For 85 years, only one race was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway each year. In 1994, open-wheel purists openly wept when NASCAR invaded the Brickyard -- but there were many more changes to come. Since then, Formula 1 has run a number of events on this track, and most recently the Nationwide and GRAND-AM series began competing within the confines of the famed oval along with the Sprint Cup Series.
That action-packed schedule does not leave much time for on-track activity at any level, so practice and qualification come at a premium. It was enough, however, to solidify some pre-weekend predictions and elevate some other drivers in regard to their handicaps for the Crown Royal presents The Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com.
Johnson has been one of the greatest values every week regardless of where he finishes. He leads enough laps and records enough quality passes in the early segments of an event to ensure that he will log top-five points at the checkered flag. This week is not going to be any different. On his qualification lap for the Brickyard 400, he found a perfect line through turns three and four and watched as most of the field failed to match his effort on that end of the track. If he continues to be that strong, he will lead early and often and score the most points for the fourth time in the past seven races.
To beat Johnson, someone needed to be perfect in all four corners and unfortunately for fans of the No. 48, someone was. “Rocketman” Ryan Newman scored his first pole in 65 races -- and it came at a great time, as he is searching for a ride in 2014. He will not be a good fantasy value this week in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, however, because he is bound to fall back through the pack and earn negative place-differential points. His most recent pole before this weekend came on another flat track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September 2011, and he dropped off the lead lap to finish 25th in that event.
Greg Biffle qualified poorly and will roll off the grid 27th, but he is destined to be a great value on Sunday. Only one driver has scored a top-five finish after starting 25th or worse in the past six races at Indy. Biffle probably will not add his name to that list, but nine drivers have scored top-10s in that situation, and that will be enough to earn sufficient place-differential points for his fantasy owners.
Kasey Kahne should also be on players' radar screens after the weekend activities. He posted the fastest five- and 10-lap averages in final practice and was among the fastest during single circuits. He was disappointed with his seventh-place qualification run in time trials, but that is a blessing in disguise because it means he is likely to earn a few place-differential points on Sunday en route to a top-five finish.