Playbook for Big Machine Vodka Brickyard 400

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Like I mentioned in the Track Breakdown piece, Indy is monumentally historic and maybe the most historic track the NASCAR schedule goes to each year. That doesn’t really have anything to do with the race, it’s just interesting to point out. Known as “The Brickyard” because it used to be paved with bricks instead of asphalt, Indy is a 2.5-mile track that is nearly flat all the way around. The rectangular oval shape is formed by the two long straightaways and then the two “short chutes” between each of the turns that actually make the turns independent of each other unlike almost any other oval shaped track they race on throughout the year.

The turns are all banked at 9.2 degrees and the straightaways are purely flat meaning that there is really only one line to take through the turns, though some will try and make the corners wider than that, which often doesn’t work out well. Because of the length of the track and the lines required to drive it, the field can get spread out fairly quickly making passing a task that usually happens on restarts and faster pit stops. However that being said, it can also be hard to keep the lead for long stretches as is typical at other tracks of a similar length like Pocono, Michigan, and Auto Club.

The Brickyard 400 is 400 miles in length which means it’s 160 laps for the complete race. That number of laps reduces the bonus, or dominator or hog, points drivers can rack up in your lineup. For DraftKings there are a total of 120 such points available while on FanDuel there are a total of 96 points available for Laps Led and Laps Completed for your lineup. That’s not much to bank on to separate you from the pack, so finding guys that can move up through the field is the better strategy than counting on dominator points.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the last few years there have been numerous cautions during the race with last year setting a record with 14 yellows and 20 cars involved in incidents one way or the other. The two years prior featured eight and nine cautions a piece which is a lot for a race of this number of laps. In terms of starting positions for winners, 15 of the 24 races here have been won by starting inside the top-10 with four winners coming from the pole position. Seven of the last 10 winners, including five of the last six, have started ninth or better with three of them winning from P1. Kasey Kahne, who isn’t racing this weekend while dealing with heat exhaustion, survived the war of attrition last year to win from 19th which is the furtherest back in the grid that someone has won from since Tony Stewart won from 22nd in 2005.

This week’s playbook will be entirely based on history at the track and momentum coming into the race since the cars have yet to be on the track this week due to rain. The starting order has been set based on owner points to this point in the season which means the top performing guys will be up front to start. The race was also moved up one hour to start at 1 pm ET on Sunday instead of 2 pm ET but that could shift as well if the rain doesn’t clear out in time (the Xfinity race was already moved to Monday morning).


Kevin Harvick

DK: $12,200  FD: $13,700

Harvick will be starting on the grid as he has the second most points this year, but that’s still a bit better than his normal starting spot of an average of P4 in the last four races here. In that span he has a top-five finish and four top-10s with 87 laps led, good for second in the field, as are his 44 fastest laps in that span. Harvick’s 94% top-15 rate is the highest in the field and his stellar 115.5 average rating is second only to the guy starting on the pole. He is the most expensive driver on DK and the second-most on FD but the stats point out there’s reason for the price tag. The 4-team has been fast basically everywhere this year so he is playable in either lineup configuration despite not knowing what he’s got this week.

Kyle Busch

DK: $11,700  FD: $14,000

Indianapolis Motor Speedway should just change it’s name the week NASCAR shows up to Kyle Busch’s Personal Playground. That’s how good he’s been here. Two wins, three top-fives, 255 laps led, 140 fastest laps and a 130.3 average rating are all the best in the field and the laps led and fastest laps are 3x more than the next closest. The only reason he doesn’t have four top-fives is because he and Martin Truex Jr. decided to take each other out on a restart during last year’s race. He is on the pole this week having posted the best point total to this point and if this week is like the past four trips here, there is no reason not to play Busch in any lineup you put together.

Kyle Larson

DK: $11,300 FD: $12,800

Larson has been riding a bit of a hot streak in the last few weeks with two top-fives and three top-10s over the last five weeks, which has inflated his price a bit. In the last four races at Indy he has three top-10s and a top-five while finishing an average of 12.3 in that span. He may be getting good finishes but that’s about it since there are only five laps led and six fastest laps in that time. The 42-car will roll off the line in seventh on Sunday and he should be able to hold his spot in the top-10 throughout the race but that might be all you can hope for from him. Larson works for either but is a low-tier play for both due to potential lack of upside.

Denny Hamlin

DK: $10,600  FD: $11,500

Denny may have let his best chance to win a race before the Chase starts slip through his fingers last week at Darlington, but he does have good history here too. A PD of +6 in the last four races gives him an average finish of 7.3 with three top-fives, 18 each of laps led and fastest laps at Indy. Toyota has done well here in the past and while Hamlin has a spot clinched on the playoffs based on points, he’d love to score a win or at the very least keep his recent run of top-10 finishes going as they head into the playoffs next week. He starts P10 and is a good play for either lineup.

Martin Truex Jr.

DK: $10,100  FD: $12,300

This week has been filled with tumult for the 78-team as Barney Visser (the owner) announced the Furniture Row Racing team will cease operation after this season after failing to nail down sponsorship. Now the onus is on Truex to go out and finish off their season on a high note and potentially defend the championship from a year ago. Truex hasn’t done well here historically, with just one top-five and two top-10s in the last four races with eight laps led and 33 fastest laps. He will roll off P3 on Sunday but with Harvick and Busch in front of him it could be hard for him to add many more laps led to his total making a GPP play.

Brad Keselowski

DK: $9,800  FD: $11,700

A top-five, two top-10s, 55 laps led, 15 fastest laps, and a 94.7 average rating is Keselowski’s record at the Brickyard. He was already in the playoffs prior to last week’s win, which was history making for Team Penske as it was the first time since the early 70s that Penske finished 1-2 at Darlington, but it certainly boosted his placement. Now this week he will start P6 and try and lock down Penske’s first ever Cup series win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway despite Penske’s success at the track in Indy Car and Xfinity. A cash or GPP play.

Joey Logano

DK: $8,600  FD: $12,500

Logano may not have a win here recently, but he does have three top-fives and four top-10s (one of three drivers to have four straight top-10s along with Kenseth and Harvick) in that time. He also has 44 laps led and 15 fastest laps and a sparkling 90% top-15 rate and the fourth highest average rating at 106.7. Logano will start right next his teammate in the fifth spot on the grid as he too tries to deliver Penske his first win at the track in the Cup series but with a slightly better history and better price tag on DK he’s more appealing than his teammate for cash games.

Jimmie Johnson

DK: $8,200  FD: $9,200

In all likelihood seven-time is looking at making the playoffs yet again but it’s not a lock just yet. He still needs a solid finish to assure himself of a spot and with three top-15 finishes, including a top-five, in the last four races here that’s got pretty good chances of happening. If you go back over the last 10 races, JJ has the best total stats at the track with three wins, five top-fives, five top-10s, seven top-15s, 269 laps led, and 162 fastest laps with the best average finish at 109.8. We’ve been saying all year that if the old JJ shows up it could be a show but that is unlikely to happen this week especially with no track time. However rolling off P14 should give him some PD upside and make him a worthwhile mid-tier priced play for GPP lineups.

Daniel Suarez

DK: $7,500  FD: $8,700

Suarez has just two races at IMS total in the upper two levels of the NASCAR series but in each of those races he finished P7 and the Cup series race he moved up eight spots to pull that off. Suarez all but guaranteed several weeks ago that he would be a part of the Chase field and while he’s certainly given it his best shot in that time with a few of his best finishes of the year, he’s still on the outside looking in and needing a win to make it. Suarez will start 20th on Sunday and that means he needs everything to break in his favor and his strategy needs to work perfectly to run down his teammate in Kyle Busch for the win, however guys have won from this spot in the field before, like just last year. Cash or GPP upside works at this price point.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

DK: $7,300  FD: $6,500

Stenhouse is in a similar boat to Suarez as in he is outside of the playoff picture and needs a win to make it since he’s 67 behind Alex Bowman for the final spot. Stenhouse has missed his chances at the three restrictor plate races and the two Bristol races at this point and now needs a Hail Mary to make it. His history isn’t great here with just one top-15 finish in the last four races but nothing helps you out like desperation and a good Crew Chief and that’s what Stenhouse has in his corner. A complete GPP play is what Stenhouse amounts to.

Ryan Newman

DK: $7,200  FD: $9,000

The Indiana born and raised driver is back at his home track and needing a win to keep his season going in terms of chasing a championship. Newman has a top-five, and three top-15s in the last four trips to Indianapolis but in the last 10 he has a win, two top-fives, three top-10s, and eight top-15s with 45 laps led. He will start 17th based off of points and will need a few breaks to go his way to win. However he has done that before at Phoenix last year when he used pit strategy to get him out front on the last restart to grab the win, the last time in victory lane. A nice mid-tier salary guy is what he is this week for either lineup.

Austin Dillon

DK: $7,100  FD: $9,100

Unlike the last several guys talked about in the playbook, Dillon’s been locked in the playoffs since the first race of the year but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking to improve his position or get some more momentum going for the playoff run. He does have two top-10s here in the last four trips to the track with a middling 74.9 driver rating which don’t jump off the page but it is an indication he can put good runs together here. The 3-car will start pretty much where he normally starts (18.5) in P18 for Sunday giving him sneaky odds at a top-10 finish. Likely works better for a GPP format than cash.

Matt Kenseth

DK: $7,000  FD: $8,200

As briefly mentioned in the Logano write-up, Kenseth has four straight top-10s here, three of which are top-fives to go with 21 laps led and 30 fastest laps. His position differential is an impressive +12.5 in that span which is the best in the field especially among drivers who have run four races in the last four years. His average rating of 107.8 is third best in the field over that span and in the last 10 races he’s tied with Kyle Busch for the most top-10s with seven and tied with him with five top-fives as well. Starting P29 is a big time plus for him and he needs to be rostered in nearly every lineup as there really isn’t much downside to him and tremendous upside.

Paul Menard

DK: $6,700  FD: $7,300

Menard has made a valiant run of the playoffs to this point driving for the Wood Brothers this season, but he’s still the third man on the outside looking in. He will need a win to make it, which coincidently enough he has pulled off before at Indy. In the last four, Menard has a top-10 and two top-15s but in the last 10 he has a win, two top-10s, and six top-15s with 22 laps led. Wood Brothers and Ford engines typically do well at speedways like this so Menard has a shot to be fast even if he doesn’t win. He starts to fit in the budget-play category on DK and low-end mid-tier on FD.

Chris Buescher

DK: $6,500  FD: $6,700

Would it shock you to know that in the last two races, Buescher is tied with Kenseth for the best PD in the field at +12.5? Would it also shock you to know that he has a top-10 and two top-15s in that span as well? Well Buescher could be the sleeper of the week, especially at this price point on both sites. Him starting P23 puts him right about where he typically starts (P24) and he is used to how to move through the field from there. Cash or GPP works for him as a salary saving option with nice upside.

AJ Allmendinger

DK: $6,100  FD: $7,100

Allmendinger is used to the rectangular oval at Indy from his open-wheel experience and with that comes the knowledge of how to setup passes here, which he has used to his benefit to post a +9.2 mark in the last four races. Allmendinger also has a top-10 in the last four races. Starting 24th is about seven spots better than where he typical starts but it doesn’t reduce his ability to pass that much. His spotty season though keeps him squarely in the GPP category.

Matt DiBenedetto

DK: $5,400  FD: $5,000

DiBenedetto announced in the last few days that this will be his last season with GoFas racing and he will be a free agent in Silly Season upping what he will want to show in the last 11 races of the year.. He is one of those cheap budget play guys with a history of PD upside in the last few races here. That’s all he’s going to amount to on Sunday but the PD points will separate your lineup from others during the race. If you are looking for others in this category, guys like Ty Dillon, Landon Cassill, and even Timmy Hill fit the mold pretty well.