The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Indianapolis Sunday for the Crown Royal Samuel Deeds 400.
NASCAR does not classify races as “Majors” like the PGA does, but if it did this week’s race at Indianapolis would be one of them. Every driver in the garage dreams of hoisting the trophy from the Brickyard in Victory Lane.
The cream usually rises to the top at Indianapolis. Jimmie Johnson has won four of the last seven races at the Brickyard. Even if you are low on allocations with Johnson, he is the best choice in the field this week.
Another thing to remember when selecting your drivers this week is that Chevrolet has won the past 10 races at the Brickyard. There is a good chance that a driver from Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart Haas Racing or Richard Childress Racing will be kissing the bricks at the end of the race.
Here is my top 30 and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the driver’s career statistics at the Brickyard…
Racing for the Win
1. Tony Stewart is getting hot and he is my pick to win this week. The native Hoosier is a two-time winner at the Brickyard and has finished nine of his last 10 races at Indianapolis in the top 10. He should have won the last race at New Hampshire. If he can avoid running out of gas, he will be back in Victory Lane this week.
2. Jimmie Johnson has been incredible this year on the flat race tracks. He finished second at Phoenix, sixth at New Hampshire and won at Pocono. Johnson is the driver to beat this week. Even if you are low on starts with Johnson, he is worth selecting for your team this week.
3. Jeff Gordon has the best career stats at the Brickyard. He has the fourth-best driver rating of 101.8, the fifth-best average running position of 11.8 and the third-most laps run in the top 15 with 961. He is a four-time winner and has two consecutive top-five finishes at Indianapolis. Look for him to make it three in a row this week.
4. Matt Kenseth is the only driver who does not drive a Chevy who has a good chance at a top-five finish this week. Kenseth has been good at every race track this year and there is no reason to think he will struggle on Sunday. He will score his fifth top-five finish of the season this week.
5. Kevin Harvick is having a career year. He has been one of the most consistent drivers on the race track this season. Other than crashes at the two restrictor-plate race tracks, Harvick has finished every race in the top 14. He will contend for the win on Sunday.
6. Kyle Busch is another driver who has been good on the flat race tracks this season. He finished sixth at Pocono and second last week at New Hampshire. Busch is worth using in all formats this week even if you are low on starts. He has a great chance to qualify in the top five.
7. Kasey Kahne has not run very well on the flat race tracks this year. He finished No. 19 at Phoenix, No. 36 at Pocono and No. 11 at New Hampshire. He will turn it around this week with the help of his Hendrick Motorsports team. Look for Kahne to finish inside the top 10.
8. Greg Biffle is the best Ford driver in the field this week. He has the fifth-best driver rating of 98.6, the second-best average running position of 10.1 and the second-most laps run in the top 15 with 1,027. Biffle is worth using in all formats this week.
9. Jamie McMurray is my sleeper pick this week. He won the race at Indianapolis in 2010 and finished fourth in 2011. McMurray is having a solid season and this is one of his best chances to finish up front.
10. Brad Keselowski has struggled for most of the 2013 season, but seemed to turn it around last week at New Hampshire. He won the pole for the race and finished fourth. Keselowski needs another top-10 finish to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Chase. I think he will do it.
11. Juan Pablo Montoya has often run well at the Brickyard, but he always has problems bringing his car home up front. Montoya has an average starting position of 6.2, has led 202 laps and has the eighth-best average running position of 13.2 at the racetrack. This week he will run well and finish right outside the top 10.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a hard driver to predict. When the numbers suggest he will finish up front, he struggles in the race. When the numbers suggest he has no shot at running well, he finishes up front. His numbers at the Brickyard are average, so I predict he will finish in the top 15.
13. Clint Bowyer could easily be listed as a top-five driver this week, but I am not buying it. He finished five of his last six starts at the Brickyard outside the top 10. He will add another on Sunday.
14. Paul Menard is one of the best stories in NASCAR history at the Brickyard. His family has a history at the racetrack in both the IndiCar Series and the NASCAR Series.. His victory at Indianapolis in 2011 was the best accomplishment of his career. Do not look for another win on Sunday.
15. Ryan Newman officially began his Lame Duck season at Stewart Haas Racing last week. He ran well, but was involved in a crash. Newman will run well again and finish in the top 15.
16. Carl Edwards has had success at the flat race tracks this year, but his career stats at the Brickyard are only average. Edwards won the race at Phoenix, finished No. 17 at Pocono and No. 8 at New Hampshire. He will run well but fall outside the top 15 on Sunday.
17. Denny Hamlin's season has been a disaster. If it were not for bad luck, Hamlin would not have any luck at all. He may run well on Sunday, but I suggest avoiding him until his season turns around.
18. Martin Truex Jr. has been horrible on the flat race tracks this season. He finished No. 35 at Phoenix, No. 24 at Pocono and No. 14 at New Hampshire. There are better race tracks to use Truex at.
19. A.J. Allmendinger is the only driver in the field that has raced this season at Indianapolis. Allmendinger ran well in the Indianapolis 500 before his seat belt came loose. He is the best choice in Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Group C this week.
20. Jeff Burton is quietly having a good season. He is coming off a third-place finish at New Hampshire. Expect Burton to have another top-20 finish this week.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Joey Logano has struggled in his career at Indianapolis. He started third and finished No. 33 in the race last year. In 2011 he started No. 20 and finished No. 25. This is not the week to gamble with Logano.
22. Trevor Bayne has two career races at Indianapolis. He started No. 30 and finished No. 25 last season and started No. 17 and finished No. 18 in 2011. Expect the same kind of run from him this week.
23. Aric Almirola’s fifth-place finish at New Hampshire came out of nowhere. Before the race last week, Almirola had eight races without a top-10 finish. Do not expect much more than a top-25 finish from him this week.
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his first start in the Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis. This is not an easy race track for a rookie to figure out. Save Stenhouse for the racetracks he is familiar with.
25. Marcos Ambrose has five career races at Indianapolis and his best finish is No. 20. His average on the flat race tracks this year is 21.6. Ambrose will only be good for a top-25 finish Sunday.
26. Casey Mears has not run well on the flat race tracks this season. His average finish is 22.3. He looked lost last week at New Hampshire and I doubt he will find a map to Victory Lane this week.
27. Danica Patrick is making her first start in the Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis. She does have experience at the racetrack in the IndiCar Series, but that is like comparing apples to oranges. Patrick will be lucky to avoid a wreck this week.
28. Bobby Labonte has an average finish of 25.6 on the flat race tracks this season. There is no reason to expect his numbers to improve this week.
29. David Ragan will just be another race car driver logging laps this week. Do not expect much more than a top-30 finish from him Sunday.
30. David Reutimann has seven consecutive races of finishing between No. 25 and No. 35. He will keep his streak going this week at Indianapolis.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson
Group B: Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya
Group C: A.J. Allmendinger,Trevor Bayne
Fantasy Live Picks
Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Joe Nemechek
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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