Time to gear up for greatest spectacle in fantasy choices

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Are you ready for “The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing?”

After almost 30,000 miles of practice and dozens of nail-biting qualifications attempts, the field is set. Now it’s time to gaze deep into your crystal ball for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and choose the four drivers that will bring you NTT IndyCar Series Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone glory on Sunday.

The NTT IndyCar Series Fantasy Challenge allows you, the fan, to become the owner of your own four-driver team. You have a $100 salary cap to assemble the quartet you think will perform best in the race. Enter your lineup and/or sign up for the challenge at fantasy.indycar.com.

My picks for Sunday are based on recent performances in 500-mile races. Team Penske’s Will Power ($29) and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi ($31) have won five of the last six 500-milers, making them easy choices to anchor my team.

Each has led at least one lap in those six events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway, and they have combined to lead 440 of 1,200 laps. It also doesn’t hurt that Andretti Autosport or Team Penske pilots have sipped the milk in Indy 500 victory lane the past five years.

Defending Indianapolis 500 champion Power has four wins in 500-mile races, the most of any of the 33 drivers in this year’s Indianapolis 500. He’s finished inside the top 10 in 11 of the last 15 superspeedway events, has an average finish of 7.4 and led at least a lap in every one of them.

Power has led 494 laps in 500-mile races, trailing only Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon among active drivers. Power and his matte black No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet have been under the radar but had a fast month and starts in a great place on the outside of Row 2.

The 2019 race will be Rossi’s fourth Indianapolis 500 start. While he hasn’t been able to match his victory in 2016, he has finished fourth and seventh. That gives him an average finish of 4.0, the best of 20 drivers who have contested those three races.

Rossi, who will start on the outside of the third row, was a driver to watch in Monday’s race simulation running during practice. The No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda was able to slice through traffic with ease, making him a certain threat come Sunday.

After what happened to him in 2011, racing karma owes JR Hildebrand ($20). However, that’s not why I am adding him to my four-driver Indianapolis 500 squad. The veteran, who is a lecturer in vehicle dynamics at Stanford University in his spare time, has been happy with his No. 48 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet in race trim, which bodes well for another solid finish.

Possibly because they have an opportunity to spend a full week practicing, the Indianapolis 500 has been kind to rookies the last three years. Robert Wickens (ninth in 2018), Ed Jones (third in 2017) and 2016 winner Alexander Rossi have all fared well in their first race on the iconic oval.

Dale Coyne Racing rookie Santino Ferrucci ($19) qualified behind fellow rookies Colton Herta and Marcus Ericsson, but it’s the Connecticut native’s No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda that has looked raciest in traffic.

The 20-year-old is the fifth driver to start the Indy 500 in the Dale Coyne Racing No. 19 since 2015, with James Davison, Gabby Chaves, Jones and Zachary Claman all demonstrating that car has great race pace.

Don’t forget to set your lineup at fantasy.indycar.com before the green flag waves at approximately 12:45 p.m. ET Sunday. Even if you aren’t a season-long competitor, this is the one race to join. There are still amazing weekly prizes to be won.

From the fans