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ADAM ANSELL'S TOP 25 FOR INDIANAPOLIS
1. Tony Stewart: In his last six Cup starts, Stewart has an Average Finish of ninth with two Top Fives and four Top 10s. In 11 starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, "Smoke" has two wins (2005, '07), five Top Fives, seven Top 10s and one pole (2002). His Average Finish is eighth and he has finished no worse than eighth in five of his last six starts at the site. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Stewart leads all competitors in Driver Rating (111.8) and Average Running Position (8.4). He also leads all drivers in Average Green Flag Speed (169.854 mph), Laps in the Top 15 (676) and Quality Passes (149). If the Chase were to begin today, "Smoke" would remain in his current position of ninth, but because only five drivers currently in the Top 12 have a win, a victory at Indianapolis would reshuffle Stewart up to sixth. Expect that extra push from him to go for the Checkered Flag.
2. Jeff Gordon: Don't get bogged down in the fact that Gordon has just one win in his last 92 starts. He has five Top Five finishes in his last five starts with an ARP of 6.3. He has also led at least 13 laps in each of his past two starts. Those streaks are likely to continue at Indianapolis, where Gordon has four wins (1994, '98, '01, '04), nine Top Fives, 13 Top 10s and three poles in 16 starts. He's led at least three laps in 10 of those starts and finished in the Top 10 in eight of his last nine. He ranks fifth in DR (96.2) and ninth in ARP (14.3). Gordon is currently second in the Sprint Cup standings, but he ranks just sixth in the Chase standings. With seven races left until the Chase, Gordon still has time to break his winless streak and catch the trio of Kevin Harvick/Kurt Busch/Kyle Busch (two wins each) for third spot.
3. Juan Pablo Montoya: Currently 21st in the Sprint Cup standings, Montoya is long out of Chase contention. But that doesn't mean he lacks motivation. He was in command of last year's event at Indianapolis, leading 116 laps until a speeding penalty on pit road derailed an otherwise dominant performance. In three starts at the site, Montoya has one Top Five (runner-up as a rookie in 2007) and has qualified second twice. He ranks fourth in DR (102.0) and sixth in ARP (13.3). Need more motivation for "JPM"? Owner Chip Ganassi led teams that won the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 (IndyCar) earlier this year. A Montoya win this weekend at the Brickyard 400 would give Ganassi a pseudo triple crown, a feat no owner has ever accomplished. Of Ganassi's stable of competitors, Montoya provides the best opportunity for this to come to fruition. He will also provide excellent value, as most Fantasy owners will probably sleep on him this weekend.
4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has won three of the last four events at Indianapolis, with an additional Top 10 in 2002, winning from the pole in 2008. But in eight starts at the site, Johnson has three DNFs, including the 2007 event that's sandwiched between those three wins, which is the reason for the Average Finish of 18th. He ranks second in DR (104.9) and seventh in ARP (13.5). Johnson is tied with Denny Hamlin (five wins each), and will surely be looking to separate himself with a victory, but it's no sure thing. As good as he's been Johnson is a boom/bust candidate this weekend and not nearly as safe a pick as he appears to be. There are better valued options out there.
5. Denny Hamlin: After three straight weeks without finishing in the Top 10, Hamlin earned an eighth-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway. He doesn't have much historical success at Indianapolis, with one Top Five and two Top 10s in four starts. But as mentioned above, he's battling Johnson for the Series lead in wins. Another major factor is Indianapolis' shallow-banking and 2.5-mile length. Both features resemble that of Pocono, where Hamlin has won the past two events. Hamlin ranks eighth in DR (93.3) and 16th in ARP (16.5). Hamlin will most likely be undervalued this week, but will put up excellent results. Start him with confidence.
6. Kevin Harvick: Harvick is the Sprint Cup Series points leader, but all that will be gone in seven weeks. The best he can finish is third, but all bets are off until it happens. Stuck in a three-way logjam with the Busch Brothers, Harvick is going to need at least one more win to secure that coveted third spot in the Chase. He could get it at Indianapolis, where he has one win (2003), three Top Fives, six Top 10s and one pole (2003) in nine starts. This would be an opportune week to do it, considering the Busch Brothers' poor history at the site. He has also led at least 18 laps in four of his starts. He finished sixth in last year's event. He ranks 11th in DR (91.9) and 13th in ARP (14.8).
7. Kasey Kahne: Kahne is 17th in the Sprint Cup standings, and is still mathematically alive to claim that final spot in the Chase. To do so, he'll need more of that magic he's conjured up the past month, with Three Top Fives and four Top 10s in his past five Cup starts. In six starts at the site, Kahne has two Top Fives and four Top 10s. Take away his DNFs in 2006 and 2007, and his Average Finish at Indianapolis is fifth. He ranks 12th in DR (91.4) and 11th in ARP (14.6). If your league offers bonus points for qualifying, Kahne has an Average Start of sixth. His lame duck status with Richard Petty Motorsports has not affected his drive and determination. Kahne will continue to run well in the final seven events leading up to the Chase.
8. David Reutimann: Reutimann was dominant in his victory at Chicagoland where he recorded season high Loop Data stats across the board with a 133.6 DR, 3.6 ARP, 52 Laps Led and 45 Fastest Laps Run. In three starts at Indianapolis, Reutimann has improved each time. He finished 38th (DNF) in 2007, 30th in 2008 and last year he started fifth and finished eighth. He's 33rd in DR (60.3), but had a 98.8 DR in last year's event. He's 29th in ARP (23.6), but had an 8.4 ARP in last year. He's currently 15th in the Sprint Cup standings, 96 points out of the final spot in the Chase. If Reutimann can keep the momentum going, that spot is certainly within reach.
9. Kyle Busch: Busch has struggled in his past five Cup races, with an Average Finish of 25th and zero Top 10s. That kind of inconsistency has haunted him at Indianapolis. From 2005-07, he has an Average Finish of seventh. From 2008-'09, he has an Average Finish of 21st, including a 38th-place performance last year. Overall, in five starts at the site, Busch has one Top Five and three Top 10s. He ranks 10th in DR (92.8) and 12th in ARP (14.6). He has led at least eight laps in three of his five starts. As far as the three-way bottleneck for third in the Chase standings, as of today Busch is on the outside looking in, as he's sixth in the Cup standings behind both Kurt Busch and Harvick. Busch can win at any track, any time, but carries too much risk this weekend to justify starting him over the above options.
10. Jeff Burton: In 16 starts at Indianapolis, he has just one Top Five, four Top 10s and one pole (2006). He's led at least one lap in only five of those starts. His consistency this season balances those figures out, making Burton a quality start at Indianapolis. In his last five Cup starts, he has one Top Five and three Top 10s while leading at least 11 laps in two of those races. He ranks ninth in DR (93.1) and fifth in ARP (12.7). Burton is one of the safest drivers in Fantasy, and will provide results accordingly. A Top 10 with no laps led is likely his ceiling.
11. Carl Edwards: Has an Average Start of 29th and an Average Finish of 11th at Indianapolis. 87.4 DR.
12. Greg Biffle: Has an Average Finish of sixth in the last two Indianapolis events. 90.7 DR.
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Three DNFs in his last five starts at Indianapolis. 75.1 DR.
14. Matt Kenseth: Four Top Fives and six Top 10s in 10 starts at Indianapolis. 93.6 DR.
15. Ryan Newman: Has started inside the Top Eight in eight of his last nine starts at Indianapolis. 68.0 DR.
16. Mark Martin: 104.8 DR.
17. Kurt Busch: 66.4.
18. Clint Bowyer: 83.4.
19. Joey Logano: 79.0.
20. AJ Allmendinger: 80.2.
21. Reed Sorenson
22. Jamie McMurray
23. Martin Truex Jr.
24. Sam Hornish Jr.
25. Marcos Ambrose
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