(Sign up for the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone or make your driver selections for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama here.)
Two races have taught us one thing: There’s parity in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year. It’s not the domain of a big team or even an engine, as has happened in the past. Instead, the race is winnable by any car, all the way to the back of the pack.
That doesn’t mean that some aren’t more likely to win than others and, in the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone, that’s what we’re looking for: value, consistency and predictability. Through the first two races of the season, we’ve seen that engine reliability and driver skill is keeping teams on track and (mostly) out of the walls.
The beautiful Barber Motorsports Park track, site of Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network), is a bit of a change from the two street courses that we have seen, but it’s a relatively technical track that rewards the same sort of skills rather than pure speed. Avoiding trouble is more valuable than most things and, with only a few real places to pass, experience and a light touch should help.
The last two Barber race winners — Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden — have been solid with Chevrolet power and aero kits, but it’s hard to think that we’re going to see a Chevy win at Barber this year. That makes both a bit overvalued for this race.
Instead, picking two good values with Honda power — Graham Rahal ($22) and Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe ($27) — gives both good value and a better chance of finishing at the top. Both lack overall consistency, but so far this season, they’ve held off their worst instincts and have stayed out of bad situations. That should continue for one more week and both could easily win.
Rookie Ed Jones might not be getting much notice, but he’s had good results. With top-10 finishes in his first two races, he’s getting laps of experience and some fantasy points. He won at Barber last year in Indy Lights, so he knows the track. At $17, he’s a good bet to be a good value again this week and leaves that one big-dollar driver.
This week, we’ll go with Sebastien Bourdais. He showed that his St. Pete win was no fluke when he finished second at Long Beach, so his Dale Coyne Racing Honda should be back in the mix as well. He’s probably a bit overvalued at $30, but so are the drivers around him. Until someone proves to me that the big teams are dominating and that someone other than Pagenaud can run up front with Chevy power, this is the way to go.
That said, next week’s race in Phoenix is likely to be that big change. Short ovals could still be Chevy’s domain. Until then, this four Honda strategy is the smart play for winning the #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone this week. Good luck!