The Cup Series will travel to the Brickyard to compete on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Xfinity Series put on a good show at the track so now NASCAR will let the Cup Series see what they can do on the track.
I talked to one crew chief earlier this season to get his thoughts on the change to the road course. He was not too happy about the change. He said, “I don’t think the racing on the traditional track was that bad. Now we are going to compete on one of the worse road courses. You cannot see 70% of the track from the top of the pit box because of the structures blocking your view. It is just tough to call a race when I cannot see my car. We also see the same 3-4 drivers up front at the road courses and that will not change at Indianapolis. It really takes the rest of the field out of contention for the win. That was not the case on the traditional track.”
The drivers will have a one-hour practice Saturday (11 a.m. ET on NBC Sports App. No TV) and qualifying Sunday (9 a.m. ET on CNBC). That means our Driver Group Game picks must be submitted by 8 a.m. ET Saturday. We will select two drivers from Group A, four drivers from Group B and two drivers from Group C this week. All eight drivers will receive points for qualifying, but only the four drivers we use in our starting lineup will lose an allocation this week. I may need to update the picks after practice if there are some drivers who post fast lap times, so be sure to check back Saturday evening. I will post my starting lineup for the race Sunday after qualifying.
Here are my picks for the Verizon 200…
Driver Group Game A Drivers
Chase Elliott (2): Chase Elliott continues to dominate the road course races. He probably would have won last week if he did not have to start in the back. Elliott has finished 1st, 2nd, 1st and 2nd in his last four road course races this season. It seems like Elliott and his teammate (Kyle Larson) keep rotating wins at the road courses. If that is the case, it is Elliott’s turn to win Sunday. He is the best pick in Group A Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr. (5): Martin Truex Jr. finished 12th and 35th in the first two road course races but the No. 19 team seems to have found the speed on the road courses that they have had in the previous three seasons. Truex led the most laps and finished 3rd last at Watkins Glen. He should have a similar race Sunday.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Chase Elliott 2) Martin Truex Jr. 3) Denny Hamlin 4) Joey Logano 5) Kevin Harvick 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Brad Keselowski
Driver Group Game B Drivers
My goal in Group B this week is to find some good value picks, while saving my top drivers for more predictable tracks. Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kurt, William Byron and Alex Bowman are all good picks this week but I am running out of allocations with these drivers. I want to save them for the more predictable tracks. The only driver from this list I would recommend selecting for your team is Kyle Larson. He has been the master at qualifying on the Road Courses. Larson will have a good chance to score bonus points for qualifying Sunday, but DO NOT USE LARSON IN THE RACE.
Christopher Bell (3): Christopher Bell won the Daytona Road Course race and he looked like he had a good chance to win last week at Watkins Glen until Kyle Larson spun his friend out. Bell also finished 2nd at Road America. He has been one of the best drivers on the road courses this season. The race Sunday should come down to a battle between Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. I expect another top-10 finish from Bell Sunday.
Tyler Reddick (7): There is a lot to like about Tyler Reddick this week. He has been very good at qualifying on the road courses so he will have a good chance to score our teams bonus points for qualifying (He won the Pole at COTA). Reddick has also been good in the races. He finished 8th at COTA, 8th at Road America and 10th last week at Watkins Glen. The No. 8 team needs as many points as possible to stay ahead of Austin Dillon in the point standings. I expect the team to use pit strategy to score as many Stage points as possible and also finish in the top 10 Sunday.
Matt DiBenedetto (9): I need to save some allocations with my top drivers so I am willing to take a chance with Matt DiBenedetto. He is not the first name that comes to mind when it comes to road course racing, but he has been pretty good ever since he found out that he is being fired at the end of the season. DiBenedetto finished 10th (Road America), 9th (Atlanta), 11th (New Hampshire) and 11th (Watkins Glen) in the last four races. He also runs well under pressure. I will have DiBenedetto on the team and may use him in the race if he looks decent in practice.
Kyle Larson (1): Kyle Larson is the best pick in Group B but I only have one allocation left with the No. 5 car. You need to save a start with Larson for Michigan and Darlington but if you have three or more allocations left with Larson (I am not sure why you would), you can use him in the race Sunday. I have Larson on the team for qualifying points only. I am not going to pass up an opportunity to score the 10 points if Larson wins the poll. We do not lose an allocation with Larson if we do not use him in the race.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Larson 2) Kyle Larson 3) Christopher Bell 4) Kurt Busch 5) Tyler Reddick 6) William Byron 7) Alex Bowman 8) Matt DiBenedetto 9) Chris Buescher 10) Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game C Drivers
AJ Allmendinger (7): I have used AJ Allmedinger in three of the road course races this season and I plan to use the No. 16 car again Sunday. Allmendinger rewarded me with a 7th place finish at the Daytona Road Course and a 5th place finish at COTA. He also burned me with a 29th-place finish at Road America. Allmedinger has more experience at this course than any driver in the field. It will also help that he will have an extra practice session and 62 laps in the Xfinity Series race to prepare for Sunday’s Cup Series race.
Chase Briscoe (8): The only driver in the field to ever win at the road courses in Indianapolis. Briscoe won the Xfinity Series race at the Brickyard last year and he was pretty impressive in the race. I am sure that will give him some extra confidence Sunday. Briscoe finished 6th at COTA, 6th at Road America and 9th last week at Watkins Glen. This is a great race to use an allocation with Briscoe.
* Some leagues do not have AJ Allmendinger available in Group C. If this is the case, I recommend using Austin Cindric (8) this week.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) AJ Allmendinger 2) Chase Briscoe 3) Austin Cindric 4) Ross Chastain 5) Michael McDowell
Driver Group Game Team
*Stats from Driveraverages.com and career stats from Racing-Reference.Info…
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