Hello Internet! It's Guido, coming back at you with another Scoring Indy post! This week, I have a little fun and do a little opinion, with the One-Man IndyCar Fantasy Draft. Now, I'm calling this post a draft, but I won't be picking teams against myself. That’s sort of silly. But, I will be giving a variety of “fantasy outlooks” on different IndyCar drivers. For the purposes of this post (and because I love shameless self-promotion #synergy) we’ll be assuming that out fantasy league takes into account all the things that I account for in the Race Score World Championship: Race Finish, Average Running Position, Positions Gained, Laps Led, and Laps Completed. These also, handily happen to be the things that I have a bunch of spreadsheets about. Additionally, I'll be previewing the IndyCar World Championships in Fontana. Onward!
The Sure-Fire First Pick
- Scott Dixon -- I’d have said this before the season as well, for the record. Here’s the thing about Dixon: he can win ANYWHERE. He has won 18 races on ovals. He has won 15 races on twisties. That is the definition of versatile. Since 2007, Dixon has finished in the following positions in the final points standings: 2007 -- 2; 2008 -- 1; 2009 -- 2; 2010 -- 3; 2011 -- 3; 2012 -- 3; and this year, he can finish no worse than second. He’s also clinched the Inaugural Race Score World Championship. Also, Dixon’s only 33. He’s in his prime, as far as driving IndyCars is concerned. Basically, if one had a first pick in a traditional IndyCar fantasy league, and they failed to pick Scott Dixon, that person would be wrong.
Late First Rounders
We can safely assume that the Powers, Castroneveses, Franchittis, and Hunter-Reays are likely to go in the next few picks. If you find yourself picking at the end of the first round of your non-existent IndyCar fantasy draft, here’s where you should look to get your team off on the right foot:
- Simon Pagenaud -- I’d be tempted to take Pagenaud in front of some of the drivers listed in the “We can safely assume” section, but after playing more years than I care to count of fantasy football, I know that early picks are often fandom picks, and those four are more popular. Here are facts about Pagenaud. 1) He has more RSWC points and IndyCar championship points than anyone not named Scott Dixon or Helio Castroneves. 2) He has scored RSWC points in five straight races. 3) He has gone from IndyCar Rookie of the Year to IndyCar Championship threat in two seasons. 4) Honda loves him. LOVES him. I’d snap up Pagenaud before you could say “mid-first round.”
- Marco Andretti -- Andretti has been quiet this year, and this is why he’ll slip this far. Now, here’s why you should pick him up here. Marco has discovered something this year: consistency. There is a reason that this is (by far) his best year for IndyCar points. There’s also a reason that Marco has been lurking (not threatening, but lurking) in the RSWC all year. He had the car to beat for much of the Indy 500. He had the car to beat at Pocono. He hard-lucked out of the podium at both. If you’re picking in the late first round of the hypothetical IndyCar Fantasy Draft, you want Marco.
- Justin Wilson -- Remember when I did the Team RSWC about two thirds of the way through the season? Remember how Dale Coyne Racing was in P4 on that table? Justin Wilson in why. Yes, the team gets help from all the worlds that Mike Conway destroyed at Detroit and Toronto, but Wilson’s been a (more-or-less) steady runner through most of the season. Remember how he finished P5 at Indy? Yeah, no one else does either. BUT he did it! He had a shot to win when the race-ending caution flew, and that’s all that you can ask for at the 500. He improved from P22 on the grid to P7 by the end of the Pocono race, and this is from a road course specialist. Last pick in the first round? You can do worse than Wilson.
Take ‘em for the Upside
In fantasy sports, you can often wind up drafting players based not on what you expect the player to do, but because what they MIGHT do is so incredible that you take a flyer. Here are some drivers to consider when drafting in the second-third rounds for upside (now, you’re probably not having more than three rounds in an IndyCar fantasy draft…).
- Sebastien Bourdais -- Bourdais is your guy if you’ve got an early second rounder. He has looked like the Bourdais of old on select occasions this year. You can track a definite up-tick in his performance since dumping the Lotus power in 2012. But, as with any upside pick, there are question marks. Here they are for Bourdias: 1) He’s moving to KVSH next year. Bourdias has more RSWC points at Dragon this year than Indy 500 champion (and arguably better driver at this stage in their careers) Tony Kanaan has at this year’s KV team. 2) He still has showed about zero ability to perform on an oval track. But, he’s a downright pro on the twisties. Is that enough to make you bite?
- James Hinchcliffe -- Hinch almost doesn’t deserve to be this low in this list. He’s won three races this year. He’s teetering dangerously close to the Conway Line, which defines excellence over the course of a season. But, the Mayor of Hinchtown has been boom or bust this season. He wins races; he banks big-time RSWC points; he DNFs. And, it’s the DNFs that are the problem. I can imagine that several hypothetical IndyCar fantasy leagues would penalize one for DNFs. An interesting draft strategy might be to roll the dice with an early Hinchcliffe pick, and open up some possibilities for yourself in later rounds.
- Takuma Sato -- Sato is a poor man’s Hinchcliffe. He’s gotten good finishes this year, such as at Long Beach and Sao Paulo. But, more often than not he’s caused himself problems, and even when he looked to have rallied back and gotten a pole at the first Houston race, the car got mechanically away from him. If you have a late pick, and want to roll the dice, Taku’s your guy. Also, I expect improvement from Hinch. I'm not convinced that we'll see much more than this from Sato.
Now, usually, this would have been the whole post today, but (as you probably recognized) I failed to post a post last week. I was at a denominational professional leader's conference, and it just didn't happen. But, there it is above. Anyway, here's what happened last year at Auto Club Speedway:
|Race Finish||Driver||Qualifying||Grid||Laps Led||Completed||A.R.S.|
- Expect equal funkiness between qualifying and the starting grid this year, as divers and teams change out engines to make sure that they have reliable equipment for the 500-mile Championship Decider / Leader's Circle Determiner / Triple Crown Event / Job Audition.
- The first two Triple Crown events are of about zero help in determining who will perform well in this race. Now, I think that next year, with Pocono going to 500 miles, that will not be the case then. I don't know why, but 500-milers are completely different beasts than 400-milers.
- I expect that the Chevrolet-powered cars to perform better in terms of speed than the Hondas. This has been the case on oval after oval after oval this year. The Honda engines might do better for fuel economy, but I don't expect this to be a fuel number race, and there will be cautions, which will help or hurt any given fuel strategy more or less at random.
I'm thinking of bringing back Twitter Predictions for the season finale. Check back on Twitter @ScoringIndy after qualifying tonight or tomorrow morning.
Should be exciting! See you Saturday Night!