It wasn’t done intentionally, but my #INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone foursome has two apparent connections. All four drivers that I have "hired" for this weekends Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Presented by Valvoline are Indy Lights graduates and race with the American Flag beside their name.
Choosing one driver from the Team Penske stable to anchor your World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway fantasy team is a no-brainer. The team has won four straight races at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway and led 333 of 496 possible laps since the series returned to Madison, Ill. The Roger Penske-led team has also visited victory lane in the last five oval races, as well as in six of the previous seven short oval races.
Which Team Penske driver to choose is much more challenging. Josef Newgarden ($33) is the most expensive of the Team Penske trio, but with two oval wins already this season is the safest bet to capture another fantastic finish. Newgarden was a winner under the lights on the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval in 2017; one of the Tennessean’s four short oval wins.
I don’t think it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider the 2011 Indy Lights champion something of a short-oval prodigy. The 28-year-old has reeled off 13 straight top-ten finishes on ovals measuring less than 1.5-miles and has led and staggering 1,179 laps in last nine NTT IndyCar Series short oval races.
Newgarden’s first teammate this week is fellow Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot ($23). The Ed Carpenter Racing driver has an average finish of 4.3 in his last three NTT IndyCar Series short oval races, including a drive from 14th to sixth at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway last year.
Zach Veach ($23) had the most impressive drive of his rookie season during the 2018 Bommarito Automotive Group 500. The sophomore Andretti Autosport pilot, an Indy Lights short oval winner at the Milwaukee Mile, drove through the field to finish fifth last year. The 24-year-old also had an impressive drive in the first short oval race of this season at the Iowa Speedway; finishing seventh after starting 20th.
"I can't wait to get back to (World Wide Technology Raceway),” Veach said. “Last year we didn't get to qualify, so we started 16th and then we raced our way up to fifth. So, if we can start a little further up the grid this year and gain the same amount of positions, it will be a great day."
The final member of my Gateway foursome, the 2018 Indy Lights vice champion, Colton Herta ($21), is due for a good result. The 19-year-old has not finished an oval race during his rookie season, but it’s not because of lack of pace.
Herta qualified fifth for the Indianapolis 500, but a fuel leak that damaged the wiring for the gearbox ended his day after only three laps. At Texas Motor Speedway, Herta was attempting to pass Scott Dixon for second place with only 20-laps remaining. The two made contact, with the Chip Ganassi Racing veteran taking the blame. In the only other short track race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season at Iowa Speedway, Herta was running in the top 10. Unfortunately, a half-shaft broke, once again ending his race with only 20 laps remaining. At last weekend's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, Herta worked his way up to seventh, but a mistake in dirty air ended his day early.
The Californian has made two Indy Lights starts at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway leading 69 of 75 laps last year before settling for second. Herta finished one spot lower in his first race at the 1.25-mile oval.
Don’t forget to set your line-up at https://www.fantrax.com/fantasy/games/season-long/indycar - and if you haven’t yet signed up, there are still great weekly prizes to be won.
The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 will be held Saturday evening at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Television coverage will begin on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET with the green flag set for 8:45 p.m. Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).