(To join the NTT IndyCar Series Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone or to make your driver selections for the INDYCAR Grand Prix, visit fantasy.indycar.com.)
The next four weekends of NTT IndyCar Series Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone action is a lot like “moving day” at The Masters. With over 25 percent of the season’s possible points on offer between now and the second race of the Detroit doubleheader on June 2, putting together a stellar run will set you up well for the race to fantasy glory.
I have gone with experience to start the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway All four members of my fantasy team this week have made every start in the INDYCAR Grand Prix. Collectively, they have all five wins, nine of 15 possible podiums and have led 292 (70 percent) of the 416 laps contested.
The foundation of my team this weekend is brought to you by the letter “P,” as in Penske, Power, Pagenaud and poles.
With a winning rate of 80 percent (four of five), an equal pole rate, a podium rate of 47 percent and laps-led rate of 69 percent, Team Penske certainly has the IMS road course figured out.
WILL POWER ($29) has stood on the top step of the podium in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on three occasions, including the last two years. The Aussie has led a total of 182 laps and his average finish of 6.0 is second best in the field.
SIMON PAGENAUD ($26) is the winner of the two races that his Team Penske teammate failed to win, in 2014 and ’16 – though his first win came with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. The only time the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion was unable to finish in the top 10 at this race was in 2015 when he suffered a mechanical failure. Pagenaud’s average finish across his five starts in this event is 7.8, which ranks fifth.
With the pole sitter winning the past four INDYCAR Grand Prix races, double-checking your team and adjusting accordingly after qualifying is a prudent approach.
At $30, Chip Ganassi Racing veteran SCOTT DIXON is the most expensive member of my team this week. The Kiwi was quick during the Honda test on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course last week and is coming off two straight second-place finishes in this event. Dixon’s average finish at this is event is 7.2, which ranks third among active drivers, trailing only HELIO CASTRONEVES and Power.
Spending $85 on my first three drivers leaves only $15 remaining to round out my lineup. Thankfully, veteran Team Penske pilot Castroneves, making his first NTT IndyCar Series start since the Indianapolis 500 last year, is available for precisely that ridiculously low price.
Castroneves’ average finish on the IMS road course is 4.4, the lowest of any entered driver. The ageless Brazilian, who turns 44 on Friday, led the race on three occasions and has not finished lower than sixth in his five INDYCAR Grand Prix starts.
“I have missed INDYCAR so much since last year and can’t wait to get back on track,” Castroneves exclaimed. “Being part of Acura Team Penske’s IMSA program is amazing, but there is just something about Indianapolis that just defines special. There’s nothing like it because the whole area comes to life with excitement around the INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500. I’ve been lucky enough to win the Indy 500 three times, but still haven’t won on the IMS road course. That’s a big one for me to want to win.”
What about points leader Josef Newgarden? I’m generally a proponent of riding the hot hand. And with a win, two podiums and a fourth-place finish to start the season, the Team Penske driver is scorching.
However, the road course at IMS has not been kind to the 28-year-old, who at $32 is just a little too pricey for my taste. Newgarden has failed to finish in the top 10 in five previous races, and his average finish (16.0) ranks 15th of 18 entries to this year’s race who have earlier starts in the event.
Don’t forget to enter your picks at fantasy.indycar.com. If you haven’t signed up yet, there are still plenty of awesome weekly prizes to be won.