Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of five intermediate tracks that falls into the sub-category of a flat track. A flat track represents any track with less than 13 degrees of banking. Despite its lack of banking, cars run at high speeds at Indianapolis due to the long straights. Downforce is a must in order to pick up the throttle early in the turns and carry speed through the long stretches to potentially make a pass into the next turn. Cars can start to push on the long green runs, which are common at the Brickyard. Passing is extremely difficult and lapped cars are rare, so track position is tantamount.
In the past the surface was not hard on tires, so two-tire stops were a common strategy. Following a debacle last year where Goodyear missed on the tire selection after the track surface was diamond-ground. A number of right-side tire failures plagued the weekend and created a dismal race. Goodyear promises to have the proper tire this year, but teams will still be wary. As the weekend progresses everyone will be closely monitoring their tire temperature and wear to determine just how long they can go between stops on Sunday. Tire management, if not the key to this year's race, will be a focal point of the weekend.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Mark Martin | No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Martin is 11th in the Chase standings after winning at Chicagoland Speedway. The win was Martin's fourth of the season. As Martin continues to impress he is heading to one of his better tracks. His average finish in the last five races at the track is 10.8 and includes three top-10 finishes. While Martin has never won at the Brickyard, he has tallied five top-fives and nine top-10s in the 15 starts since the track opened to NASCAR. Given his 2009 form and his strong record at Indianapolis, it would be foolish to think that Martin can't challenge for a win in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
Jeff Burton | No. 31 Prilosec OTC Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Burton suffered a dismal outing at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend. He finished 37th after entering the weekend with high expectations. The expectations will be ratcheted up again this weekend, though. Burton's average Brickyard finish is 12.8 in his last five starts. In total he has one top-five at the track and four top-10s in the 15 career starts he has under his belt. It is no secret that Richard Childress Racing has struggled in 2009 and the drivers are desperate to break that trend. Burton's Brickyard statistics indicate that he may be able to do that.
Kyle Busch | No. 18 Snickers Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Start me! I won't crash
Busch unceremoniously lost his lead on the final run to the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway and failed to bounce back the following weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. His engine failed in the LifeLock.com 400. Busch does have a very stout record in Indianapolis, though. His average finish in four career Brickyard starts is 9.0. He even led laps in three of those four starts indicating that he knows how to work through the field on the passing-challenged track. Busch will want to rebound and make a point by finishing well this weekend after two poor results, and when you're talking about Kyle Busch, it would be unwise to bet against him.
Matt Kenseth | No. 17 DeWalt Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Kenseth heads to Indianapolis holding down the 12th and final Chase spot in Sprint Cup points. He slid a little at Chicagoland Speedway with a finish of just 23rd. Indianapolis promises to be a bit better for Kenseth, though, despite his 38th-place finish there in 2008. Kenseth was a victim of the many tire failures in last year's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Despite that result, his average finish from the last five races at the track stands at 14.2. He has earned four top-fives and five top-10s in nine career starts there.
A.J. Allmendinger | No. 44 Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge | Richard Petty Motorsports
With his 13th-place finish in the LifeLock.com 400, Allmendinger moved up two spots to 27th in Sprint Cup points. That result was his second top-20 finish in a row. Last season was the first he has raced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He started the day 26th, but preserved his tires in the staccato event and finished 10th. He even led four laps that day. Allmendinger has been fairly solid this season despite his newness to the series, and he is steadily building momentum and experience. One place that Allmendinger could take advantage of both of those factors would be Indianapolis. Allmendinger might be a solid choice for a third or fourth driver in your lineup.
Temper your expectations
Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing
Impressively, Busch is fourth in Sprint Cup points. He has been putting together a very solid season to date and shows no sign of letting go. The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard may not be the place to expect Busch to find Victory Lane, though. He was one of the many victims in last year's tire debacle and finished that race 40th. His average finish at the track in the past five races is 18.2 with just one top-10 finish in that time. While Busch may turn in a solid top-15 run this Sunday, don't expect him to dominate the top five.
Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Richard Petty Motorsports
Kahne has steadily positioned himself well in the run for the Chase and owns eighth position in Sprint Cup points. He also finished third in the Lifelock.com 400 to give himself a bit of a boost before the week off. Kahne finished well in the 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, but struggled in the few visits prior. While he started his career at the track with two straight top-fives, his average finish in five career Brickyard starts is only 17.8. He crashed twice to add two DNFs in 2006 and 2007 to his Brickyard resume. Kahne has spotty success at Indianapolis and this lack of consistency is what keeps him from being a major player in fantasy lineups this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Don't pick me this weekend
Earnhardt pulled out a top-15 finish in the LifeLock.com 400, which isn't good by his standards, yet is remarkably refreshing considering his season to date. He still only has one top-five and three top-10 finishes to his credit. While his father had success at the Brickyard, Earnhardt Jr. has found it elusive. His average finish in the last five races there is just 24.4. It doesn't take much thought to understand that Earnhardt doesn't make the safest play on a fantasy roster this weekend. His results are still too erratic and low to be considered a top choice.
Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing
Vickers turned up the heat with strong finishes recently and is slowly creeping toward the fight to make the Chase. He scored back-to-back top-10s the past two races. Indianapolis may pose a hurdle to that goal, though. Vickers hasn't found consistency at the Brickyard, and his average finish in five career starts at the track is 22.4. While he has found consistency on the season, fantasy owners should shy away from his inconsistency on this particular track. Vickers could surprise, but he doesn't have the statistics that would indicate a good result is likely.
David Reutimann | No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
Reutimann is in the process of creating a surprise challenge for the 2009 Chase. Unfortunately, Reutimann and Indianapolis Motor Speedway don't seem to mix well. In two career Brickyard starts, Reutimann's average finish is 35.0. His engine blew in his first attempt, and the second effort just wasn't strong enough (30th place). No matter how you slice it, Reutimann isn't a strong choice for the 2009 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. He doesn't have the Indianapolis pedigree fantasy owners would want to see. While he may make a serious run for the Chase, Indianapolis doesn't appear to be a slam dunk for the driver.