I won’t lie, I had a hard time picking my #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone team for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this week.
That’s because of how competitive the NTT IndyCar Series is through the first three races of 2019. Ten drivers representing six teams have collected top-five finishes already, and the top seven drivers on the championship table represent seven teams. None of those drivers go by the name of Will Power.
Yes, the cartoon anvil seems to keep falling on Power’s head.
Yes, I’ve said I wouldn’t choose him for my four-driver team on a race weekend until that stopped happening.
Yes, despite being a reasonably high price tag of $30, I’m going back on my word and adding the Aussie to my team this weekend in Long Beach.
Although 15 of his 35 Indy car wins have come on street courses, Power hasn’t visited victory lane on a temporary circuit since the Honda Indy Toronto in 2016, a span of 11 such races.
Even with his current street-circuit drought, it’s hard to pick against a driver who has two wins, seven podiums and an average finish of 6.8 on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course. His luck has to change at some point, right?
A pair of fifth-place finishes, a ninth-place finish and decent pace in the opening trio of races – a solid but not outstanding start the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season – have left the defending Long Beach winner, Alexander Rossi ($29), craving more. After two disappointing visits to Long Beach to begin his NTT IndyCar Series career, the Californian put it all together in 2018, leading 71 of 90 laps in a dominant pole-to-victory drive.
“Words don’t really capture my excitement of getting back to Long Beach. It’s a flagship event on the calendar, my first home race of the year and a place with a lot of special memories for the NAPA Racing team,” said Rossi. “This weekend will be all about putting all the pieces together, which should hopefully get us onto the podium for the first time this year.”
Ed Jones ($21) won his lone Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires appearance in Long Beach in 2015, and that success has carried over to his two NTT IndyCar Series starts. In 2017, the Emirati driver finished sixth in his rookie season with Dale Coyne Racing. Last year, Jones finished on the bottom step of the podium while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Jones moved to Ed Carpenter Racing in 2019, one of the six teams to send a driver (Mike Conway in 2014) to victory lane in the last six Long Beach races. Last year, Jordan King scored the second-quickest lap during the race driving for ECR, making Jones a solid value pick.
Power, Rossi, and Jones left me with $20 and a choice among Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist, Max Chilton, Jack Harvey, Santino Ferrucci and Patricio O’Ward to fill out my four-driver team.
Harvey, Ferrucci and O’Ward have each finished in the top 10 this season. If things go right, each has shown the potential to move into the top five. It was a tough choice, but Harvey ($19) gets the nod this week due to experience and pace. Combine a solid outing in the “Roar by the Shore” last year and a seventh-place qualifying effort in the first street-course race of this year, and Harvey moves to the top of the list of young drivers.
I didn’t choose my team based on any set formula this week, but in finalizing my four drivers, one thing stands out. Power, Rossi, Jones and Harvey are all due for a little better luck and a win, podium or top-five.
Fill out your lineup at fantasy.indycar.com and see how we fare. And there’s still incentive to join if you haven’t yet. The top weekly 10 finishers in the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone receive great prizes.