Jimmie Johnson led 82 laps at Chicagoland Speedway last year and that’s when Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet snapped around and slammed the wall after losing a right-rear tire. “It knocked the wind out of me and I hit my elbow on the seat,” Johnson said after leaving the infield care center. “But I am just disappointed. We had such a great race car and I was trying to have something for the No. 20 (Stewart).”

Johnson said the jolt when his tire blew was violent.

“I thought the drive shaft came out of the car,” he said. “Just going down the back straightaway that sucker exploded.”

This time last year Casey Mears was not job hunting. He was sitting on the pole and gearing up for a top 5 finish. Casey Mears had three top-five finishes in a four-race stretch before finishing 19th or worse in his past three starts. He bounced back Sunday after starting from the pole with a fifth-place finish.

“We wanted more than that,” Mears said. “We started off really, really loose. The guys worked on the car all day and got it to where it was pretty good there at the end.”

Mears’ previous best finish here had been ninth.

“The first thing you’ve got to do in these races is stick around all day long,” Mears said. “We were consistent and patient and the guys made the right calls at the end. We just keep learning together.”

How it went down last year:

Casey Mears leads the pack of 43 cars for 267 laps of Chicagoland Speedway racing for the USG Sheetrock 400!

Lap 1: Mears, Truex Jr., Newman, Martin, Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Johnson, Andretti & Kenseth are the top 10 lead off cars.
They go single file pretty quick, getting to lap 2.
Lap 5 – Paul Menard getting a black flag – car smoke.
Lap 7 see’s Truex Jr taking the lead from Mears.
Menard car is looking like it’s on fire. Smoke, (Not Tony) everywhere.
Lap 20 see’s Jimmie Johnson take the lead from Truex Jr. Then we see 1, 25, 5, 8, 17, 12, 07, 29 & 24 rounding out the top 10!
Lap 32 see’s Jimmie Johnson leading by over 1 second.
Earnhardt Jr is 7th. Stewart 12th, Edwards 15th, Montoya 19th, Martin 28th, Kahne 36th.
Lap 38: 48, 1, 25, 5, 17, 12, 8, 29, 07 & 24 in the top 10 – 35 cars on the lead lap.
Lap 45 see’s Reutimann off the pace with smoke.
Lap 48 see’s green flag pit stops commencing.
Lap 51 – Jr leads laps during the pit stop dances.
It looks like Jr missed the pit stop entrance and does a drive by. Bad time killer!!
Lap 53 – Jr Pits. Good stop. Jr ends up in 12th.
Lap 60 CAUTION – see’s Jeff Green in a single car spin / slide.
He pulled it hard to avoid hitting M Waltrip.
Lap 64 Restart: After some pit strategies: 29, 41, 12, 20, 24, 5, 8, 11, 07 & 17 lead the pack. 29 and 41 DID NOT PIT. They are now around 10 or 12 laps short on fuel and at this track, I’m not sure this was the best move.. but we’ll see how it pans out.
Lap 69 Observation: Jr is 8th and running the HI line. He’s within inches of that wall!!
Kyle Busch is moving up through the pack to 4th. Hamlin 11th, Martin 19th, Marlin is last car on the lead lap in 27th.
Lap 75: 29 (2.9 sec lead), 41, 20, 5, 24, 17, 48, 12, 8 & the ever present, always hanging around 07 car.
Lap 85: Harvick has a 3.8 sec lead, Stewart is now 2nd and chewing up that lead, Jr is 10th.
Lap 97: 29 (2.4 sec lead), 20, 48, 5, 24, 17, 41, 12, 8 & 07. (Harvick is pulling away again.).
Lap 106 sees Jr scraping the wall just a tad as he holds 7th. Truex Jr 11th, Hamlin 14th.
Lap 109: Sorenson is pitting, and is hoping everything stays green.. 24 cars were on the lead lap, here somes Harvick down pit road, (Lap 111), Stewart assumes the lead, with a 4.4 sec lead over the 24 car..
Lap 112: Other cars are starting to pit. Cars on fresher tire are abourt 1 sec a lap faster.
Earnhardt Jr pits on Lap 114, he’s thrashing the RF in the long runs
Stewart pits on lap 115
Robby Gordon hit the commitment cone, Bowyer has a drive through penalty (Speeding)
Lap 116: Harvick resumes the lead, 48, 20, 5, 17, 8, 24, 12, 41 & 99 are the top 10 cars.
Lap 120 see’s Jimmie Johnson take lead from Harvick.
Lap 126 see’s Johnson and Stewart pulling away from the pack with over 3 1/2 seconds and growing in front of the pack, as they are followed by Harvick, Kyle Busch & Matt Kenseth. Last car on the lead lap-Yeley in 18th.
Lap 135: 48, 20, 29, 5, 17, 24, 12, 8, 99 & 1 are the top 10.
Lap 154 CAUTION: 2nd of the race see’s Jamie McMurray in the wall in turn 1 – RF tire.
Lap 160 Restart: 20, 48, 17, 5, 29, 8, 24, 25, 2 & 99 are the top 10, Truex is the last car on the lead lap, in 16th. Stremme black flagged for not being in line at the restart.
Lap 164 CAUTION – Robby Gordon in the wall out of turn 2, single car slide, just lost it going into the corner.
Lap 169 restart see’s the 20, 48, 17, 5, 29, 8, 25, 2, 31 & 41 in the top 10…
The pack goes many cars wide in spots, but the field mellows out into a low and a high line. .
Lap 180: Harvick 5th, Jr 6th, Truex 11th, Jeff Gordon 14th, Montoya -17th-last car on lead lap.
TNT just reported that DEI will be announcing a new driver in the next week and a half.
100 LAPS TO GO: Stewart leads the pack, Johnson follows behind him, then Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Earnhardt Jr., Mears, Kurt Busch, Sorenson and J Burton in the top 10. Johnson took the lead from Stewart while I was typing. (That messes up my writing dangit!!)
Lap 197: Stewart has a 1.2 sec lead over Johnson, with Kenseth Ky Busch & Harvick chasing him.
Lap 202 CAUTION– Ward Burton and Dave Blaney get together in turn 1 as Blaney loses a tire, and collects Ward Burton in the process. This happened a few places in front of the race leader, Tony Stewart!
It’s being noted that this is pretty close (A few laps) to their fuel mileage windows and they surmise we’ll see fuel top offs with the one to go signal!! (Here we go again, more fuel mileage scenarios!)
Lap 208: 20, 48, 8, 5, 29, 25, 17, 2, 99 & 1 lead the pack. The first 7 go single file while the rest run side by side in the first lap. Reports are that MOST drivers cannot not make it to the end on fuel. (Hey, anyone remember Montoya at Sonoma).
Lap 211 we saw the 8 car lose spots, reporting the loss of power steering. Truex now on pit road, going to the garage.
Lap 215: Jr holding 10th, but fighting hard with the power steering.. the viewers can see how the car is handling as he ‘s chasing the car up the track and a little more wobbly as he can’t respond to the track as quickly as he could have with power steering.
The theory is that debris tore his power steering belt off
Lap 224 CAUTION: Jimmie Johnson hard in the wall. He could be overheard saying he was trying to catch his breath.. the RR tire came apart, sending him Hard into the turn 3 wall.
Everyone is pitting. Fuel only for some, R sides for others.
The 8 team pit crew tried putting another power steering belt on the Budweiser car, but the power steering system has seized up, so Jr is on bicep power!!
Lap 231 Restart: 20, 17, 2, 29, 25, 12, 11, 31, 07 & 24 lead the pack to the last 37 laps of contention and Kenseth takes the lead from Stewart, then Stewart takes it back and Kenseth falls into line.
(REMEMBER, just hit refresh to see the new, POSTED info)
Lap 236: Kyle Busch had problems, back in 16th now needing to work his way back to the front.
Lap 239: Earnhardt Jr fallen back to 17th, last car on the lead lap.
Lap 245 Caution, Yeley into the wall in turn 1.
Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Montoya pitted for this yellow flag.
Lap 250 of 267: RESTART: 20, 17, 29, 99, 2, 25, 31 & 07 are the front 8.
Lap 252 Caution: Nemechek gets loose for a single car spin, Kyle Busch goes around and bumps Earnhardt Jr.. just a smoker type of rub/ hit. It didn’t look serious. Jamie McMurray, last weeks winner is 53 laps down. He smacked the wall some time ago… I must of been sleeping through that!!
Lap 256, 12 to go: Stewart, Kenseth, Harvick, Edwards and Mears leads the pack to the 12 lap dash.
Stewart just pulls away, and Kenseth behind him while everyone else are just spectators.
Earnhardt Jr is 17th.
6 to go: Stewart, (1.4 sec lead), Kenseth, Edwards, Harvick, Mear.
2 to go: Stewart with a strong lead Everyone still holding the same spots.
TONY STEWART wins the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagloland Speedway.
His first win of the season, his 30th career win.
The other nine cars rounding out the top 10 are:
17, 99, 29, 25, 2, 31, 12, 24 & 07.
Jr was the last car on the lead lap, in 19th.

Who to watch for:

Last week I said that Dale Jr would win and boy did he look good all race long. I really thought he was going to pull it off.

This week keep your eye on,

Kevin Harvick. He has placed 1st, 1st, 17th, 10th, 19th, 4th and 4th.

Jimmie Johnson. He has placed 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 37th. Don’t let the 37th finish fool you, it was only due to a tire issue.

Jeff Gordon has placed 17th, 2nd, 4th, 4th, 33rd, 1st and 9th.

Matt Kenseth has placed 7th, 14th, 12th, 12th, 2nd, 22nd and 2nd.

Tony Stewart also does well here. He has placed 33rd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 5th, 32nd and 1st.

Kurt Busch had 2 bad finishes here including 39th and 35th. He has done very well by also placing 8th, 6th, 8th, 8th and 6th.

Reed Sorenson and Clint Bowyer have only been here twice, so it’s hard to rate them, but they have done well. Sorenson has placed 7th and 12th. Bowyer has placed 9th and 10th.

My pick is a hard one. Go the easy route and say Kyle? If I did that all year I would be doing good huh? I won’t take the easy road. I will probably lean toward last year’s winner Tony Stewart. Stewart was not 100% last race and maybe with some rest he will be ready to get in the driver seat and race his way into Victory Lane. He led 108 out of 267 laps last year and his margin of victory over Matt Kenseth was 1.727 seconds. My back-up pick will be Jimmie Johnson. Had he not hit the wall last year, the outcome may have been totally different. Johnson led 82 out of the 267 laps before his issue which landed him in 37th position.

Let’s go racin’ boys!