Championship variables make fantasy picks more difficult

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I’m not ready for the season to end! That’s the feeling a lot of you have regarding the awesome Verizon IndyCar Series season in 2017, even with some great changes coming in 2018. But fantasy needs a stopping point, so the double-points finale out west is the place to do it for this year’s #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone.

We’ve learned a lot in the first 16 races, so let’s use it to rack up some winning points and stand on our virtual podium.

The first important note for this race is points position. While the normal factors of driving style, engine, team and track are all in effect, the closeness of the championship chase is going to come into play. For the guys at the top, they know what they need to do to win out. For the guys farther back, they want to solidify their positions and, for some, secure rides for next year. The drivers near the top, especially those with outside chances at the crown, might be willing to be a bit more risky.

It’s that last fact that’s going to keep me away from the Team Penske drivers. I’ll take Josef Newgarden at $31, but Helio Castroneves ($30), Simon Pagenaud ($30) and Will Power ($29) are all just far enough back that I don’t like the idea that they’d push too hard and go “checkers or wreckers,” or that they will be called off at some point in pseudo-team orders. Newgarden is expensive, but I think he’s the safest play of the four.

I’ll also spend big with Scott Dixon at the same $31. He’s one piece of luck away from leading the championship chase. That big wreck at Indy cost him a ton of points, but he did come away from the scary crash clean enough not to miss any time. He’s as consistent as they come and, while this hasn’t been a great campaign for the Chip Ganassi Racing camp overall, a title could make them forget a lot of it.

With $62 spent on Newgarden and Dixon, we have to go further down the charts to fill out the team now. Max Chilton, one of Dixon’s teammates, has driven well over the second half. His moderate success and price make him a good fit at just $18. Conor Daly of AJ Foyt Racing at $17 fills out the team. He’s been inconsistent, but has shown recent signs in the Foyt car, which means a good performance in wine country could have him back with the team next year.

There’s arguments to be made to play the Andretti Autosport cars again, especially Alexander Rossi, after they seemed to find something at Watkins Glen. Picking Rossi over Newgarden or Dixon would leave enough cap space to come up for Ryan Hunter-Reay over Chilton or Daly, but I don’t think that move scores as many points in this race.

We’ll see how it plays out, but as the 2017 season draws to a close, I want to thank IndyCar.com and its readers for letting me play along with you this season.

From the fans