The NASCAR Cup Series 2020 season soldiers on this weekend to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at The Brickyard–the 16th race of the season. Yep, believe it or not, nearly half of the season is done. Anyway, Indianapolis is a lot like Pocono in that it’s a big, flat track, and strategy and fuel mileage could easily come into play. As far as the two Pocono races last weekend, think of this Indianapolis race as most similar to Saturday’s event in regards to Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest strategy: the top drivers all are starting near the front, and. they’ll probably finish there, too. Place differential is important in this Fantasy NASCAR game but this is one of those races where the best strategy may be to focus a little more on finish position. As I said last week, Pocono and Indianapolis are similar, which means the same drivers should be strong.
The starting lineup for Sunday’s race was set by random draw with the top 36 in owners points broken down into 12s. Joey Logano had the lucky draw along with Kurt Busch, and those two will start 1-2 on Sunday. You can click here for the full starting lineup for the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at The Brickyard.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy forf cd the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on race day.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for Indianapolis
Kevin Harvick ($13,000) – Do I really need to explain this pick? After 1st- and 2nd-place finishes at Pocono last weekend, Kevin Harvick has now finished inside the top 5 in more races than he hasn’t this season, and has wound up inside the top 10 in in all but three of the 15 we’ve ran. Here at Indianapolis, he’s the most recent winner, and he’s also finished 6th or better each of the last five years here. Harvick drew the 11th spot in the random qualifying draw this weekend, too, which gives him some room for place differential points, but honestly I would have picked him even if he was starting on the pole.
Denny Hamlin ($12,500) – Yep, I’m going with the two fastest cars from Pocono, because it’s likely that these two will be battling for the win here at Indianapolis as well. Denny Hamlin doesn’t have as much place differential potential as Kevin Harvick does, as the #11 team drew the 6th starting spot for Sunday, but that’s not a huge concern because Stage points still come to play in this Fantasy NASCAR game. Looking at his Brickyard record, Hamlin has never won here but he’s finished 6th or better in six of his last eight starts here. Momentum-wise, Dennis is on a four-race streak of top 5 finishes and has wound up inside that mark in 8 of the 11 races ran since we’ve came back from the COVID break. You could go with Kyle Busch ($12,700) in this spot with this roster listed but I’m going the safer route with Hamlin. Don’t forget: this #11 team has the best pit stall on Sunday thanks to their win in the second Pocono race.
Clint Bowyer ($8,900) – All eyes were on Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin at Pocono, but Clint Bowyer quietly put together two solid top 10 finishes in those races, coming home 7th on Saturday and 8th on Sunday. Heading into last race weekend, Bowyer had just one top 10 finish since NASCAR came back from the COVID break, and that was his 2nd-place run at Bristol. As far as this weekend goes at Indianapolis, Clint starts back in 22nd but could easily contend for a top 10 finish once again; Clint has ran 5th the last two years here at The Brickyard, although it’s worth noting he started 3rd and 8th in those races. Still, Bowyer is a top 10 threat this weekend.
Christopher Bell ($8,500) – It’s pretty much official now: Christopher Bell has the worst qualifying draw luck of any driver. The #95 Toyota will roll off the grid from 35th when the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 goes green on Sunday, making it the fourth race in the last five that Bell has had a starting position of either 35th or 36th. With that qualifying draw format, the worst he can get is 36th, in case you didn’t realize how unlucky he is. Bell’s record here at Indianapolis in the Xfinity Series is less than stellar, but even a 20th-place finish on Sunday will net 80+ Slingshot fantasy points.
Michael McDowell ($6,700) – Michael McDowell wrecked out early in the second Pocono race last Sunday, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that he finished a season-best 8th in the Saturday race and has also wound up in seven of the eleven races that have been ran since the COVID break. As far as Indianapolis goes, McDowell has finished either 17th or 18th each of the last three years here, and he’s arguably running better than ever this season. I won’t say it’s likely that he runs top 10 again this weekend but I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if McDowell finishes up there on Sunday. He starts back in 27th so he’s a pretty safe play in this Slingshot game.
Alternate Roster Considerations
If you feel like rolling the dice, Erik Jones ($10,700) drew the 23rd starting spot for Sunday’s race at Indianapolis. Chances are you’ve been burned by Jones at least once this Fantasy NASCAR season, and he’s disappointed fantasy owners in the past here at Indianapolis as well, with two finishes outside of the top 30 in his three career starts here. His other finish? 2nd in the 2018 Brickyard race. That’s pretty much a perfect example of Erik Jones’ 2020 season right there. Another driver that’s a solid choice in that price range is William Byron ($10,500), who will start from back in 18th. Byron ran 19th in his first career Cup Series start at this track but followed that up with a 4th-place finish in last year’s race despite starting 29th. Both of these guys had fast cars at Pocono last weekend–on Sunday, Jones finished 3rd and Byron finished 7th–and if they can stay out of trouble here at Indianapolis this Sunday they should have some high scores in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest again.