The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Indianapolis, Indiana, this week for the John Wayne Walding 400.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most difficult race tracks for drivers to conquer. The long straightaways allow drivers to drive wide open. The sharp turns in the corners are flat, which force the driver to get on the brakes hard much like a road course. Teams who can balance their car so they can get back on the gas pedal early in the corners will have the cars to beat in the race Sunday.
The 2013 Brickyard 400 was dominated by Jimmie Johnson but won by Ryan Newman. Johnson qualified second and led the most laps in the race, and Newman won the pole and led 45 laps. A 17-second pit stop by the No. 48 team allowed Newman to take over the lead. The victory was Newman’s 17th win in the Sprint Cup Series and his first at his home race track.
The key to winning the race Sunday will be track position. The narrow corners at Indianapolis make it difficult to pass. Selecting drivers for your fantasy team who start up front will be important. The track that races most similar to Indianapolis is Pocono Raceway. The drivers who finished up front at Pocono should finish up front this week.
Racing for the Win
1. Brad Keselowski: There is no doubt that Keselowski is on a hot streak right now. Do not expect him to cool down anytime soon. His stats at the Brickyard are not the best. Keselowski has never finished in the top five at the race track, but that will change this week. Keselowski is having a career year and will top it off with a win at the Brickyard this week.
2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson should be a favorite to win this week. He has four wins at the Brickyard and a series-best driver rating in the last four races at the race track. He started second last year and finished second. In 2012, he started sixth and won the race. Johnson will chase Keselowski to the checkered flag Sunday.
3. Jeff Gordon: Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 and has gone back to Victory Lane three more times in his career. As good as Gordon has been this season, it would not be surprising to see him Sunday back in Victory Lane. Gordon has an average finishing position of 8.8 at the Brickyard. He will easily finish in the top five this week.
4. Tony Stewart: Stewart needs a race to make the Chase and he would love to visit Victory Lane at his home race track. Stewart has a lot going for him this week. The No. 14 team had an extra week to prepare for the race, and Stewart returned to sprint car racing for the first time since his crash a year ago. Stewart is at his best when he is racing all of the time and has motivation. He should have a lot of motivation Sunday.
5. Ryan Newman: Newman is in the same category as Stewart. The Brickyard is his home race track, he needs a win to make the Chase, and he always shows up at this race track with a little more motivation. Newman is the defending champion of this race and should be considered a threat to go back to Victory Lane in this race.
6. Kevin Harvick: Harvick won this race in 2003 and could add another win this week if he can avoid problems on pit row. At Pocono earlier this season, Harvick qualified fourth but finished 14th due to slow pit stops. He will qualify up front again this week and finish just outside the top five.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt has never won at the Brickyard, but he has finished the last two races in the top six. Earnhardt is having the best season of his career, and a victory at this prestige’s race track would make it even sweeter for Junior Nation. Earnhardt will finish in the top five Sunday.
8. Joey Logano: Logano will still be suffering from the wrist injury he had at New Hampshire. The good news is that Logano had an extra week for his wrist to heal. He does not have the best statistics at the Brickyard, but the Penske cars have been consistently fast this season. Logano should easily finish in the top 10 on Sunday.
9. Kyle Busch: Busch is not the first driver that comes to mind when most people think of the Brickyard. He has never won a race at the race track, but he has consistently finished in the top 10. Busch has seven top-10 finishes in his nine career starts at the Brickyard. He will add another top-10 finish Sunday.
10. Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been good at the Brickyard in his career. He has finished half of his races at the race track in the top 10. He qualified seventh last season and finished third. Kahne will have a good chance to finish in the top 10 this week.
11. Kurt Busch: Busch had a great race at Pocono. He started second and finished third. Both race tracks are similar in size and banking, so Busch could have some success Sunday. His stats at this race track are not very good. His average finishing position is 19.38, and he only has three top-10 finishes. Busch will finish near the top 10 Sunday.
12. Jamie McMurray: McMurray is always at his best in the biggest races on the schedule. He has seven career victories in the Sprint Cup Series. He has two wins in the Coca-Cola 600, two wins at Daytona, two wins at Talladega and one win in the Brickyard 400. He would be a good pick for your team this week.
13. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin is one of the best drivers on flat race tracks. He has had some success at the Brickyard, but he is better at Pocono than he is at this race track. Hamlin has finished three of his eight races at the Brickyard in the top 10. He will start up front and finish in the top 15 on Sunday.
14. Kyle Larson: This will be Larson’s first race at the Brickyard in the Sprint Cup Series. He has one career start at the race track in the Nationwide Series. He started at 17 and finished 11th. Larson is a quick learner, so a top-15 finish should be obtainable for the rookie driver.
15. Paul Menard: Menard only has one win in his Sprint Cup Series career. The win came in the 2011 Brickyard 400. Menard will have a hard time going back to Victory Lane this week, but expect him to have a fast race car for this race. Menard is a good sleeper pick this week.
16. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth looked lost at Pocono. He started 26th and finished at 25. He cannot be that bad this week. Kenseth has finished eight of his 14 starts at the Brickyard in the top 10. He will only be able to finish in the top 15 on Sunday.
17. Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya will be back in the No. 12 car for Penske Racing this week. The reason Montoya is entered into this race is because Montoya desperately wants to win a race in the Sprint Cup Series on an oval. The Brickyard is his best chance to reach that goal. Montoya dominated this race in 2009. He led 116 of the 160 laps but finished second. He should be on all Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing teams this week.
18. Greg Biffle: Biffle has been good at the Brickyard in his career. He has finished five of his last six races at the race track in the top 10. The problem for the No. 16 team this week is Roush-Fenway Racing has not had any speed on the down-force race tracks. Biffle finished 16th at Pocono and should finish about the same Sunday.
19. Carl Edwards: The Brickyard is not Edwards' best race track. He only has three top-10 finishes in his nine career starts. His last top-10 finish was in 2010. There are better race tracks to use Edwards on your team.
20. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer only has two top-10 finishes at the Brickyard. His last top-10 finish was in the 2010 race. Bowyer is a better driver on the short race tracks and the road courses. There are better options for your team this week.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has 500 miles of racing this year at the Brickyard on his resume. The problem is the racing was in an IndyCar and not a stock car. Allmendinger has finished 22nd the last two races at the race track. He will make it three in a row Sunday.
22. Brian Vickers: Vickers has not competed in a Sprint Cup Series race at the Brickyard since 2011. The feel for the race track should come back to him after the three practice sessions, but this is a rhythm race track. It will be hard for Vickers to be away for so long and come back and finish up front.
23. Austin Dillon: Dillon competed in the Sprint Cup Series race at the Brickyard last season in the No. 33 car for Richard Childress Racing. He started at 20 and finished 26th. Dillon will only show a slight improvement in this race.
24. Martin Truex Jr.: The statistics suggest Truex would be a good pick for your team this week, but sometimes the statistics are misleading. Truex has the eighth-best average finishing position in the last four races at the race track, but he is no longer driving for Michael Waltrip Racing. He will have a hard time racing his Furniture Row Racing Chevy into the top 15 this week.
25. Aric Almirola: It would be great to see the No. 43 car in Victory Lane at the Brickyard. The chances of that happening Sunday are slim. Almirola has competed in two Sprint Cup Series races at the race track and his best finish was 17th. He will have a hard time finishing in the top 20 in this race.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon
Group B: Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray
Group C: Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Larson
Fantasy Live Picks
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya, Brett Moffitt
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Tony Stewart
Driver 2: Jimmie Johnson
Driver 3: Ryan Newman
Driver 4: Jeff Gordon
Driver 5: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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