(Sign up for the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone and make your driver selections for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway here.)
I would say that no one saw the Graham Rahal double dominance in Detroit coming, but I checked out the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone standings and some of you did. Smart play.
I will say that few saw Team Penske having so much difficulty, so coming out of Belle Isle, scoring points this week at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 is going to be huge for everyone looking to stay at the top of the standings.
Texas Motor Speedway is always tough – a fast, high-banked oval is uncomfortable for the drivers and a crash inevitably seems to collect someone who’s running well, like what happened last year with Josef Newgarden. It’s not quite the equipment test that Indianapolis is, but the speeds and forces will expose issues.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think Rahal is the pick for Texas – even as the defending race winner there. Unlike Detroit, it’s possible to pass on the banks of TMS. I think Rahal will run well, but there’s still signs that Honda engines might be wound a little tighter than the Chevys. Just ask James Hinchcliffe. I think Rahal could qualify well, but I’m not putting him in my lineup.
I’m also not going Penske heavy. The team was lost at the first race of last week’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, but I think the four drivers will bounce back on a fast oval. I’ll stick with Newgarden, who’s been the most consistent of the Penske drivers and is priced right at $28. I’m tempted strongly by Helio Castroneves ($32) – a four-time winner at Texas – so if you work him into your lineup, I won’t argue.
I do think the Andretti Autosport cars will run well again, so give me two: Takuma Sato ($26) and Ryan Hunter-Reay ($20). They’ve both run well – an understatement for Sato, the Indy champ – on ovals and, while luck doesn’t always go with them, I like their experience, plus the team’s “strength in numbers” at a tough track like Texas.
My final driver for the Texas race is Hinchcliffe ($26). He’s had terrible luck with engines this year, but he’s run very well. His charge from spinning on the first lap to finishing on the podium in the first Detroit race shows that Hinch has a good car and the ability to get to the front. If he can save the car a bit more, he’s likely to put up a nice result and quite possibly a win for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
This isn’t a race where four drivers are going to be the whole story, so picking these four is a calculated play. I’m maximizing my chance at points by hedging engines, teams and driver styles.
The goal at this kind of race is to have three of the drivers finish in the top 10, not to pick the overall winner. While this race is something of a sprint, keep your eyes focused on the fantasy championship at the end of the season and enjoy what is often one of the most exciting and action-packed races of the year!