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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Good, Bad and Ugly: Allstate 400 at Brickyard

By Mark Garrow

*AJ Allmendinger

• Allmendinger has never raced at Indy in the Sprint Cup Series.
• He could be a real sleeper pick for a top-15 this week, which he's done in two of the past six races, Pocono and Chicagoland. If he practices and qualifies well, his Stock Car Challenge (SCC) value of 11.9 is going to be tempting, especially for those trying to get Kyle Busch back on their team.

Greg Biffle

• Biffle has completed every lap in his five career Sprint Cup Series starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with one top-10 and an average finish of 19.2.
• They have a new car built for Biffle this week, and I've got him ranked 11th going in, meaning I can see him finishing as high as sixth and no lower than a top-15.

Dave Blaney

• Blaney has made nine starts at Indy and posted his best career finish last year, ninth.
Bill Davis Racing has put a lot of work into this race, building Blaney a new car. Given his finish last year and 14.7 SCC value, this guy could be attractive come Sunday morning. We'll try to keep a close eye on him for race day chat.

Clint Bowyer

• Clint Bowyer will pilot a brand new car and in two starts at Indy has an impressive 8.5 average finish.
• I'm not giving Bowyer a whole lot of love this week and have him ranked 18th. He's had miserable luck since winning at Richmond, with only two top-10s in the ensuing nine races. This team is capable of getting on track at Indy but is a big risk plus he's more expensive in SCC than Kenseth, Kahne and Martin, three guys I would take ahead of him picking a team right now.

Jeff Burton

• The car Burton is driving finished sixth at Charlotte and fifth at Pocono.
• Of the 480 laps contested over the past three Cup Series events at IMS, Burton spent 71.5 percent running in the top 15 and holds a 14.3 finishing average.
• I have Burton ranked just outside the top 10 in 13th. There's a strong chance he could sneak a top-10, but he's another RCR driver that's been heading in the wrong direction lately. No top-10s in the past five races and has averaged a 19.2 finish over that span.

Kurt Busch

• Busch has a 14.9 average finish in his seven Brickyard starts.
• This team is starting to come around with two top-5s in the past three races. Better yet, I think the eighth-place finish at Pocono a few weeks ago will translate well to Indy, and he's using the same car. You look at his SCC value of 19.1 and you think a nice tweener that could fit into your cap and give you a top-10.

Kyle Busch

• Busch is the series lap leader with a total of 1,065 laps led, 18.71 percent of the laps raced.
• He has three starts at Indianapolis. All three resulted in top-10s.
• The guy is money. The folks that grabbed him right from the get-go are in good shape. For those of us who need our head examined and dropped him for the road race at Sonoma, it's tough fitting him back into the cap. There might be a couple of drivers with SCC values of 15.0 or below that might help this week. If you don't have Busch right now, you're going to regret it almost every week.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• In eight starts at Indianapolis, Dale Jr. has recorded two top-10s and led 46 laps, including 33 last year.
• This is the same chassis Earnhardt drove to lead 76 laps en route to sixth-place in the Coke 600.
• This will be the strongest effort Dale Jr. has ever brought to the Brickyard. I don't see him winning, though, but he should bring home a solid top-10. Problem with Junior is his SCC value of 23.3. If you have Kyle Busch, there is no chance you can stick Junior in there and have a competitive team. I'd give it a try if I thought Dale could win, but I don't see that.

Carl Edwards

• In his previous three Indy starts, Edwards has one top-10 and an average finish of 13.0.
• The Edwards gang built a brand new Fusion for this race, and I can see him finishing in the top 10, so I have him ranked ninth. Historically, this has not been a good track for Jack Roush. In the 14 previous Indy races, Roush has started 58 cars with only 20 top-10s and has led only 113 laps. So I don't see a Roush Fenway Ford in victory lane. Roush's cars have an average finish of 18.1 at Indy.

David Gilliland

• This is the same chassis the team ran in the Pocono 500 where they finished 16th.
• Gilliland is another guy that could be a nice "budget" pick this week, and remember he finished 17th here in 2007. An SCC value of 16.5 is a nice price for what could be a 14th- to 19th-place finish. Another guy you need to keep a close eye on during the practices. Another factor: He cut his teeth on California short tracks that are flat. This kind of track is in Gilliland's wheelhouse.

Jeff Gordon

• At Indy, Gordon has four wins, eight top-5s and 11 top-10s in 14 starts with an average finish of 8.9.
• Third place a year ago, I think Gordon can finish in the top five again, and my pre-race ranking puts him sixth. With an SCC value of 22.4, making him a little cheaper than teammates Johnson and Earnhardt, Gordon might be someone slip into your lineup this week.

Robby Gordon

• Gordon has eight starts here with two top-10s and an average finish of 22.5.
• Gordon finished 27th here last year.

Denny Hamlin

• This will be Hamlin's third start here, finishing 10th and 22nd previously.
• Okay, call me crazy, but I think Denny Hamlin takes a run at winning this race. He's been junk three of the past four races, but hear me out. They've built him a brand new car, and I really liked the way he ran at Pocono, where he finished third. Some guys think these two tracks don't translate well, but I think they do for Hamlin. Now he just needs to avoid bad luck.

Kevin Harvick

• This is the same car Harvick raced to a third-place finish at Chicago.
• In seven Cup races at Indy, Harvick has one win, three top-5s and five top-10s with an average finish of 7.7.
• No question, Harvick will probably be the best RCR car this week. He loves this place and, like Gilliland, grew up racing flat tracks in California, which is why he took to this track like a duck to water. Harvick was rock solid at Chicago, and I can see that kind of performance again this weekend.

Sam Hornish Jr.

• This will be his first Cup start at Indy. He has a total of seven IndyCar starts at this place. In that series, he has one win.

• Hornish could be someone to keep an eye on, and more than a few people will look at his SCC value of 13.4 and his experience at this track, and decide to take a flier on him. Problem is, he has a habit of looking good for most of a race before getting into trouble. Don't forget his average finish is worse than 29, and he has finished inside the top-20 only twice.

Jimmie Johnson

• Johnson has made six starts at Indianapolis, finishing in the top five twice, including a win in 2006. His average finish is an unimpressive 23.5.
• Johnson will use same car he finished sixth with at Pocono.
• Forget the fact he's finished 36th or worse in three of the past four Indy starts. Chalk it up to two crashes and a blown engine. Remember the 2006 win and his performances this year on the flatter tracks. I've got him ranked fifth going in and I think he has an outside shot to win.

Kasey Kahne

• In four starts at the famed Brickyard, he has finishes of fourth, second, 36th and 40th.
• Another guy you can throw out the recent Indy stats. I liked the way he ran at Pocono and think he can finish in the top five this weekend. I'm just hoping it's a nice warm day and the track's slick. If not, Dodge is down a little horsepower to Toyota and Chevy, hurting Kahne's chances.

Matt Kenseth

• Kenseth has five top-10s and four top-5s in eight starts at Indy.
• According to NASCAR's "loop data," Kenseth ranks fourth in driver rating at Indy with a score of 106.1. His average finish in the past three races there is 5.7. Kenseth has also spent 84.2 percent in the top 15 over the past three races.
• I have Kenseth ranked 10th going in, and he's money in the bank these days with eight top-10 runs in the past nine races. I can see Matt finishing sixth to 10th.

Travis Kvapil

• Kvapil has an average finish of 31.0 at Indianapolis.
• This is the same chassis the team ran at the Samsung 500, finishing 18th.
• His SCC value is dropping, now down to 18.4. He's starting to enter a value territory where you have to keep an eye out on him every week to see if he can be one of your budget picks. Still too expensive to fill that role, but let's hope he keeps dropping in value before he has another good run.

Bobby Labonte

• In 14 starts here, Labonte has five top-10s, four top-5s, a win and an average finish of 15.6. He was 19th last year.
• He's tough to figure out what to do with this week. He has only one top-10 in the past five races, but the one was on the flat track in New Hampshire. Then there's his attractive SCC value of 17.6 and solid past record at this place. We'll keep a close eye on him during the practices and on race day morning.

#Terry Labonte

• Labonte has 12 starts here with two top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 20.2. He finished 30th last year.

*Jason Leffler

• Leffler has four starts here, with an average finish of 33.8.

Mark Martin

• At Indy, Martin has finished inside the top 10 in nine of 14 starts and inside the top seven five times.
• He has top-10s in his past three races at Indy and in four of the past five.
• Watch out for Martin this week. I don't have him ranked that high, but he's top-10 material and a nice SCC price of 18.3 will probably wiggle him on to my team.

Jamie McMurray

• In five starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, McMurray has produced one top-5 and two top-10s.
• After two top-10s in three races, the wheels have come off again for McMurray over the past four starts. He could surprise, but he's a big risk. An SCC value of 17.5 will get him a second look, though, this week by a number of fantasy players. Just not me.

Casey Mears

• Mears has captured a pole at Indy and finished as high as sixth.
• If this team could perform up to anywhere near its potential, Mears' SCC value of 16.0 would be a steal. As it is, this bunch continues to underachieve. Mears did finish seventh at Loudon, and that means he needs to be watched closely during practice. With this kind of equipment, there's no reason Mears shouldn't be consistent a top-15 finisher.

Paul Menard

• Menard will make his second career start here; he finished 20th in this race last year.
• Menard could finish in the top 20 again, as he's shown flashes lately.

Juan Pablo Montoya

• Last year, Montoya started on the outside pole, marking his career best Sprint Cup start at the time, next to teammate Reed Sorenson, who earned his first career pole. Montoya ran in the top 10 for the entire 160-lap event before bringing home a second-place finish.
• If Montoya duplicates what he did here last season I will be totally shocked. He might be a top-15 car this time around, but nothing inside the top 10. People will be tempted to put him on their team, but just say no. It should be noted, however, that you dive the corners at Indy like you would a road course and that is, of course, a Montoya strength.

*Joe Nemechek

• In 13 starts here, Nemechek has an average finish of 24.3.

Ryan Newman

• Ryan Newman has one top-5 and one top-10 in seven starts at Indianapolis.
• Newman didn't do much at Pocono or Loudon so he's a top-15 car at best.

David Ragan

• Ragan finished 16th last year in his only Indy race.
• He is driving the same car he drove to an eighth-place finish at Michigan.
• I rank Ragan 19th and he should finish 15th to 19th. I don't see him setting the world on fire because I don't think anyone at Roush Fenway will.

David Reutimann

• Reutimann has one start here, finishing 38th last year.
• Reutimann and company have quietly become a top-20 team with an average finish of 18 over the past three races. With an SCC value of 15.8, that's a nice payoff when you consider you could squeeze another 20-plus value driver in your lineup. He's a fair flat track driver too, so he bears some consideration this weekend.

*Scott Riggs

• Riggs has four starts here with an average finish of 30.5.

Elliott Sadler

• In nine starts he has recorded a third-place finish with everything else 21st or worse, with an average finish of 29.0.
• He was fifth at Loudon and 12th at Chicago so his low SCC value (16.7) should be seriously considered.

Reed Sorenson

• He captured the pole and finished fifth a year ago.
• Can Sorenson recapture the magic of 2007 at Indy? I don't think so. But here's the deal: He could be real sneaky given how well they ran in the most recent flat track race, finishing sixth at New Hampshire. His SCC value is swirling the bowl at 14.6, so he's another guy who could turn out to be a "budget bonanza".

Tony Stewart

• Stewart has nine starts here with six top-10s, four top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 7.6. He is the defending race winner.
• I think Stewart makes a serious run at a third win at the Brickyard. I was tempted to make him my top pick this week, but decided to be more conservative, ranking him fourth. Toyota horsepower will be a big bonus and nobody wants it as bad here as Tony.

Martin Truex Jr.

• Truex has three starts here with an average finish of 24.3.
• This is not one of Truex's best tracks and this team has done little lately. Alas, because the appeal of their Daytona penalties was turned down, crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion is out for the next six weeks, and the car chief was suspended, too. Maybe if they stick to the chassis setup teammate Mark Martin will run, Truex will have a chance to run decently. Don't expect much otherwise.

Brian Vickers

• In four starts here, Vickers has one top-5 and an average finish of 17.5.
• He finished 21st last year and this team is 100 percent better than a year ago. I have him ranked 12th with a strong chance to improve that. And you've got to love his SCC value of 19.6. HIs average finish over the past six races is 8.8. He nearly won Pocono, boding well for Indy. So I think he sticks on my team, on which he was sixth the last time out at Chicagoland.

Michael Waltrip

• In 13 Indy starts, Waltrip has completed 1,846 of 1,921 laps (96.1%), leading a total of one lap with an average finish of 21st.

*J.J. Yeley

• Yeley has two starts here with finishes of 34th and 36th, respectively.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for