Stock Car Challenge preview: Indianapolis
Jack Roush's teams have never won a Nextel Cup race at two tracks: Chicagoland and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If one of the Roush boys can break the hex at Indy this week, greater glory could be ahead. Six times, the winner of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard went on to win the Nextel Cup Championship. In the past two seasons, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart have both gone on to win the championship after taking victories at Indy. There are seven races remaining before the Chase for the Cup begins at New Hampshire. A total of 41 drivers remain in mathematical contention to end up in the top 12, but only three drivers have a true chance of cracking the top dozen this week. Ryan Newman is 30 points behind 12th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., while Kurt Busch is 77 points behind Junior and Jamie McMurray is 111 points off the Chase pace.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is unique, with a relatively flat, rectangular shape. It's a very challenging course for stock car drivers because it was built for the little cars of the Indy Racing circuit. The bigger cars will find it tougher to pass and find the right setup so the car runs well. Sound pit strategy will be important, especially late in the race, for a driver to have a chance to move from the back to the front. Indy also has produced fuel strategy calls, so the teams that have had the most fuel efficiency throughout the season should be in a prime position to win.VICTORY LANE SPECIALJeff Gordon (Value: 24.9): He's the most expensive driver in the game, but he has won at Indy twice before on his way to championships and seems destined for his fifth title, so get him on your roster this week if he is not already there. Gordon can add to his growing legend with a fifth win at the Brickyard, and would become only the second driver to turn the trick. Formula One superstar Michael Schumacher won the U.S. Grand Prix five times at IMS. Gordon has seven top-5 finishes at Indy and 10 top-10 showings in 13 races. He has an average finish of 9.3 at the site. Gordon has led for 433 laps at Indianapolis, and reeled off five consecutive top-eight finishes from 2001 to 2005. Entering this week's race, he has seven consecutive top-10 finishes and seems a bit overdue for his fifth win of the season.SECONDARY STANDOUTSMatt Kenseth (23.0): Kenseth came close to ending the Roush jinx at Chicago two weeks ago, and while a Ford hasn't won at Indy since 1999, Kenseth will make a strong push for the win. He finished second at the site in 2006 and 2003, and placed third in 2002 and fifth in 2005. Kenseth has been the most consistent driver at Indy during the past two seasons. During that span, he has an average running position of 5.7, best among all current drivers, and has spent all but four of his laps in the top 15. Kenseth has four top-5 finishes at IMS. He has three consecutive top-10 finishes and 13 overall in 2007. Tony Stewart (22.8): You can't overlook the native of Columbus, Ind., as he comes home having ended a long run of frustration with his first 2007 win at Chicago. In eight career starts at IMS, he has five top-10 finishes and three top-5s. He has never finished lower than 17th at the site. He has finished in the top 10 at IMS in each of the past three years. Over the past two years, he has 31 of the fastest laps run, best among current drivers, and 58 quality passes, also best in the series. NASCAR defines quality passes as passes of cars in the top 15 under green-flag conditions. Clint Bowyer (20.4): Bowyer is still overdue for his first career win, but he sits comfortably in 10th place in the standings for now and he has delivered two consecutive top-10 showings. Bowyer now has 10 top-10 finishes in 2007. Last season, in his first race at IMS, Bowyer finished fourth. He qualified second and ran up front for most of the day. He had an average running position of 10th, and spent 94 percent of his laps in the top 15.SECONDARY STANDOUTSKasey Kahne (17.9): It's been a very disappointing year for Kahne, but he is worth the price this week. Kahne has two top-5 finishes in three career races at IMS. In the past two races at the site, his average running position of 6.4 is second-best, as is his 304 laps in the top 15 and 51 quality passes. Kahne has also qualified fourth in the past two IMS races. Brian Vickers (16.7): Vickers has been successful at IMS before, even though it's been in a Hendrick Motorsports car. Still, he has taken to Indy well and should deliver a respectable outing, especially for the price. He finished third at the site in 2005, and 17th last season after starting 30th. He has an average running position of 9.4 at IMS over the past two seasons and an average finish of 16.3 at the site. <>b>David Stremme (14.9): The native of South Bend, Ind., is eagerly looking forward to peforming well in front of the hometown crowd. "I even make sure my team knows I put a lot of emphasis on this race because it is close to home," Stremme said. He finished 18th at IMS last season, and another top-20 finish would be nice for his low Stock Car Challenge price tag. PIT POINTS Kurt Busch (20.4) has finished in the top 12 in six IMS races. Carl Edwards (22.2) has finished ninth and 12th in two IMS races. Juan Pablo Montoya (17.3) won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and his open-wheel experience will give him a chance to contend. Kevin Harvick (21.6) has one win and four top-10 finishes at Indy. Tony Raines (15.2) finished 11th at Indy in 2006.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.
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