After a jam-packed weekend at Pocono Raceway that included a doubleheader for the Cup Series, NASCAR heads to arguably the most famous track in all of auto racing. Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400, and while you can certainly argue that the flat, rectangular-shaped oval hasn’t produced the most exciting racing, the history and legend of the Brickyard puts this race on the short list of events that every driver wants to win.
Fittingly, NASCAR’s biggest stars have usually stepped up at Indianapolis. There have been 26 Cup races at the track, and 21 of them have been won by series champions. Not to mention that three of the other five races have been won by drivers with at least 18 career wins. Needless to say, it isn’t the worst idea to stick with household names, or at least the powerhouse teams, when assembling your fantasy lineups this weekend.
I tend to lean heavily on how drivers have performed in the past at Indianapolis when evaluating their potential, and given the new rules package, I placed a little more emphasis on the results from last season’s race. While there isn’t a perfect track to use as a comparison, I do like to look at Pocono to try to identify some potential sleepers. Both tracks have long straightaways and sweeping corners, and conveniently, we just had two consecutive races there.
Based on what we saw at Pocono, I am a little worried that attrition could be higher than usual this weekend because of the lack of practice time. The aggression level is already going to be turned up as drivers try to earn the chance to kiss the bricks, and because passing is so difficult, restarts at Indianapolis usually rank among the most chaotic on baseline. Throw in no practice, and it wouldn’t be a shock if things got a little ugly. This fear isn’t going to stop me from using the top options, but I am also more likely to take a chance on some midrange options and sleeper picks, especially in my DFS lineups, depending on how the qualifying draw plays out.
1. Kevin Harvick
Harvick dominated at Indianapolis last year, leading 118 laps on his way to the win. He has finished eighth or better in all six of his starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing, posting a 4.7 average finish. Harvick will be the safest option in just about any fantasy format this weekend.
2. Denny Hamlin
He is still looking for a win at the Brickyard, but Hamlin has finished sixth or better in six of his last eight starts here. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him finally kiss the bricks this weekend, but at the very least, Hamlin should be a Top 5 contender.
3. Kyle Busch
Busch is a two-time winner at Indy, and he has finished either first or second in three of the last six races at the track. He has also led at least 19 laps in four of his last five starts here. Fantasy owners are still waiting for a dominating performance out of Busch in 2020, but worst-case scenario, he’s a Top 5 option this weekend.
4. Joey Logano
Although Logano has never kissed the bricks, he has been a force at the track since moving to Team Penske. He has cracked the Top 15 in all seven of his starts in the No. 22, finishing eighth or better six times and logging four Top 5s. Logano offers a high floor and plenty of upside. He should be particularly useful for Fantasy Live.
5. Brad Keselowski
He crashed out at Indianapolis last year, but Keselowski won the 2018 race and was the runner-up in 2017. He also has a knack for finding his way to the front here, and he has led at least nine laps in four of the last five races. Keselowski should be a strong play in both season-long and DFS contests.
6. Ryan Blaney
Blaney has been a different driver in two starts at Indianapolis since moving to Team Penske. He finished 11th here in the 2018 race, and he led 19 laps and finished seventh last year. As strong as Blaney has been in 2020, there is no denying his Top 5 upside this weekend.
7. Chase Elliott
While he has never had a statement performance at Indy, Elliott did notch a career-best ninth-place finish here last year. More importantly, he has brought one of the fastest cars to the track week in and week out in 2020. Don’t be surprised if Elliott makes a run at a Brickyard win Sunday.
8. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has had plenty of strong cars at Indianapolis, but he has had terrible luck here. Thanks to mechanical issues and a wreck while battling for the lead in 2017, he has finished outside the Top 25 in each of the last three races. Yes, Truex is more than capable of challenging for the win this weekend, but I would probably think twice before using up one of his starts at Fantasy Live or the Driver Group Game.
9. Clint Bowyer
Stewart-Haas Racing has been one of the stronger organizations at Indianapolis over the years, and Bowyer has logged back-to-back Top 5 finishers here, leading 37 laps in the 2018 event. Don’t forget about him when picking your Fantasy Live drivers this weekend.
10. Erik Jones
Jones has been a boom-or-bust option in three starts at Indianapolis, sandwiching a runner-up effort between a pair of crashes. You may want to go with a steadier option for your season-long lineups, but I love Jones’ upside for DFS contests.
11. Ryan Newman
He has been the model of consistency at Indianapolis, finishing 12th or better in eight of his last nine starts here and reeling off three straight Top 10s. This is a great week to have Newman as one of your Group B options in the DGG, and he even has sleeper potential at Fantasy Live.
12. William Byron
The sample size is small, but after cracking the Top 20 in his Indy debut in 2018, Byron delivered a fourth-place finish here a year ago. There are more proven options available, but Byron is a high-upside play. He could be especially useful for DFS contests.
13. Aric Almirola
Almirola finished a respectable 14th at Indianapolis last year, and I think he could have an even higher ceiling this weekend. Not only does Stewart-Haas Racing typically run well here, but the track has some similarities to Pocono, and Almirola was stout in both Pocono races this past weekend. He should be a dependable Group B option in the Driver Group Game.
14. Kurt Busch
Indianapolis won’t rank as Busch’s best track, and he has managed just two Top 10s in the last nine races here, finishing outside the Top 20 fives times in that span. The veteran is always capable of finding his way into the Top 10, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to roster him this weekend.
15. Matt DiBenedetto
DiBenedetto cracked the Top 20 in last year’s race at Indy, and now that he has Team Penske equipment at his disposal, his ceiling only goes higher. He finished 13th and sixth in the two races at Pocono over the weekend, which could be a sign of things to come Sunday. DiBenedetto could be a great Group B sleeper in the DGG.
16. Alex Bowman
He has finished outside the Top 20 in both of his Indianapolis starts with Hendrick Motorsports, but I am more concerned with his boom-or-bust results in 2020. I wouldn’t shock me to see Bowman end up in the Top 10 Sunday, but his volatility makes him more of a DFS option in my book.
17. Jimmie Johnson
His Indianapolis resume ranks as one of the best in series history, but Johnson has finished outside the Top 15 in the last three races here, crashing out of two them. He has also been slumping a bit in recent weeks. I don’t see Johnson being more than a potential Top 15 threat Sunday.
18. Chris Buescher
If you are looking for a sleeper for the Driver Group Game or for the DFS sites, Buescher could be your man. He has cracked the Top 15 in three of his four starts here, gaining an average of 6.0 spots per race overall.
19. Austin Dillon
It has been a mixed bag of results for Dillon at Indianapolis, and in seven starts, he has four finishes outside the Top 20 compared to three finishes of 12th or better. Dillon has enjoying one of his better seasons overall in 2020, but I still view him as a qualifying-dependent fantasy play.
20. Tyler Reddick
He had a horrible weekend at Pocono, but Reddick could easily right the ship this weekend at Indianapolis. He was the runner-up in the XFINITY race here in 2018, and he was battling for the lead in last year’s race before being taken out in a wreck. Plus, Reddick remains the top scorer among the Group C drivers in the DGG despite the disastrous trip to Pocono.
21. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth posted a 5.2 average finish in five starts at Indianapolis with Joe Gibbs Racing, and even with Roush Fenway Racing in 2018, he managed a 12th-place finish. Granted, it has been a bit of a struggle for him at Chip Ganassi Racing this year, but he did finish 11th and 12th at Pocono over the weekend. Kenseth could be a sneaky Top 15 contender and solid Group C option at the DGG.
22. Christopher Bell
His weekend at Pocono kind of sums up his rookie season. After finishing fourth on Saturday, Bell crashed and finished 39th in Sunday’s event. His boom-or-bust results make him a frustrating fantasy option overall, but Bell’s Top 10 upside makes him an intriguing Group C pick in the Driver Group Game.
23. Bubba Wallace
After crashing in his Indianapolis debut in 2018, Wallace qualified 15-th and finished third here a year ago. I don’t think another Top 5 finish is on tap this weekend, but a Top 20 finish isn’t out of the question. Wallace could get the job done as a Group C play in the DGG.
24. Cole Custer
Custer finished 16th and 17th at Pocono this past weekend, proving that he can hold his own at a track where Stewart-Haas Racing has typically performed well. Given SHR’s recent record at Indy, I think that is an encouraging sign. I don’t think he has the highest ceiling among the Group C options this weekend, but Custer is certainly capable of landing in the Top 20.
25. John Hunter Nemechek
He will make his first Cup start at Indianapolis this weekend, but Nemechek has more than held his own during his rookie campaign. He owns a respectable 19.3 average finish, and he only has one finish outside the Top 25. He is proving to not only be a solid source of cap relief at the DFS sites, but he is a serviceable Group C option for the Driver Group Game, as well.
26. Michael McDowell
McDowell has quietly strung together some solid runs at Indianapolis, finishing 18th, 17th and 17th over the past three seasons. He also has five Top 20s, including four Top 15s, in the pas seven races this year. I still think he is a little risky for most season-long leagues, but I love McDowell’s potential as a low-priced DFS option this weekend.
27. Ty Dillon
His numbers at Indianapolis aren’t horrible, and in three starts, Dillon has posted a 17.7 average finish. Perhaps most importantly, he has never finished worse than 21-st here. If he happens to start around the 30th spot, keep him in mind for some cap relief at the DFS sites or for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto contest.
28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Indianapolis hasn’t been kind to Stenhouse, and in seven starts, he has posted a brutal 28.0 average finish. He has finished 24th or worse in six of those races, finishing outside the Top 30 in both 2018 and 2019. At best, he would be a shot-in-the-dark DFS option, but I don’t see using him in any fantasy format this weekend.
29. Ryan Preece
He actually had a solid Indianapolis debut last season, picking up a 16th-place finish. However, the 2020 season has been a tough one for Preece, and he has managed just Two Top 15s through 15 races while compiling a 24.5 average finish. You just can’t expect more than a Top 25 of him, which limits his fantasy value in every format.
30. Corey LaJoie
LaJoie picked up a surprise Top 20 at Indianapolis last year when he finished 19th, and he also snuck in the Top 25 in both races at Pocono over the weekend. Granted, a Top 25 is typically LaJoie’s ceiling unless we see a lot of attrition, but if he starts outside the Top 30, he will have some potential as a punt play at DraftKings.