NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Indy in last three seasons

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On the heels of one of NASCAR’s crown jewel races – the Southern 500 – the series heads to another of its marquee events: the Brickyard 400.

Last week, Brad Keselowski joined Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, and Erik Jones as recent winners among those who are not generally considered one of the Big 3.

The Brickyard 400 is the final regular season race of the 2018 season, which means there is only one more opportunity to win and get into the playoffs – and that may be one of the biggest factors in who should be on a fantasy roster. This race has been won by some surprising contenders in the past, including Kasey Kahne last year and Paul Menard in 2011 when he employed a fuel mileage strategy.

The entire field is ready to roll the dice and take some risks. That could make for one of the most interesting and chaotic finishes of 2018 and it is going to keep fantasy owners second-guessing the makeup of their NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster until the checkered flag waves.

1. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.33)
Logano was happy to finish second at Darlington last week for more than one reason. That strong run gives him momentum entering a track on which he’s finished eighth or better in each of the last five years. He has not yet won at Indy, but a second-place finish to Kyle Busch in 2015 proves that he has a feel for the track.

2. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 4.67)
Kenseth has been unable to back up his previous numbers on any track since he re-entered the Cup series, but strong records typically predict a result in the teens. He enters this week with four top fives and a seventh in his last five starts at Indy. Depending on which game one is playing, Kenseth could be a great value.

3. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 5.00)
For the past three weeks, Harvick has been the top performing driver among the Big 3. Even so, he has not shown the same dominant form that he had earlier in the year. He could be in a similar situation this week where a finish just outside the top five allows him to earn a lot of points without challenging for the victory. At Indy, he’s finished in the top 10 in the last four races, but has only one top five.

4. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 8.67)
Hamlin was a victim of the general chaos that defined last year’s Brickyard 400 when he crashed on the final lap and finished 17th. Prior to that, he had three consecutive top fives plus a sixth in 2012. The trick for this team is going to be in managing a smart race without making any mistakes. If that happens, they should be right back among the top five.

5. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 9.67)
Keselowski’s win last week came at an opportune time. Team Penske has been as strong as any organization without at Big 3 member, but that has been obscured by the supremacy of The Dominators. By finishing 1-2 last week in the Southern 500, Keselowski and Logano have become part of the conversation when it matters – as they are trying to create and maintain momentum.

MORE: Rotoworld Brickyard 400 Cheat Sheet

6. Chris Buescher (three-year average: 11.50 in two starts)
Like Pocono, Indy is a rhythm track. Buescher’s victory on the Tricky Triangle was aided by strategy, but he has had other strong runs there as well. The same is true of the Brickyard where he has a perfect record of top 15s in two starts. If one is looking for a solid dark horse, the No. 37 fits the bill.

7. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 12.00)
Busch’s numbers are not at all indicative of how he will run this week. He was racing Truex for the lead last year when he crashed and failed to finish. Before that, he had back-to-back wins in 2015/2016 plus runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2012. He is the best opportunity for the Big 3 to get back into victory lane after getting shutout in consecutive races at Bristol and Darlington.

8. Paul Menard (three-year average: 13.33)
Seven years ago, Menard’s crew chief made a great call and helped the driver win the 2011 Brickyard 400 on fuel mileage. That was Menard’s second top 15 in five starts on this track. He has not earned another top five since, but he has been perennially in the top half of the field with five results of 10th through 16th in the past six races.

9. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 14.00)
Larson was another strong contender last year who ran into trouble. He finished 28th, which was the first time in four Indy starts that he failed to crack the top 10. Last week’s dominant performance in the Southern 500 will give him a lot of confidence. It should even help him earn a third straight top five for the first time since last October.

10. Kasey Kahne (three-year average: 14.33)
Kahne survived the carnage marking last year’s Brickyard 400 and got a great restart during a green-white-checkered attempt to beat Keselowski to the overtime line as Hamlin crashed behind him. While that was a surprise, astute fantasy players would note that he started his Indy career with back-to-back top fives and had a third-place finish as recently as 2013.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Prior to last year’s Brickyard 400, five consecutive Brickyard 400s were won from a top 10 starting position. On three occasions, the race was won from the front row with Ryan Newman winning from the pole in 2013 and Kyle Busch doing so in 2016. Jeff Gordon won from the outside pole in 2014. Kyle Busch won the last two poles on this track, but that does not necessarily mean he’s a favorite because the previous 12 editions were all won by a different driver.

Segment Winners: Kyle Busch won both segments of last year’s Brickyard 400. Truex finished second in both with Ryan Blaney third in each. If not for accidents, they would almost certainly have been among the top five at the end of the race. If one wants to disregard last year’s Indy results because the multitude of accidents that altered the finish, the top segment points earners at Pocono in the past two years have been Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Chase Elliott.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.