NASCAR Picks for Indianapolis
Length: 2.500 miles
Location: Speedway, Indiana
The Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. While the season-opening Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the year, Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 isn't far behind. Although the Cup Series has only been coming to Indianapolis since 1994, the track is known throughout the world as one of the most famous venues in auto racing. All-time greats like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Dale Earnhardt have all been to victory lane at The Brickyard. In fact, the track has been a proving ground of sorts for champions in the Cup Series, as 15 of the 20 races being won by drivers that have also won series titles.
From a fantasy perspective, the fact that the best drivers in the series have excelled at Indianapolis shouldn't be ignored. It is no coincidence that Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are the only drivers with multiple wins at Indy and are also the only active drivers with multiple championships. In fact, the three have combined to win 10 of the last 20 races at Indianapolis and have won a combined 13 series titles. Meanwhile, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray are probably the least accomplished drivers to kiss the bricks. While McMurray just seems to have a knack for winning big races, Menard's victory came via fuel mileage strategy. In other words, don't expect a lot of surprises Sunday. This is a big race, and it brings out the best from the best drivers and the best teams. Be smart with your sleeper picks, and don't be afraid to be a little top heavy with your fantasy lineups.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon (who won the inaugural Cup Series event at Indianapolis)has remained a force at the track throughout his career. His four wins are tied for the most all-time at Indianapolis, and no driver has led more laps at the track than Gordon. Meanwhile, his 8.8 average finish ranks second in the series. Also, in his 20 starts at the track, he has a series-leading 16 Top 10s (including 11 Top 5 finishes).
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he has had a few bad outings at Indianapolis, Johnson has been piling up wins at the track lately. In his last eight starts at Indy, he has four wins and a second-place finish. During the same stretch, no other driver has more than one Top 2 finish at the track.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
No driver has been more consistent at Indianapolis than the Indiana native. His 7.9 average finish at the track is the best in the series; in 15 starts, he has 11 Top 10s and two wins. Stewart has finished in the Top 10 in his last five starts at Indy, and he has four finishes of sixth or better during the stretch.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Harvick is one of the best in the business on big stages, and Sunday's race is one of the biggest of the season. He is a former winner at Indy, and he has come within a restart of winning on two other occasions. Overall, his 10.9 average finish at the track ranks third in the series, and he has finished 11th or better in nine of his 13 starts.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has finished in the Top 10 in seven of his nine starts at Indianapolis, including four straight. In fact, Busch has a 7.5 average finish in his last four starts at the track. For his career, he only has one finish outside the Top 15 at Indy; his 11.6 average finish ranks fourth overall.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Although his previous results at Indianapolis aren't outstanding, Keselowski does have a couple of Top 10s in four career starts at the track. More importantly, he has been one of the hottest drivers in the series in recent weeks; in five flat track events this year, he has four finishes of fourth or better. Look for a career-best performance at Indy from Keselowski Sunday.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Kenseth has never won at Indianapolis, but he has had numerous close calls. In 14 starts at the track, he has finished 12th or better nine times and has eight Top 10s. Meanwhile, Kenseth has finished in the Top 5 six times at Indy, including twice in the last three years.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
While his overall numbers at Indianapolis are less than impressive, Junior has run well at the track in each of the past two years. He finished a career-best fourth in the 2012 event and finished sixth last year. Junior managed just two Top 10s in his first 11 starts at Indy, but has doubled that total the last two seasons. As well as he has performed in 2014, he should be a safe bet for another Top 10.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
A couple of really bad outings bog down his average finish at Indianapolis, but Kahne has been rock solid at the track for the most part. In 10 starts, he has seven Top 15s, and has finished seventh or better five times. Kahne finished third at Indy last year, and he offers plenty of upside this weekend.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Logano has three Top 12 finishes in five starts at Indianapolis, including a career-best eighth-place run last year in his first start at the track with Team Penske. Overall, he owns a 17.4 average finish at Indy; however, based on his performance last year (and on his performance throughout 2014), Logano should at least be able to challenge for a Top 10 Sunday.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Despite managing just two Top 10s in eight career starts at Indianapolis, Bowyer has been a dependable option at the track. He has a 13.3 average finish at Indy, and has never finished outside the Top 20. Bowyer doesn't offer a ton of upside this weekend, but he is a safe pick for fantasy owners that prefer to go with a conservative approach.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he struggled at Indianapolis a bit last year, Biffle has actually enjoyed a lot of success at the track in recent years. He has finished eighth or better five times in his last six starts at Indy and has finished fourth or better three times in his last five starts. Biffle hasn't enjoyed the best 2014 season, but he could provide a solid finish this weekend.