Last year’s “race” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was one of the sorriest excuses for a sporting event NASCAR has ever sanctioned, but none of that takes away from the fact the Sprint Cup Series is heading to one of motorsports’ most hallowed venues in Indianapolis. Regardless of what type of racing this year’s 400 will bring, have no doubt that all 43 teams on the track this weekend will be bringing a little something extra as they attempt to etch their name permanently on Gasoline Alley. And just as Goodyear has (reportedly) resolved their tire issues, leave it to the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider to resolve any issues your roster may have heading into the Indianapolis weekend.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Mark Martin, 4 starts, 7.2
Jeff Gordon, 4 starts, 8.0
Tony Stewart, 4 starts, 8.2
Kyle Busch, 4 starts, 9.0
AJ Allmendinger, 1 start, 10.0
Stewart is the hottest driver on the Sprint Cup circuit, and he’s heading to his home track. Leading the points. In his own car… bearing the number of his hero, AJ Foyt. See where this is going? Victory lane. – Bryan
Gordon won the very first Brickyard 400, and he’s followed that up with three more of them since to lead all drivers with four. In the 15 races that have been held at Indianapolis, Gordon has finished in the top eight 12 times, a record no one else can match. His average finish is also the best among all drivers at 8.6, leaving the four-time champ an unquestioned favorite every time out at IMS. Although he has gone four years there without a win – his longest stretch without a victory at the famed Speedway – Gordon is riding a wave of momentum with five top-10 finishes in the last six races, including three second-place finishes. Look for Gordon to be back home again in Indiana for his fifth Brickyard win this weekend. – Mike
Hamlin has seemed to have a hold of the enormous Indiana speed-plant since his debut season in 2006, where the then-rookie delivered a top-10 finish in his first laps speeding over the bricks. During last year’s debacle, Hamlin was among the most aggressive drivers in the field, leading 26 laps and challenging for a number of passes en route to a third-place finish. Not one to take too many chances, Indy last season seemed to bring Hamlin out of his shell… and with a winless season thus far in 2009, it’s not hard to foresee that side of the Virginian coming out again this weekend. – Bryan
Juan Pablo Montoya has won at Indianapolis before, although it was in a far different type of racecar. No one has ever won at Indy in a stock car and in an open-wheel machine, but with him that very well could change in 2009. Montoya has been the surprise of the season, as he has as many top-10 finishes this year as he previously had in his entire career to propel himself into Chase contention. Montoya has also run twice at Indianapolis… with drastically divergent results. In his rookie season, he finished second to Stewart, while last year he was involved in a crash that put him out of the race in 39th position. Look for no such bad luck to happen this year, though; I expect Montoya to have a strong run this weekend and very possibly win the race. – Mike
Sam Hornish Jr. had an absolutely disastrous 2008 season, and his 21st-place finish in last year’s Brickyard 400 was nothing to write home about – except by his standards last year, that was one of his best finishes. Hornish certainly knows his way around IMS (he has an Indianapolis 500 trophy to his credit) and has shown tremendous improvement both in terms of skill and, more importantly, confidence in 2009. With momentum in hand, a confident Hornish at Indianapolis is a bet any fantasy racer looking to fill their lower-tiers this weekend should take. – Bryan
Marcos Ambrose has been having a very good season, running well in races at tracks that he has never seen before. This weekend, however, he’ll be going back to a track where he has experience. Ambrose finished 22nd in last year’s Brickyard, completing all 160 laps in his debut with the No. 47 team. He also finished in the top 10 at Pocono earlier this year, a track which also has long straights and relatively flat corners similar to Indy. Expect to get some quality points out of the Tasmanian this weekend as he looks to claw his way towards the Chase. – Mike
Indianapolis’s ultra long straights with tight, flat corners can test the skills of any driver. With the large purse and enthusiastic crowd, the history and magnitude of this race makes it one every driver wants to win. However, this weekend will also be filled with unknowns after last year’s tire debacle at the Speedway. The aero characteristics of the new car design could also play a major role this weekend, making passing both calculated and difficult on what’s often a one-groove track. With many cars expected to finish on the lead lap, track position will also be key; look for pit-crew performance and strategy to aid a driver in his move to the front. In the end, look for the best overall teams combined with tactical drivers to bring home the bacon this weekend.
Results of our experts in the Frontstretch Games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 5157
Mike – 4697
Hat Dance Dynasty
Bryan – 3925
Mike – 3780
Bryan – 9680
Mike – 8816
To help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week, as well as the total for the season.
Bryan 389 – 6693
Mike 305 – 6313
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