Fantasy NASCAR preview: Brickyard 400

by Eric McClung on July 21, 2010 @ 15:00:00 PDT

 


Since 1909, Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the torchbearer for motorsports. Everything about the layout of the track is a challenge, no matter what type of race car is used. IMS features long straightaways that allow the driver to run wide open coming off Turns 2 and 4. The lack of banking makes turning and rolling through the corners very difficult. A successful combination of lifting off the gas and braking will allow the driver to carry that momentum through the short chutes on each end of the track and maintain speed. Executing this skill lap after lap makes passing a very difficult task so a good starting position makes for a much easier day.

Location: Speedway, Ind.
Shape: Oval
Length: 2.5 miles
Laps: 160
Turns 1-4: 9 degrees
Frontstretch: 0 degrees
Backstretch: 0 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle
Biffle ready to shine at Indy

Since 2004, very few drivers have experienced Stewart's level of success at Indianapolis. In addition to two wins, Stewart has two other top-five finishes and another result in the top 10. The only blemish in that span is a 23rd-place finish in the 2008 tire shredding disaster at IMS. With 18 laps remaining, Stewart was running fourth but a bad call for only two tires sent him shuffling back through the field. After loop data was introduced in 2005, Stewart has never held an average running position worse than 15th at Indianapolis and has spent an entire race running in the top 15 on two occasions. The Indiana native grew up about an hour away from the track and could cap the weekend with a homecoming party in Victory Lane.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

If not for a few cases of misfortune, Biffle's already good resume at Indianapolis would be even stronger. In 2005, Biffle finished 21st with an average running position of 16th after colliding with another car on pit road late in the race. In 2006, his average running position was seventh with 95.6 percent of the race running in the top 15 but was involved in a wreck on the final lap. He finished 33rd. In the last two years at Indianapolis, Biffle has two top-10s and is coming off a career-best run last year; he finished fourth to record his first top-five at the site and missed running the entire race in the top 15 by a single lap. Last week at Chicagoland Speedway, an engine failure spoiled the makings of a good run. After struggling for much of the last year and a half, Roush Fenway has received tips and parts from Richard Petty Motorsports that have started to make an impact. It's The Biff that should hold the flag for the organization this week.

David Reutimann | No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Coming off a very impressive win at Chicagoland, Reutimann remains a great play for Indianapolis. After two forgettable runs at the site, starting from the fifth-position last year aided Reutimann in finishing a career-best eighth with all his laps spent running in the top 15. Over his last 11 races, the double zero finished no worse than 20th with three top-fives and six top-15s. Currently 15th in points, Reutimann will need another top-notch performance to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Chase.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

With an average starting position of sixth, Kahne has always put himself in a great spot for a strong run at Indy. After two years of bad luck at the site, Kahne has come back to finish in seventh in two straight starts. In 2006, Kahne was running ninth before crashing on the last lap of the race. The following year, he wrecked just 39 laps into the event. Over the last five races of 2010, Kahne has four finishes of sixth or better and possibly would have added another at New Hampshire Motor Speedway if not for an engine failure after leading 110 laps. All the other Ford teams have been looking to Kahne's team for performance advice, why not fantasy owners?

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Target Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

In three career starts, Montoya has started on the front row twice at Indianapolis. The Columbian finished as the runner-up as a rookie in 2007 and never ran lower than ninth. Montoya crashed in 2008 but nearly won last year. The winner of the 2000 Indianapolis 500 led 116 laps at the Brickyard and appeared to be cruising to victory until he was caught speeding on pit road. Montoya still managed to finish 11th but his average running position of third is proof just how dominant he was running. Boom or bust pretty much sums up JPM's entire season. Over the last 12 races, Montoya has six top-10 finishes but five DNFs. Owners playing catch up in their leagues should roll the dice.

Temper your expectations

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Vortex Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Penske Championship Racing driver Kurt Busch
Avoid this Busch brother

Early missteps have cost the older Busch brother in each of his last two starts at Indianapolis. In 2008, Busch lost control on lap 14 and suffered damage after hitting Kevin Harvick. He finished in 40th. Last year, a loose wheel on lap 34 put him a lap down where he would finish in 27th spot. Last week at Chicagoland, the Blue Deuce totally missed the setup, a big surprise given how strong this team has run on 1.5-mile tracks all season. While the Brickyard is a totally different type of course, Busch's best finish as a Penske driver is only 11th in four starts at the site. Allocation owners in particular can find much better locations to invest a start on Busch.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

After delivering another controversial blow to Brad Keselowski in last week's Nationwide Series race, a lot of attention will be paid to what these two drivers do should they find themselves running for position at Indianapolis. With an average starting position of 29th, it's a wonder Edwards has an average running finish of 11.2 at IMS. In five career starts, Edwards has only started better than 22nd on one occasion. While he is coming off a sixth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway and a runner-up result at Chicagoland, Edwards had been a mediocre performer for much of the weeks prior. His ability to get through the field is very impressive, but it's unclear which is the real Edwards and if his payback will come this week.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Wheaties Fuel Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Since finishing fourth in his first career start at Indianapolis, Bowyer has yet to finish better than 13th. All three finishes since then have been on the lead lap and free of incident, but Bowyer just hasn't performed all that well. With average running positions that have ranged from 13th to 18th, there's nothing very thrilling about starting him this week. Add the bad luck that has found Bowyer on a frequent basis at the end of races and it's best to save him for another day.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

From 2001 through 2008, Newman qualified no worse than seventh at Indianapolis. That's about the only thing Newman does well at the site. In the last four starts, Newman has two finishes of 13th, a 14th-place result and a DNF due to crash. In leagues that reward qualifying performances, Newman gains a lot of value. Just don't expect much beyond yet another subpar finish.

Sam Hornish Jr. | No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

The limited Cup series success that has come to Hornish has been on flat tracks. So it's a little odd that he has struggled at Indianapolis. In eight career starts in the Indianapolis 500 during his open wheel days, Hornish crashed three times before winning the event from the pole in 2006, which he followed with a fourth-place result in '07. In NASCAR, Hornish has held average running positions of 27th and 26th in his two career starts at the Brickyard. It took Hornish a while to find success at the site in IRL, perhaps the same will be true in Cup. Give him another year or two.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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