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Fantasy Racing: Brickyard

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 23 2009

Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
Sunday July 26, 2009
2:00 ET, ESPN

Final.my testRace Facts: Oddly enough, last year’s race set the Indy record for most lead changes and leaders… The 1995 race just had one caution while, believe it or not, the 2004 race had the most cautions with 13… However, last year’s debacle had the most caution laps, 52 in all… In the 15 Indianapolis races, a Chevrolet has won 10 of them. I think it’s foolish to bet against them Sunday… Jeff Gordon started 27th when he won in 2001, the furthest back a winner has ever started… Only Gordon, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin have started all 15 Indianapolis races.

Drivers to Watch:

Kasey Kahne: Kasey’s average finish at Indianapolis is just 17.8, but that’s marred by accidents in 2006 and 2007 that left him with 36th and 40th place finishes. When he’s been running at the end, Kahne has finishes of fourth, second and seventh. Add in the roll that the Budweiser team has been on since the installation of the new engine and Kahne’s going to be a definite threat to win on Sunday. Also keep an eye out for Elliott Sadler, especially if he posts decent times in practice on Friday. Sadler is running the new engine for the first time this weekend as well, and it could be enough to turn his dismal season upwards.

Marcos Ambrose:
I’ve probably been riding the Ambrose train a little more than I should over the course of the season, but Ambrose has outperformed nearly everyone’s preseason predictions and he’s done well when I’ve picked him, so why discontinue a good thing? Indianapolis’ flat corners are almost like a road course, and Ambrose has good horsepower under the hood, and he performed well at Pocono. Ambrose isn’t going to win, but he could sneak into the top 10.

Clint Bowyer:
Bowyer’s best at flatter tracks, and obviously Indianapolis fits that bill. And Bowyer needs a really good run to get back into Chase contention. This pick does come with a little bit of hesitation because of RCR’s struggles at tracks that require a combination of aerodynamics and horsepower, but I think that Bowyer will race well on Sunday, even if he qualifies poorly. Much like Ambrose, it will be a shock if he’s a threat to win, but he should be safely inside of the top 15, which could be huge if someone just ahead of him has a bad day.

Drivers to Watch Out For:

Kyle Busch:
Are we seeing the self destruction of Kyle Busch? The haters out there sure hope so. If Busch can get through these next two races with two top 15s, he’d probably take it, but not after storming off without an interview at the end of each race. Busch and company have struggled to get the car to turn properly at intermediate tracks lately and that’s an important component at the Brickyard. While I think the chances of a Chicago-style meltdown are low, the chances of a Kyle Busch win are equally as low.
Brian Vickers: Hey, whaddya know, Vickers is in this column this week. While Team Red Bull has some awesomely fast intermediate cars in stretches, those stretches come at tracks with a fair amount of banking on them. This pick is based on nothing more than a hunch, but my hunch is that even if Vickers qualifies well, the team will lose the handling on the car at some point during the middle of the race and Vickers will finish mid-pack.

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex hasn’t been great at Indianapolis, but his average finish of 24.2 is skewed a bit because of a 42nd place finish in his first trip to the Speedway in 2005. Truex has been solidly behind Juan Pablo Montoya on the EGR ladder this year, and this also is just the second race for the team since Truex formally announced his intentions to leave at the end of the year. That’s not a good combination.

Stone Cold Lock of the Week:

Tony Stewart:
Yes, it’s such a huge risk picking the points leader, but this came down to Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, and a stupid and meaningless stat made my decision for me. Stewart won his two Brickyards in 2005 and 2007. It’s 2009. So yes, it’s time for Tony Stewart to win again, and I can’t find a reason to pick against him. He’s obviously great at Indy, has been great in 2009, has a solid pit crew, solid equipment, and there’s that points leader thing. It may not be as dominating as it was in 2005 and 2007, but I’d bet serious money (if, you know, that was legal where I live) that Stewart is in Victory Lane on Sunday.

Last Week:

Drivers to Watch: Vickers 7th, Kenseth 23rd, Martin 1st
Drivers to Watch Out:
Hornish 38th, Stremme 26th, Labonte 21st
Stone Cold Lock: Edwards 14th

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 23 2009
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