Big Machine Vodka 400 at The Brickyard
Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at The Brickyard is the final race of the regular season. It marks the second time the historic track has been the sight of the last chance for drivers to race their way into the playoffs.Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner while Kyle Busch comes to Indianapolis with two wins in the last four races held at legendary 2.5-mile track. Busch hasn’t won in the last 11 races of the 2019 season and has openly stated he’s looking to end that drought at Indy.
Almirola, Byron and Hamlin participated in the Goodyear tire test at Indianapolis earlier this year.
Past winners entered this week are Johnson (4), Kyle Busch (2), and Keselowski, Harvick, Menard, and Newman all with one win apiece.
As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.
IMPORTANT NOTE – This article pre-qualifying. Please join chat on Sunday for my race day picks.
Rowdy has thrived at Indy, winning two of the last four races here, and it very well could have been 3 of 4 had he not wrecked late in 2017. Since 2014 at “The Brickyard” minus a misleading result in 2017 he has 3.0 average finish, a 6.0 average running position and he has the best driver rating. Last year, he finished 8th, and led 27 laps. In 2017, Busch was poised to win and dominated the field, but finished 34th after wrecking while battling Truex Jr. for the lead during a restart. In the race he started on the pole, earned the best driver rating, led a race high 87 laps and won the first two Stages. In 2016, Busch had the field covered. He started on the pole, earned a perfect driver rating and led 149 laps. In 2015, he was also very strong. In that race he took the lead during a late restart and never looked back. In addition to winning he led 19 laps. In 2014 he finished runner-up. Pocono is a similar track and nobody was better than KB at Pocono this year where he won in the spring. Kyle has finished in the top 2 in four of the last seven races here. Rowdy also owns the highest average fantasy point totals over the last five Indy races and has combined to lead 282 laps in the last four. Busch led the way in practices, eclipsed only by his older brother Kurt in happy hour.
Indianapolis has been a great track for Harvick and he currently has a five race top ten streak (the only driver in the series to accomplish that feat). Over the last five combined Indy races he has the best average finish (5.4) and the best average running position (7.0), as well as being tied for the best average fantasy points total. Last year, Harvick finished 4th, and led 22 laps. In 2017, he finished 6th. In 2016 he finished 6th as well. In 2015, he led the most laps (75), had the best average running position (3.0) and finished 3rd. This year at Pocono, a similar track, Harvick was strong in both races. Harvick didn’t have sub-sonic single lap speeds in practice, but his 5 lap averages were among the leaders and those are the speeds we’re most concerned with.
Jones is peaking and finally producing the expected results that came with all of the hype surrounding him the last few years. He had a great race at Indy last year, and this year at Pocono which is the most similar track he had results of 2nd and 3rd for the season. Last year at Indy, he finished 2nd and had an 11th place average running position.
Keselowski is the defending champion at Indianapolis, and in 6 of his 8 races he’s finished in the top 12. Last year at Indy, Keselowski took advantage of a late caution and found himself in victory lane. He was running 3rd before the caution. In 2017, Keselowski was leading in the closing laps, but was passed and when the checkered flag waved he finished 2nd, and led 23 laps. Keselowski owns the fifth best average fantasy points over the last five Indy races. Keselowski was among the leaders on the 5 lap average leaderboard.
Indy hasn’t been one of Kurt Busch’s better tracks. He only has one top five (2001) and while he’s finished in the top ten 33% of his races here, he’s never really threatened to win. Last year, Busch finished 6th, and earned the 3rd best driver rating, while leading 19 laps. In 2017, Busch wrecked. In 2016, he finished 16th. Kurt led the way in happy hour with single and 5 lap speeds.
In 5 of the last 6 races at Indy, Logano has finished in the top 8. Over the last six races he has a series best 6.5 average finish, the 3rd best driver rating and the 3rd best average running position (9.3). That’s the type of consistency we’re looking for. Last year at Indy was the exception where Logano finished 13th. In 2017, Logano finished 4th. In 2016, Logano finished 7th. In 2015, Logano started 2nd, finished 2nd, and led 28 laps. He sits right behind the top three with the fourth best average fantasy point totals at Indy over the last five events here. Logano was reported to look very strong and “racy” in practice.
Menard is a former winner at Indy, with it being the lone win of his career. In 2011 he used fantastic fuel strategy to outlast the field and come home victorious. Since then he’s been pretty solid, minus a misleading result in 2014 he’s finished in the top 16 every race. Last year, Menard had his best Indy performance since his win, finishing 9th. In 2017, Menard finished 16th. In 2016 Menard finished 10th after surviving the “big one” late. This year at Pocono, Menard finished 18th in both races. On Sunday, I would look for Menard to likely be about a mid-teens driver. Menard turned in some quick laps in practice.
DiBenedetto, everyone’s favorite underdog in the series has a solid chance to post a good result at Indy this year. Pocono is the most similar track in the series, and he had a pair of 17th place results earlier this year. Last year at Indy, mechanical issues ended DiBenedetto’s race early and he finished 36th. In 2017, he finished 8th in large part due to attrition. DiBenedetto is still racing for his future, and looking good in doing so. He was among the leaders in practice.
Other drivers I like are Byron, Larson, and Johnson.
Salary-savers (sub-7k) this week are Menard, Stenhouse, Hemric, and Austin Dillon.
You might notice that Dominators, Movers, and Fades are missing, but that is due to qualifying not taking place as of yet. We can discuss those in chat tomorrow for anyone interested.
My pick to win the race this week is Kyle Busch. Rowdy is hungry to snap his winless streak and he’s been stellar in both practices so far this week.NASCAR