For the fourth time in 14 days, it’s time to get your four-driver team sorted for the NTT IndyCar Series Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone. This weekend, it’s back to the Lone Star State for the second time this season. On the menu, Saturday night is high-banked oval action under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway for the DXC Technology 600.
With a similar aerodynamic package to what was utilized two weekends ago at the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, I relied heavily on a driver’s pace in that event to make this week’s selections using the $100 salary cap. Of course, past results under the lights at TMS were also a factor.
Opting for SIMON PAGENAUD ($31) as my DXC Technology 600 anchor driver followed significant internal deliberations and serious questioning of my management abilities. But his No. 22 Team Penske Chevy carries sponsorship from the race’s title sponsor, so it may bring the newly crowned Indy 500 champion some luck.
Only three drivers – Arie Luyendyk (1997), Scott Dixon (2008) and Helio Castroneves (2009) – have followed an Indianapolis 500 win with a victory in the June race at Texas.
The average finish of all 19 drivers that had the chance to win both races is a satisfactory 8.8. However, the average finish since the introduction of the current Dallara chassis is a much less desirable 11.3, with four of seven drivers finishing outside the top 10.
Counteracting the lackluster results of past Indianapolis 500 winners to the June Texas race is the Pagenaud’s previous results on the 1.5-mile oval. In seven races under the lights, the Frenchman has finished no worse than 13th, and his average finish of 6.1 includes podium results the past two years and four top-fives. So Pagenaud will anchor my team this week.
Combining Takuma Sato’s third-place finish with Graham Rahal’s fourth-quickest lap in the Indy 500 leads me to conclude that the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo will have good pace on the high-banked Texas speedway.
I considered both drivers before settling on RAHAL ($24) because of his past success at Texas Motor Speedway. The 30-year-old won the rain-interrupted 2016 race, following that with solid fourth- and sixth-place finishes the past two years.
I had a trio of alternatives, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach and JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, each priced at $24 that I considered for the third member of my team. I decided to go north of the border with Hinchcliffe.
The Canadian’s fastest race lap at Indy ranked among the top third as he drove from his last-row starting spot to just missing out on a top-10 finish. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver will be making his ninth start at Texas Motor Speedway, leading 196 laps, standing on the podium once and finishing in the top five three times.
I also considered the winner of the 2014 Texas race, Ed Carpenter, who at $22 is a tempting choice. But, with an average finish of 17.8 and three DNFs in the four TMS races since donning the cowboy hat and shooting the pistols in victory lane, it’s more than enough to scare me away.
Selecting Pagenaud, Rahal and Hinchcliffe left me with $21 to spend. Since I eliminated Texas rookies from my options due to the difficulty of the track, the remaining options for my fourth driver are Spencer Pigot, Conor Daly, Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist.
Veteran KANAAN ($20), with his outstanding past results at TMS, is an exceptional value pick, and who I chose. The Brazilian will be making his 20th Texas start on Saturday night – the same night in which he will tie boss A.J. Foyt for second in career Indy car starts with 369. The only time Kanaan has not finished a Texas race was last year, when he suffered a mechanical failure after qualifying a season-best sixth.
Adding to my optimism is Kanaan had the seventh-quickest race lap at the Indy 500 two weeks ago, proving his team has some pace in speedway trim.
“Texas is a good track for us, it’s one of my higher average finishes of all the tracks,” said Kanaan. “We had a decent car there last year. We didn’t finish the race, but we started sixth. I ran as high as fourth in the race, so I’m really looking forward to it. I really think our speedway car is decent, so I’m banking on another good oval result for us.”
Don’t forget to get your picks in at fantasy.indycar.com before the green flag flies at approximately 8:45 pm ET on Saturday night. Note that a glitch this week on the site lists all the drivers not entered for the DXC Technology 600 at a cost of $999 each. Ignore them and make your selections from the entered drivers who fit into the salary cap limits. INDYCAR is working to correct this glitch in time for the next race.