This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard
Location: Indianapolis, Ind.
Course: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Format: 2.5-mile oval
Erik Jones joined the rest of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates in the victory column in last week's Southern 500. It was his first win of the season and gives him some momentum as he heads into the playoffs after this week's race. The win also extended JGR's dominance this season. The remaining teams are scrambling to pick the scraps that Gibbs is leaving behind, and this week's race is the final chance for them to steal some of that strength ahead of the championship battle commencing. Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing came out on top of last year's Brickyard 400, while Jones and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top three. Keselowski only led nine laps that afternoon while most of the distance was split between JGR and Stewart-Haas Racing drivers. Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota have each won once at this track in the last three visits, but the venue was Chevrolet's playground in the prior years. The marque won 12 consecutive races here before Kyle Busch won his back-to-back Brickyard 400s in 2016 and 2017. This year, it looks like Toyota will be the manufacturer to beat again, but anything can happen on this long flat circuit of more than 400 miles.
Key Stats at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
• Number of previous races: 25
• Winners from pole: 4
• Winners from top-5 starters: 12
• Winners from top-10 starters: 16
• Winners from 21st or lower starters: 3
• Fastest race: 155.912 mph
Last 10 Indianapolis Winners
The Brickyard 400 is one of NASCAR's marquee events and a win at the famed speedway comes with prestige. It is a tricky circuit for drivers to succeed on, though. The layout is a 2.5-mile oval with four 90-degree turns with less than 10 degrees of banking. Mechanical grip in the corner and acceleration down the long straights are key to moving forward in the field, but passing is a challenge. It is generally a one-groove circuit where most passes are made on corner entry. This year's lower horsepower package will place even greater emphasis on maintaining speed through the turns. Cornering speeds will be higher than seen in the past, which could put more stress on tires. The good news is that the long lap distance enables plenty of opportunity for teams to alter pit strategy to take strategic gambles to gain track position. That feature is a key element to coming out on top at this circuit, and that means crew chiefs and race strategists will have to be at their best and make the right calls at the right times. It will be up to the drivers and pit crews to execute flawlessly on track. Fantasy owners will want to pay close attention to long-run practice pace — qualifying taking place on race morning will not afford much time for deep analysis.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
MY PICKS THIS WEEK
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Kyle Busch should be an easy fantasy selection this week because of his past dominance at Indianapolis as well as his terrific driving last week at Darlington. He has three consecutive Indy poles, two wins, and drove from the back of the field to a near victory at Darlington. Chase Elliott may not have an extensive Indy resume, but he has two top-15s at the track and has started inside the top 10 in four of the last five races, which would suit him well at this track if he does it again. Ryan Blaney gives the lineup some Ford power. The Penske Racing driver finished 11th here last season. Another Toyota driver to add is Matt DiBenedetto. He has been outperforming his past statistics by a big margin this season, and last week's top-10 was his third in the last five races. Former winner Paul Menard grabbed his third top-10 of the season last week at Darlington and has two top-10s at Indy in the last three races. He also had a quick single-lap run in final practice. Rounding out the lower-risk option is Ty Dillon who has become a consistent top-20 finisher. His average Indy finish is also 20th from two career starts.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Kyle Larson had a great night last week at Darlington but came up short of the win. That visit to Victory Lane seems to be the only thing he is missing, but he's likely to be in the mix again this week. His first three starts at the track resulted in top-10s, and he seems to have a good handle on this rules package, which should put him up front on Sunday after he lead the first practice. Kurt Busch doesn't have a Brickyard win but led 19 laps and finished sixth last season and had the fastest 10-lap run in Saturday practice. He was also running near the lead last week before contact. Indianapolis has to be a pretty sight for Clint Bowyer. He had a great race here last season with 37 laps led and a top-five finish. He needs a repeat of that this week to work his way into the playoff field. Ryan Newman is also battling for his playoff life. He won the 2013 Brickyard 400 and only has one finish worse than 11th at the track since 2011. Chris Buescher is quietly having a very productive season. He hasn't finished lower than 18th in any points-paying race since Dover in May. He was ninth at Indy in 2017 and should produce a reliable points haul this weekend, too. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fits into the final slow in this roster. He hasn't finished the last two Brickyard 400s but was 12th in 2016. His best finish in the last five races was a 15th-place finish at Watkins Glen and might benefit from teammate Ryan Newman's experience at this circuit.