Jake Ernst previews Sunday’s NASCAR action and provides three picks for the Brickyard 400
Close, but no cigar. We have been coming up just short from a big payday in the last two weeks, as we have guessed the second-place cars in back-to-back races. Our picks have been accurate and we are flirting with wins each week. Unfortunately for us and unless you bet the driver to finish on the podium (1st, 2nd or 3rd), close is only good for horseshoes and hand grenades. We’re due for a win and while this is one of my least favorite races each year, it has some potential to be a somewhat predictable one.
What is probably the longest name for a NASCAR race in history, “The Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line” will take place this Sunday at 2pm at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first and only time NASCAR races at the Brickyard each year.
There has been 25 races run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and interestingly enough, this will be just the third one that doesn’t include one of NASCAR’s best drivers of all-time, Jeff Gordon. While he was a clean and respected racer, I’m sure that most drivers are happy he has been retired, as he took a fair share of wins from other drivers (especially at Indianapolis) when he proved victorious in five out of his 22 races at the historic track.
What is very peculiar and a bit deceiving is that there are just two active drivers with multiple wins at this track, making Indianapolis the NASCAR track with the least amount of repeat winners.
You probably could have guessed, but Kyle Busch is one of those drivers that has more than one win at Indianapolis and his odds certainly reflect that. The 34-year-old has 14 races under his belt at The Brickyard and impressively enough, has finished outside the top-10 just three times, with two of those coming last decade, in 2008 and 2009. Since then, he has finished in the top-10 in eight out of his last nine races and had back-to-back wins in 2015 and 2016. With an average finish of 10.37 at Indianapolis, you can bet he will be towards the front by the end of this race.
This season’s most consistent driver, Denny Hamlin has been riding a hot streak in recent months. Prior to last week’s race at Darlington when he crashed and finished 29th, Hamlin had six-straight top-five finishes. Maybe we should start calling him “Mr. Top-Five”, as he has also finished inside the top-five in four of his last five races at Indianapolis. He has yet to win here, but if there is ever a time for him to earn his first Brickyard win, it’s right now.
Jimmie Johnson is the second of the two drivers I mentioned with multiple wins at The Brickyard. Even more impressive, the veteran doesn’t just have two wins at Indianapolis, he racked up four from 2006-2012, ranking him just one win behind Gordon for the most wins all-time at the track. Yeah, he knows his way around
Indianapolis quite well and with it being a win-or-go-home race for Johnson, I love these odds at +7,000. He clearly isn’t one of the favorites but he and his crew chief will be doing everything in their power to win this race, and for those reasons, he is a good bet for Sunday.