The stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to one of the most historic tracks in the world this weekend — Indianapolis Motor Speedway — for the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard. The race will air on NBC on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 2 p.m. ET.
This 2.5-mile rectangular course has been around since 1909, and most of the greatest drivers in stock cars and open wheels all time have won there. Clearly, the Brickyard is a race for the elite. Nine times in the 25-year history of the Cup Series racing there, the winner has gone on to win the championship. So pay attention to who’s been hot this year and could be considered a championship contender when filling out your daily fantasy lineup.
On top of the prestige, this race is the final of the Cup Series’ regular season. That means that drivers on the outside of the playoff bubble will have to do whatever they can to win this race and steal a playoff spot. One of those drivers could take a massive gamble that could pay off with a great finish or result in catastrophe.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, it allows you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 160-lap race will have a total of 16 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on mid-pack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for Sunday afternoon’s race:
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Kyle Busch ($15,500)
Career at Indianapolis: 14 starts, 2 wins, 5 top fives, 11 top 10s
Average Finish at Indianapolis: 10.7
Joe Gibbs Racing has won 13 out of 25 races so far this season, so it only makes sense to have its lead driver and the 2019 regular season champion in your lineup. In addition to winning four times in 2019, Busch has only finished outside the top 10 four times. That consistency helped him clinched the regular season title last weekend.
Busch is one of the best at Indy. Among active drivers, he has the second best average finish at the track and the second most wins with two. His 324 laps led are the most among active drivers, and he’s led 19 or more laps in the past four Indy races. Three years ago, Busch led 149 of 170 laps en route to the win.
Even when Busch doesn’t dominate Indy, he’s still ultra consistent there. He’s only finished outside the top 10 there once in the past nine trips, and that was in 2017 when he crashed while battling Martin Truex Jr. for the lead. Busch is the most expensive driver by a long shot, but he’s worth every penny in your lineup.
Kevin Harvick ($13,600)
Career at Indianapolis: 18 starts, 1 win, 6 top fives, 12 top 10s
Average Finish at Indianapolis: 9.4
Harvick’s lone Brickyard win came back in 2003, but he’s still been solid there in nearly every trip since. He has the best average finish all time at the track, has the most top 10s among active drivers and is tied for the most top fives.
The 2014 Cup champion enters the weekend with a streak of five straight Indy top 10s, and he has only finished outside the top 20 once there. Harvick has looked a lot faster as the the playoffs approach, and he’ll likely score a lot of points this week.
Erik Jones ($11,300)
Career at Indianapolis: 2 starts, 0 wins, 1 top fives, 1 top 10s
Average Finish at Indianapolis: 16.5
Jones enters Indianapolis with a wave of momentum after winning his first race of the season last weekend at Darlington Raceway. Plus, he and Joe Gibbs Racing signed an extension this week. Now that he doesn’t have to worry about his future any longer, Jones can focus on winning races and competing for the championship.
Last year, Jones finished second in this race. Given that JGR has won 13 of 25 races this season, you have to have some of the team’s drivers in your lineup. And the floodgates may have just opened on Jones’ wins.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Jimmie Johnson ($9,200)
Career at Indianapolis: 17 starts, 4 wins, 6 top fives, 7 top 10s
Average Finish at Indianapolis: 15.4
There was a time where you wouldn’t find Johnson in this price range at Indianapolis. His four wins are the most among active drivers, and he only needs one more win at Indy to tie Jeff Gordon for the most all time at the track. His six top fives are tied with Harvick for the most among active drivers, and he only trails Busch in laps led.
We haven’t seen that same dominant Johnson at the Brickyard in a few years, with his last win at the track coming in 2012. But Johnson showed great speed last week at Darlington and ran in the top five until he was caught up in a wreck.
Johnson enters Indy needing to win to make the playoffs. He might just pull out some of his old magic to do just that. Regardless, he’s still should have a good run there.
Paul Menard ($6,500)
Career at Indianapolis: 12 starts, 1 win, 1 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average Finish at Indianapolis: 17.8
Indianapolis was the site of Menard’s lone Cup Series win in 2011, and he’s been solid at the track for most of his career. In his last nine Brickyard races, Menard has only finished outside the top 16 once, in 2014. He’s scored top 10s in two of the past three races there.
Menard has done a great job of taking care of his equipment in 2019. He only has one finish outside the top 25 all season, and that was the season-opening Daytona 500. He enters Indy fresh off a ninth place at Darlington.
Like Johnson, Menard needs to win at Indy to qualify for the playoffs and could pull off a gamble for another upset at the track. That is unlikely, but it is likely that Menard will potentially have another top-16 run. At this price range, you can’t ask for much more than that.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.