The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to Speedway, Indiana this week for the Brickyard 400. The race can be Sunday at 3pm ET on NBC. Be sure to test your knowledge of NASCAR by competing in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing.
My picks for Fox Fantasy Auto Racing are currently ranked No. 17 overall.
The Brickyard is a unique track. It was not designed for stock car racing so hitting the setup in all four corners is extremely difficult. This is a crew chief’s race. The balance of the car through the corners and the strategy to save fuel usually determines the race winner. There are teams that have the track figured out so track history will be important this week.
The best teams at the Brickyard the last two years have been from Toyotas. Kyle Busch has won the last two races at the track. Denny Hamlin has three consecutive top 5 finishes at Indianapolis and he participated in a tire test at the track in April. Matt Kenseth has four consecutive top seven finishes and Martin Truex Jr. finished the last two races at the Brickyard in the top eight. Keep an eye on the Toyotas this week.
There are two drivers who can challenge the Toyotas this week. Kevin Harvick has given Kyle Busch the most competition the last two years. Rodney Childers knows how to set up a car for Indianapolis. The other driver is Kyle Larson. His worst ever finish at the Brickyard is ninth. This could be the year Larson gives Chip Ganassi Racing their first Brickyard trophy.
Track position is important at Indianapolis but the scoring system for the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game rewards drivers who improve their position in the race more than the drivers who lead the most laps. Selecting the drivers who start outside the top 10 but inside the top 25 will give your team the best chance to score position differential points this week.
Pick to Win
Kyle Busch ($11,600) is still looking for his first win and it should come this week at the Brickyard. He has been by far the most dominant driver at the track the last two seasons. Busch has won the pole, led 168 laps and made his way to Victory Lane in the last two races at Indianapolis. His average finishing position the last five seasons is 3.2. He is the best pick for your fantasy team this week.
Kyle Larson ($13,900) has competed in three Brickyard 400s and he has finished all of them in the top 10. The new aero-package should help him more than the other drivers. Larson loves a car that drivers on the edge. Drivers will have to run the car to the edge of spinning out this week in order to run up front. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson do it better than the other drivers. That is why they consistently run up front at Indianapolis.
Kevin Harvick ($13,100) won his first Brickyard 400 in 2003. He has run well at the track but he is still trying to find a way to kiss the bricks again. Harvick has been one of the most consistent drivers at the track since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick has an average starting position of 4.6 and an average finishing position of 5.6 while at SHR. The No. 4 car should be up front Sunday.
Denny Hamlin ($11,700) will have momentum after winning the race last week at New Hampshire. Hamlin hit on something in the tire test at Indianapolis in April. His speeds were the fastest and other teams were talking about how fast his car was. Hamlin has three consecutive top-five finishes at the Brickyard. The No. 11 car should be fast again this week.
Matt Kenseth ($10,600) is still looking for his first Brickyard 400 trophy. He is running out of chances. Kenseth has raced at Indianapolis 17 times and he has three runner-up finishes. Last year Kenseth qualified 18th and finished second. Joe Gibbs Racing knows how to setup cars for this track so Kenseth will have a good chance to win his first race of the season this week.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300) should be the highest price driver each week. There is a myth that if you want to know who will win the championship, just look at who won the Brickyard 400. Jeff Gordon won championship and the Brickyard 400 in 1998 and 2001, Dale Jarrett did it in 1999, Bobby Labonte did it in 2000, Tony Stewart did it in 2005, Jimmie Johnson did it in 2006, 2008 and 2009, and Kyle Busch did it in 2015. If I were to place a bet on a driver winning the Brickyard 400 and the championship in 2017, my money would be on Truex.
Value Picks (Drivers under $8,000)
Paul Menard ($8,000) is not the first name you think of when you start selecting your drivers but this week is a good time to consider the No. 27 car. Indianapolis is one of the best tracks for Menard. He won the race at the Brickyard in 2011 and he finished 10th in the race last year. I doubt he will finish in the top five this week but if he qualifies outside the 20, he should be on all teams because of his chances of moving up in the race.
Daniel Suarez ($7,900) has never raced in a MENCS race at the Brickyard but he has all of the resources to run well Sunday. Carl Edwards always ran well at this track so the No. 19 team should provide a car capable of running in the top 10. Suarez can lean on his teammates for advice this week since they are three of the best at the track. Suarez is a good value pick for your team this week.
Erik Jones ($7,100) had one of his best races at Pocono and that is the track that compares the closest to Indianapolis. Jones qualified 15th and finished 3rd at the Tricky Triangle. Since Toyota runs so well at this track, I expect the rookie driver to be up front again Sunday.
Ryan Blaney ($7,000) won the race at Pocono and he will have a good chance to win this week. The Wood Brothers Racing Ford has had a lot of speed this season. Usually horsepower plays a part in who wins at the Brickyard. Blaney should have the horses to keep the No. 21 car in the top five Sunday.
Aric Almirola ($6,100) has a ridiculous price this week. I figured Fox Fantasy Auto Racing would price him low because he has been out of racing for two months but I did not think he would be one of the lowest priced drivers in the game. If Almirola qualifies outside the top 20 he will be a good pick for your team. The No. 43 car has consistently finished inside the top 20 this season.
Here are my pre-qualifying picks for the Brickyard 400:
Driver 1: Denny Hamlin $11,700
Driver 2: Kyle Busch $11,600
Driver 3: Matt Kenseth $10,600
Driver 4: Martin Truex Jr. $10,300
Driver 5: Landon Cassill $5,800
I will have my picks updated on my website (Fantasy Racing Tips) after the last practice.
If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR).