With all the hoopla surrounding the 15th annual Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, it's easy to tweak things on your fantasy team just a little too much. Just remember, while this race may be the second-most important of the season for drivers and owners, their desire to win at famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway will still pay you exactly the same amount of fantasy points Sunday night. It's important to know the importance of this weekend, but be careful making wholesale changes that may come back to bite you in a league where your roster moves are somewhat limited.
In fact, as long as your team's not made up of middle-of-the-pack runners, you probably won't even have to change much at the top of your lineup. Indy's a race where the cream always seems to rise to the top; in the last nine years, no Allstate 400 winner has finished the season outside the top 10 in points. That means this weekend's roster should be stocked chock full with the strongest guys on your team -- no use for sleepers when the sport's superstars will spend the day running circles around the rest of the pack.
For more detailed fantasy analysis, check out our weekend picks below:
Tony Stewart: Stewart has distractions galore these days, announcing the number and sponsor of Stewart-Haas Motorsports this Friday at Indianapolis. But when it comes to the Brickyard, no driver is more focused than the defending champ of this race. A native of nearby Columbus, Stewart has relished in winning two of the last three Allstate 400s, taking the second one with ease after passing Kevin Harvick in the waning laps of last year's event. Stewart's not a DNF risk here -- he's never finished lower than 17th -- and his 169 laps led since 2004 lead all drivers at Indianapolis. A rock solid pick to contend this weekend.
Kyle Busch: What's not to like about Rowdy Busch these days? The championship leader is out in front by 262 and is a threat to win wherever he goes, coming off his series-leading seventh victory at Chicagoland two weeks ago. Indianapolis has been a good track for Busch so far, as he's never finished outside the top 10 in three career starts at the speedway. Still not convinced? Well, he's also got this stat on his side: four of the last eight Brickyard 400s have been won by that year's eventual points champion. With Busch an overwhelming favorite to take home that title, he's the one in the best position to make it five of nine.
Kevin Harvick: The '07 Daytona 500 winner hasn't won a points-paying race in well over a year and a half. But don't let that keep him off your Indy fantasy team, because there's something about Harvick and this track that just always seems to click. In seven career starts, the '03 Brickyard 400 winner hasn't finished outside of the top 20 at Indy, and was headed towards a surprising win in '07 before getting banged up by Tony Stewart while fighting for the lead with ten laps left. Harvick still hung on for seventh in that one, his fifth career Top 10 that's helped raise his average finish here to a healthy 8.0. With the Race to the Chase in full swing and Harvick's spot in serious jeopardy, the No. 29 began the process of righting the ship with a Top 5 two weeks ago at Chicagoland. We'd be surprised if he didn't continue that momentum here.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne's season of inconsistency has him on the fringes of the Chase instead of solidly locked into the field. That should put him in conservative mode heading into Indianapolis -- but this former Sprint Car star will hardly drive that way at a track he's idolized since he was in diapers. Kahne's recent history here isn't too strong -- he crashed out last year en route to a 40th place finish -- but he's also started 5th or better in three consecutive races at the track. With track position more crucial than ever with the Car of Tomorrow this weekend, a solid starting spot could be key to Kahne pushing through with a surprising upset come Sunday.
Jeff Gordon: I know, it's hard to call a four-time winner of the Brickyard 400 a sleeper. But everyone seems to be down on Gordon after a ho-hum July's left him sixth in points and winless nineteen races into a forgettable season. However, Indy's the place where this former champ's left us with unforgettable moments, from his first Brickyard 400 triumph in '94 to a fourth exactly ten years later. This track's always been good for Chevrolet -- they've won five in a row and nine of 14 here -- and with Gordon's track record, it's hard to believe the No. 24 won't be in contention as the laps wind down on Sunday ... handling problems and all.
Mark Martin: It's rare the man known for tough racing luck beams confidence before you even get to a race track, but Martin raised eyebrows this summer with a bold proclamation he'll win Indy this weekend. Although he hasn't won since Kansas in the Fall of '05, maybe Martin knows a little something extra we don't; but regardless, finishes of 7th, 5th, and 6th in his last three starts here make him a solid pick in the No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Chip Ganassi Racing's on the skid these days, led by Montoya's equivalent of a serious sophomore slump. Still, you'd be silly not to take a serious look at the Colombian to fill out your roster. The former Indy 500 winner had a surprising run at the Brickyard last year, slicing through the field in the final 50 laps en route to a surprising second behind winner Tony Stewart. Can he take it one notch higher and become the first driver to pull the open-wheel/stock car double at Indy? Probably not with this team, this year; however, his experience and past success should land the No. 42 solidly within the top 10.
Regular Frontstretch/SI fantasy writer Cami Starr put forth a solid effort at Chicago, with all her "Favorites" finishing solidly within the top 10 (her high mark was Kevin Harvick in 3rd). Sleeper Brian Vickers also turned in a sixth place run that likely had her smiling by race's end. Just don't talk to her about any longshots -- Casey Mears and Reed Sorenson proved exactly why they were placed in that category, struggling along to combine for an average finish of just 32nd.
"The one thing about the Brickyard is there's outstanding performances by teams when they're able to win. It's not a track where you can back into a win... track position helps you, but it doesn't win you the race. It always boils down to who has got the best handling car and the best straight-line speed. That combination is very important there, and there's always been some really good one-on-one battles late in the race that have decided the winner of this event. That is what makes this race so special." -- Tony Stewart
From one 2.5-mile track to another; the series heads East to Northern Pennsylvania for their second trip to the tricky triangle known as Pocono Raceway.