NASCAR fans are already sitting on the edges of their seats anticipating this weekend's Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway. The race, which viewers can catch on FS1, boasts one of the most unique tracks in the Cup Series.
It's actually one-of-a-kind, according to FOX NASCAR analyst and former driver Phil Parsons.
"This track is a mile and a quarter, and it's the only one on the circuit that length," Parsons explained. "But it races like a short track. Both ends of the racetrack are completely different. Turns one and two are a little tighter, banked a little bit more. Three and four are a little bit flatter, a little more wide-sweeping.
"Only the best of the best excel at this place."
While 2023 marks only the second year that the World Wide Technology Raceway has hosted a Cup race, the driver-turned-broadcaster competed at this very track during his heyday, albeit in a different series.
"I actually raced the first Xfinity race here back in 1997, and I was racing really well," he reminisced. "But we actually tore the track up. The asphalt tore up, and literally half the field crashed because of it. But it always has good crowds and is one of the most enjoyable places."
Parsons retired from driving in 2001 after a notable 23-year career that included almost 500 NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, one Cup Series and two Xfinity Series victories. After working as an analyst for ESPN during the 2001 and 2002 Truck Series seasons, Phil joined FOX Sports' NASCAR coverage team in 2003 and has been with the company since.
Parsons is now one of the network's distinguished voices, and his brilliance in the booth can be attributed to the countless colorful experiences he has lived participating in the sport.
"Both my parents grew up in Wilkes County, where we just had a huge week during the All-Star Race in North Wilkesboro. My dad started taking my older brother to that track in the late 1940s. That's where my love of the sport came from. Literally, all I've ever known is going to the races and wanting to be a race car driver."
Because his racing roots run deep, Parsons is a self-professed old-schooler who admits his "jury's still out" on the latest Next Gen cars.
"I think that these cars try to appeal to a broader audience and give the younger generations something they can relate to," he noted. "Two or three years down the road, we won't even talk about the earlier cars, but these new ones are a big departure from what we're used to."
Not only does the analyst adore yesteryear's cars, he also reveres several early NASCAR legends as his all-time favorites.
"Picking only three favorites is awfully hard," he laughed. "Richard Petty is certainly in there, David Pearson is one of my three, and I gotta put Jimmie Johnson up there for what he was able to do in that era.
"But I'm gonna stretch my three to five and include Dale Sr. and Jeff Gordon."
While we tasked Phil with naming his three favorite drivers, we're challenging you to answer six different questions that could win you $5K playing the FOX Bet Super 6 NASCAR Stage 2 Contest.
FOX Bet Super 6 is a free-to-play contest where you can pick six different outcomes in the NASCAR Stage 2 Contest featuring Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway to win Clint Bowyer's $5,000. Just download the FOX Bet Super 6 app on your phone or mobile device, make your picks and submit your selections before the race gets underway this Sunday.
And if you need some help with the contest, we also have you covered on that end.
Phil shared his thoughts on the race, so check out his expert picks before you head over to the app to make yours.
Enjoy Illinois 300: Expert picks from Phil Parsons
Which of these drivers will have the better finish at the end of the race?
"Kyle Larson. He's one of the hottest guys going right now. He hasn't won as many races as he was in position to, but his car has been fast every single week.
"There are some good names in that group of guys, but I'm going with Larson because he's got one of the hottest hands right now."
Prediction: Kyle Larson
Which manufacturer — Chevrolet or Ford — will have the most cars in the top 20 at the end of Stage 2 and how many will they have?
1-4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12+
"This is a tough one. But I would say Ford and part of that reason is because Joey Logano won this race last year with a Ford."
Prediction: Ford, 10
0-9, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23, 24-25, 26+
"Ryan Blaney will have the fastest lap. He's been really fast, coming off the big win. Momentum is huge in our sport. And Ryan finished fourth there last year."
Prediction: Ryan Blaney, 16
Which manufacturer — Chevy or Ford — will have the most cars on the lead lap at the end of Stage 2 and how many will they have?
1-5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15, 16-17, 18+
"I'm gonna go with Ford again."
Prediction: Ford, 12
Which driver — Kyle Larson or Martin Truex Jr. — will have the better finish at the end of Stage 2 and by how many positions?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-10, 11-14, 15+
"So this is also tough, but I'm gonna go with Larson. Truex is awfully good there, too. He finished sixth last year, and he's been really fast this year as well. But it's Larson."
Prediction: Larson, 4
Which driver — Ross Chastain or Joey Logano — will have the better finish at the end of the race and by how many positions?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-10, 11-14, 15+
"I gotta go with Joey again because he won there last year. However, Ross will be really good."
Prediction: Joey Logano, 6
Final thoughts… and how to play
After giving us his expert insight on the Enjoy Illinois 300, we got Phil's forecast for next weekend's race in Sonoma.
"It's quite amazing that two of our best road racers right now are Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick. Because when they first came to NASCAR, with their backgrounds, they really didn't do much shifting. They struggled on the restarts because they weren't used to shifting, but now they've become two of the best we have."
But it's neither Larson nor Reddick that Parsons is picking to get to Victory Lane in California.
"It's really hard to pick a winner, but I'm going to go with Chase Elliott. He needs a win now. He pretty much has to win to make the playoffs, and he's been the odds-on favorite for the road courses over the last two or three years. So I think he gets his first race of the year next weekend at Sonoma."
Will this weekend be the one where you cash in on Clint's cash? Remember, the $5,000 could be yours for free.
Download the FOX Bet Super 6 app and submit your selections for the NASCAR Stage 2 Contest now. Then be sure to share your picks with us by tagging @FOXSuper6 and @EricaReneeD and using the #EricaSuper6 hashtag across all social media platforms.
Start your engines. It's go time!
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