Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR

Can A Ford Finally Win At The Brickyard? I Wouldn’t Count On It

In case you didn’t check out the Average Practice Speeds post from earlier today, you probably want to check it out (click here). Very few drivers ran runs of at least ten-consecutive laps so average speeds give you a lot better idea who is fast this weekend compared to one fast lap statistic. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.5-mile flat racetrack that is unlike any other one on the circuit. Some people do, however, compare it to Pocono. It’s real hard to pass here, so qualifying should get some emphasis among fantasy racers this weekend. Denny Hamlin won the pole for Sunday’s event, and the full starting lineup can be found by clicking here.

My Probable Yahoo! Roster: Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Juan Montoya, Trevor Bayne
My Probable Yahoo! Bench: Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Sam Hornish, Jr.

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Final Top Fifteen Ranking For The Curtiss Shaver 400:

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11. Brad Keselowski – Starts 22nd – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Keselowski got loose during his qualifying lap and that is part of the reason why he’s rolling off the grid in 22nd for Sunday’s race. I’m not extremely worried about that, though, because that’s been this team’s m.o. all season. In two career starts here at Indianapolis, BK has finished 9th and 19th after starting 5th and 11th, respectively. Paul Wolfe will have to use some strategy to get the Blue Deuce through traffic I think, because the car isn’t extremely fast (but it’s not slow by any means). One thing to consider is that Keselowski has just one finish worse than 13th in the last eight Sprint Cup races. The chassis that the team brought this week is brand new.

12. Mark Martin – Starts 19th – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

If you read my Preview from earlier this week, you probably know about the concerns I had with Mark Martin this weekend. That’s why, after qualifying, I was quite surprised to see the number 35 next to Mark Martin’s name, meaning he ran a total of that many laps in both practice sessions combined. That’s not like Mark Martin at all, and it makes me wonder if they might be searching with the setup. Martin had the 15th-fastest lap in Happy Hour and was 2nd-fastest in the first session, so when he qualified 19th I was even more surprised. He’s finished 11th or better in each of the last seven Indianapolis races, though, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to get around here. I’m going to have to read the crew chief notes to get a final feel on Mark Martin this weekend. My gut says top 15.

13. Tony Stewart – Starts 28th – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Smoke was quite clear during qualifying: their car is just not that fast this weekend. I originally thought that we would see Stewart fight for the win on Sunday, but that’s not looking very likely right now. I expect Steve Addington to make some major changes to this car before the green flag waves tomorrow, and it can go either way as to how that will work (and the reason why Stewart is somewhat of a risky pick now). Tony’s record at this track speaks for itself: thirteen starts, two wins, nine top 10s, and an average finish of 8.1. He’s going to have a lot of cars to pass but Stewart could challenge for a top 10, but not much more. He finished 3rd at Pocono in June.

14. Ryan Newman – Starts 11th – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk FactorLow Risk**

The Rocketman is a good flat track racer and this is his home track, but I wouldn’t expect a whole bunch out of him. Still, I think he should have a top 15 on Sunday and could possibly fight for a top 10 based on his average practice speed. Just like he has been all season, Newman is quite average at Indianapolis but he is consistent; in five of the last six races here, Ryan has finished between 12th and 17th. At Pocono back in June, the #39 rolled off the grid in 18th and came home 12th. Keep in mind that Newman has just five top 10s all season thus far. He has a brand new chassis this weekend.

15. Trevor Bayne – Starts 18th – Yahoo! C Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

This will be Trevor Bayne’s second race at the Brickyard. You can click here to view his race chart from last year’s event to see that he had a possible top 20 run but something happened (can’t remember what exactly) and he finished 30th. He didn’t look incredible in practice but should still fight for a top 15 finish at the end of the 400 miles on Sunday. This team probably spent more time working on qualifying than in race trim compared to other teams, too, considering Bayne was a go-or-go-homer. I’m just hoping the Wood Brothers engine doesn’t blow on Sunday like it did back in Michigan.

Those To Avoid For The Curtiss Shaver 400:

Clint Bowyer – I don’t know what is up with this team this weekend, but the #15 is, to put it nicely, far off the pace. Bowyer’s average speed was almost one full second per lap slower than the driver on the top of that chart. It truly is confusing as to why this team is so off, too. Bowyer has an average finish of 11.8 at this track (fifth-best in the series) and his crew chief, Brian Pattie, generally had some awesome setups for Juan Montoya in the past. Clint will roll off the grid in 33rd on Sunday and it would honestly surprise me to see him finish anywhere near the top 15.

Kevin Harvick – The points could shake up a whole bunch after this week because Kevin Harvick is another top 10 driver that isn’t looking too good going into the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard. And he knows it, too. After qualifying, Harvick tweeted this: “Not a good Q lap and overall it has been a terrible day…“. His average finish here at Indianapolis is a very impressive 10.0, but I expect that to rise a bit after Sunday. I think Harvick has a shot at a top 15 but not much better this weekend. He finished 14th at Pocono earlier this season.