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The Penske juggernaut finally showed up. It was just a puncture that kept it from being a near sweep for Roger Penske at Barber Motorsports Park, but this raises a lot of questions as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads west and onto an oval for the first time this season.
First, was this a victory for Penske or Chevrolet? It was always clear that Josef Newgarden wanted another win here, but Penske dominated from the green flag, so this appears more to be a team win. Behind them, the rest of the Chevys were a ways back. On the other hand, the Andretti cars struggled again, though Alexander Rossi crashed the Penske party and showed his technical skill by finishing fifth.
Assuming what we’ve seen from the first three races holds, the shift to a short oval will mean that Honda will lose some of its seeming advantage shown in 2017, but one that can be overcome by technique, good strategy and a little luck. That sounds like the Team Penske formula, so yes, I think Phoenix Raceway will be led by the Penskes.
The problem is that all four Penskes are competitive and expensive on the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone value charts. You can’t be a fantasy Roger Penske and just take all four. You can’t even take three, so picking the right two is key. You can go a lot of ways with it, but I believe that Will Power ($29), despite his bad luck so far in ’17, is due for some good fortune. I’d pair him with Helio Castroneves ($26), who’s always good on ovals. These are the two lower-priced Penske drivers, but you really can’t go wrong if you decide to go with Simon Pagenaud or Newgarden, either — there’s just more of a sacrifice.
I’m pairing Power and Castroneves with Tony Kanaan ($24). The former Indy winner also is great on ovals and has been consistent, if not up top, all season in his Ganassi ride. The Honda power helps and Kanaan gets the tip on value over Scott Dixon, who should be very good, just too high-priced for this mix.
I’m closing things up with Rossi ($20). The defending Indy champ never seemed too comfortable on ovals last year, but he’s been the class of the Andretti stable so far this season. Rossi’s solid performance at Barber is something to build on and I think that the focus on Fernando Alonso’s Indy ride will help Rossi — think of him as a test case on ovals, so he’s likely to be the Andretti focus this week.
I thought hard about taking one of the Ed Carpenter Racing cars, but can JR Hildebrand repeat his form as the fastest driver at the February test in Phoenix while still recovering from a broken hand? I am not sure.
My team this week is Power, Castroneves, Kanaan and Rossi. What’s yours? Good luck this week to all the drivers and fantasy racers.