott will likely have to roll up his sleeves and really work for this one!

Shoppe : Chase Elliott will surely be one of the ones to beat today but not the sole favorite. Expect his Hendrick teammates as well as Team Trackhouse to challenge the Nashville winner for the win in Road America! 

Kitchen : The No. 9 team is a force to be reckoned with for the Kwik Trip 250. Better yet, I think Chase Elliott might be a “silent” favorite for the championship.

Though he has not been as loud as Ross Chastain this season, who is arguably the favorite for the Bill France Cup, Elliott has led the points battle for a majority of the season and now has two wins to back up that success. 

Regarding this weekend, we have seen success for the No. 9 team when they have momentum to carry over to the next race. Take the last two races of the 2020 season as an example!

With that said, I look forward to seeing Elliott attempt to win back-to-back at Road America!

Question 2
Can Ryan Blaney drive his way into victory lane? (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Can Ryan Blaney drive his way into victory lane? (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Which drivers and teams stand out to you as solid performers and which ones are of concern as we close out the first half of 2022?

Sisoler : There have been a bunch of solid performers early on, with Trackhouse’s Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez easily being up there. They’ve been a pleasant surprise to see running at the front and being a consistent threat to win races. Obviously Hendrick and the JGR cars have all been solid as well for the most part, while the concern has to fall mostly towards the Stewart-Haas Ford camp.

Aside from Chase Briscoe’s Phoenix win, SHR hasn’t been to victory lane in 2022, and Briscoe’s 14 car is solid week in and week out. However, something needs to change fast at Tony Stewart’s shop to get the 4, 10 and 41 to victory circle again. Harvick has been close a few times but not been able to close the deal, while Almirola has been ok but hasn’t been as consistent as he needs to be to be a playoff contender.

However, Custer has not had a good go so far this year, as he is SHR’s lone driver to not even have a top 10 (best finish of 11th at Fontana) this season with an average finish, ahead of Road America, of 22.5 with five DNFs. The 41 is really underperforming and needs to fix something to get back on the right track, but I’m not sure what that is at this point.

Torres :  Although Ryan Blaney has yet to win a points paid race, he’s been strongly consistent in terms of racking up points. Barring any second half drama, he should be safe but a win will be a nice touch. 

Overall, you have to look at Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain and Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott. They’ve been the most solid drivers this season. They’ve adapted quite well with the new car better than others and it shows by being in the regular season title mix.

My grand concerns are Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. Respectively, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe started off strong. But lately, they’ve crumbled under pressure and while Briscoe has a win, inconsistency won’t get him anywhere when playoffs arrive. 

Reddick has no business being on the outside looking in, he should be inside the top-16. The fact he isn’t going into Elkhart Lake, it’s alarming for the wrong reasons. The No. 8 needs to get it together and put stronger results. More importantly, win some races.

With over eight miles in the books, why don’t we take a break and look at last Sunday night’s Ally 400 race and points report, race 17 of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season!
It was a good day for a good day.

It was a good day for a good day.

In this case, the Bonaventure brothers are the top two in points.

In this case, the Bonaventure brothers are the top two in points.

Next, let’s look at the top 10 starters for Sunday’s Kwik Trip 250 at Road America!
Row 1
Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Row 2
Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick (Photo: Logan Skidan and Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick (Photo: Logan Skidan and Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Row 3
Austin Cindric and Michael McDowell (Photo: Logan Skidan and Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Austin Cindric and Michael McDowell (Photo: Logan Skidan and Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Row 4
Chris Buescher and Alex Bowman (Photo: Mike Moore and Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Chris Buescher and Alex Bowman (Photo: Mike Moore and Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Row 5
Joey Hand and Cole Custer (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Joey Hand and Cole Custer (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Lastly, here’s our picks for Sunday’s Kwik Trip 250 at Road America!
One of these fab four drivers can win at Road America. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

One of these fab four drivers can win at Road America. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Torres : If there’s a racer that can stop Trackhouse Racing from keeping their perfect record on road courses in 2022, look no further than Austin Cindric. By all intents and purposes, last year was a race that slipped away from him.

It still lingers that he was one of the guys to beat when he drove the No. 33 Penske Ford. Now that he’s full time and have some road races on the Cup level under his belt, it’s time for the Daytona 500 champ to get his second win of the year. He’s done it in Xfinity, so you can’t count him out this Sunday.

Sisoler : I have to wonder if that, in the shuffle of the past few races, that people have forgotten just how good Austin Cindric is on road courses? He has shown great speed this season in places in these new Cup cars, and let’s not forget, one of his most memorable wins from his Xfinity career was where he outdueled, arguably, NASCAR’s road course ace AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen.

Not to mention the fact that Austin also has one of his Xfinity wins at Road America in 2020 when he led Allmendinger to the checkers again. He finished P8 at COTA and P5 at Sonoma this year, and starting from P5 Sunday, I expect Austin to be a threat to win and remind everyone just how good he is on the road courses.

Kitchen : Considering the “Road Course King,” Chase Elliott, is going to win at Road America. I feel like the No. 9 team has great momentum coming off of a win at Nashville. Also, with Elliott racing from the pole position on Sunday, I think he has the best chance at taking home his third win of the season.

Solomon : As mentioned earlier, Elliott is the obvious favorite. He’s so good on road courses and he’s due for a victory as he hasn’t won a road course race since this race last year. Expect Elliott to head to victory lane on Sunday.

Lambeth : In the last road course race at Sonoma Raceway, Chris Buescher showed everyone why many in the NASCAR Cup Series garage considers him to be one of the most underrated drivers. On that day, he didn’t have quite the pace to match race winner Daniel Suarez. But he proved he’s more than capable of getting the job done, so I think we’ll see Buescher continue showing his road course skills and take home a win at Road America!

Shoppe : Just think it’s time for Kyle Larson to start winning this season! With a strong weekend so far in Xfinity, as well as his road course strength lately in general, Larson will win today!

Tiongson : Look for Kyle Larson to apply the lessons learned from Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race with a possible second Cup win on Sunday at Road America. The defending Cup champion is a capable road course racer and I would not look past the No. 5 team to get the job done against his worthy adversaries at the renowned Wisconsin track.

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into the race? Who are your favorites to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week! While we progress toward a new kind of normal, please do your part to curb the impacts of the pandemic by washing your hands and getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.

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Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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