(Sign up for the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone and make your driver selections for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio here.)
With the championship race as tight as most races this year, Mid-Ohio’s annual bash is as important as ever. The beautiful, bucolic track will be loud and a bit dangerous as drivers and teams fight for position. It’s also a chance for the season-long #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone player to get some distance or make up some points.
Predicting the Team Penske drivers has been difficult all year, but it’s important for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. All four of the drivers in the Captain’s armada can win, but all four have seldom been good at the same time.
In the most recent race, the Honda Indy Toronto, it was Josef Newgarden ($30). He’s shown good speed and strategy on the more technical courses, but the sweeping turns and relatively long straights of Mid-Ohio don’t fit his pattern. Instead, it’s Simon Pagenaud ($31), last year’s Mid-Ohio winner amidst his run to the championship, who’s likely to be the horse for this course.
But I’m picking neither. I think Will Power gives the same value for a couple bucks less at $28, though Helio Castroneves is tempting at $30. There’s ways to pair them both, but it involves going a bit too deep on the roster for me. Power has been close in several races and his consistency has him in the championship chase. A win could really “power” that … oh, sorry for that pun.
Graham Rahal might seem too high at $27, but this is his home course and, while he’s been inconsistent with results this year, it’s usually the result of going for the win. That’s good for racing, bad for fantasy, but the Ohio native does run well here and the extra motivation is enough for me to spend a couple more bucks.
JR Hildebrand has been something of an enigma all year long in his Ed Carpenter ride, but he’s a near-minimum at $17. He’s head and shoulders above anyone at this price level, so despite the inconsistencies, he’s a solid pick again at this level. Anything below $20 just must finish to get relative value and Hildebrand has put his car in contention several times.
I’d love to get points leader Scott Dixon in here – no one is driving better right now and he’s won more times at Mid-Ohio (five) than anyone – but he’s out of reach at $30. I’ll go with his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Tony Kanaan, for $24. Kanaan is struggling a bit in terms of results, but with some money on the table, dropping down to Max Chilton isn’t necessary. Kanaan should be able to challenge for a top-five finish, which would easily return his value.
So that’s my team — Power, Rahal, Hildebrand and Kanaan. There’s no Andretti Autosport drivers in this mix, but it is a team that can put up big points. At this stage, I’m pushing for all I can get in order to get on that end-of-season podium in just a couple months.
By the way, how amazing is that 2018 car looking? That back wing, the Coke bottle curves! It looks fast and I can’t wait to see all the drivers in one next season!