Picking between Newgarden, Rossi, Pagenaud nearly impossible

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Sixty-two points separate the top four drivers in the chase for the NTT IndyCar Series championship and the Astor Cup accompanying it. In the quest for #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone immorality and the 2020 VIP Experience that comes with winning the 17-event challenge, the top 46 competitors are within that same gap to current leader ZachAttack!

Three drivers - Josef Newgarden ($33), Simon Pagenaud ($32) and Alexander Rossi ($33) - clearly stand out from the rest through the first three oval races of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season. The championship-contending trio have values that make choosing two of them impossible. So, please excuse my inner monologue and the smoke from my ears as my brain processes which of the three should anchor my fantasy squad for the ABC Supply 500.

Pagenaud dominated the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in May, the only other superspeedway race this season. Last year, it was Rossi who dominated at Pocono Raceway, lapping all but three of his competitors and finishing 4.4982 seconds ahead of second-place Will Power. And, don’t forget Newgarden, who has visited victory lane at the other two oval races this season.

To break it down further, Newgarden’s average oval finish (2.8) this year leads Rossi (4.0) and Simon Pagenaud (6.8).

Pagenaud (174) has scored more oval points than Newgarden (171) or Rossi (151) -- clearly aided by double points being awarded at Indy.

Newgarden is the only driver to have led laps at all three oval races. The points leader has led 320 oval laps versus 118 laps led for Pagenaud and 25 laps led for Rossi.

These drivers rank first, third and fifth in averaging finishing position in 500-mile races since the 2016 season. Rossi leads the way with an average finish over those seven races of 5.4. Newgarden and Pagenaud are not far behind, averaging finishes of 6.3 and 8.9 respectively,

I could keep going, but you get the point. If you have any extrasensory perception, now would be an excellent time to use it. I don’t, so I’m going with my gut, and my gut tells me that Rossi ($33) is a safe bet to stand on a podium in Pennsylvania this weekend.

I’ve moved past the first two Team Penske options for Pocono Raceway to choose Rossi first, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to completely neglect the team who has won six of the last nine NTT IndyCar Series oval races. Mark Donohue won the first Indy car race at the ‘Tricky Triangle,’ and the team’s ten wins at the track are six more than any other team.

Will Power ($28) is having a very un-Will Power like season, but his recent results at Pocono Raceway and on superspeedways in general, make picking the Aussie a no-brainer.

Power has two wins on the unique 2.5-mile oval, and his average finishing position of 3.7 in Long Pond, Pa., is tops among all drivers competing this weekend. The 38-year-old Australian has led all 16 NTT IndyCar Series superspeedway races since the 2013 Indianapolis 500, almost guaranteeing he’ll be running up front at some point during the 200-lap ABC Supply 500. Over those six years, Power has four wins, six front-row starts, and nine top-five finishes, including the last four in a row.

Rossi and Power combine to set me back $61, leaving me with $39 and two of the four $19 options to round out my squad.

Tony Kanaan ($19) has had a forgettable year, but the A.J. Foyt Racing veteran did have a solid ninth-place run in the Indianapolis 500 and is the most experienced superspeedway driver in the 22-car field. Kanaan’s 45 starts and 13 podiums on superspeedway are the most of any driver competing this weekend. His four wins on tracks measuring 2 miles or more is tied with Power for the most among active drivers.

Kanaan’s teammate Leist finished last year’s ABC Supply 500 in a solid 11th place, but taking two teammates this far down the depth chart is risky.

That leaves me a choice between a pair of Carlin pilots, Charlie Kimball and Conor Daly.

Kimball is the more experienced superspeedway driver and finished ninth last year at this event, but the 34-year-old has been out of the car for more than two-months, last competing at the Texas Motor Speedway in June. That lack of seat-time makes me nervous and leaves Daly ($19) as the final piece for this week’s fantasy puzzle.

The Noblesville, Ind. driver will be making his fourth start of the season. Daly’s previous three starts have come in the first three oval races of the season, and he has outscored veterans Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti in those events, making the 27-year-old a solid final member of this weekend’s squad.

There are still four races and plenty of great prizes to be won each week, so don’t hesitate to join the fun at https://www.fantrax.com/fantasy/games/season-long/indycar.

Next up for the NTT IndyCar Series is Sunday's race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The ABC Supply 500 is the first of four races to close the 2019 season. NBCSN will have the television coverage at 2 p.m. ET (green flag at 2:45 p.m. ET). The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network provides the radio call, with coverage on SiriusXM Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970). Qualifying is Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (delayed on NBCSN until 2:30 p.m.).

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