Lock: Dario Franchitti
This will be one of the wildest races of the year; an oval where none of the current drivers have ever really competed. If that’s the case, you want to go with the safe bet. Dario doesn’t crash, he doesn’t make mistakes, and has a lucky streak that has to infuriate anyone not in Target Chip Ganassi red. If you’ve still got him to play, this should be a reliable pick in an unpredictable scenario.
Drop: Charlie Kimball
Owners might be tempted to pick up Kimball after his nice finish at Mid-Ohio, but he’s towards the bottom of the standings for the oval points championship. Choosing a rookie who has average a P20 finish on the ovals this season for an unfamiliar track is not the standard recipe for success, however much it might be awesome to see.
Sleeper: Ed Carpenter
Chances are you haven’t gone to Carpenter many times yet this season, but he’s a real dark horse when it comes to a track where the series hasn’t visited in over a decade. Sarah Fisher Racing knows their way around smaller ovals; this might be a good chance to see what Oval Ed can put together. The team seems happy with their progress this season; we’ll see how that equates to on-track success.
---Zachary Houghton’s picks
Lock: Scott Dixon
With the monkey finally off his back, Dixon's confidence is soaring. And, the last time the series raced on a short oval, Dixon put on a charge from 23rd on the grid. His speed has always been there this year, it was just a matter getting that dark cloud away from him. Aside from Edmonton, his luck been much better in the summer months and his oval prowess is as good as ever. Hang on to Dixon this weekend.
Drop: Mike Conway
Even though his Andretti Autosport teammates could do well, Conway just hasn't been anywhere on ovals this year. Even on road courses, which are his strong point, the Briton has been hit or miss. His "hit" was a victory at Long Beach, but his "misses" have been crashes at St. Pete, Barber, and Toronto, with a mechanical issues at Mid-Ohio doing him in. The fault doesn't solely lie with him, and it may not get better this week. His run at Iowa came to an end with a crash and his best oval finish in 2011 is a 12th at Milwaukee. The numbers don't look good for Conway this weekend.
Sleeper: J.R. Hildebrand
Hildebrand and Panther have done well on the recent stretch of road and street races, but we all know the ovals are going to be their best chance to shine this year. Qualifying and finish fourth at well is a good omen, and as mentioned their form has gotten better as the year has progressed. If they can keep that up, they should be in a prime spot in the final stretch of races, three of which will be on ovals, Loudon included.
---Kyle Lavigne’s picks
Lock: Dario Franchitti
Considering that this is a new oval to the series, the only thing you could go on for any sort of precedent would be Milwaukee, a track that carries some of the same characteristics as Loudon. Franchitti came home the winner in Wisconsin and, let's face it, he's a safe choice these days, don't you think?
Drop: Sebastian Saavedra
Saavedra has had a rough rookie season on the ovals and considering the unknowns that go with a new track, he's not a safe bet. That said, you could probably say that for all of the rookies save for perhaps J.R. Hildebrand, who has a good oval team behind him at Panther, and James Hinchcliffe, who scored a top-10 at Milwaukee.
Sleeper: Tony Kanaan
Kanaan has ran strong on the last two short ovals and is currently on a hot streak with two consecutive top-5 runs at Edmonton at Mid-Ohio. He's got momentum right now and he could have his say in the outcome at Loudon
---Chris Estrada’s picks
Lock: Scott Dixon
He's broken his streak! It's all over, as far as I'm concerned. Once the Iceman is hot, he doesn't cool down. Again Will and Dario will be playing it safe and Dixon has nothing to lose. I can see him sliding right into victory lane this weekend.
Drop: Danica Patrick
I've resisted picking on her all season but we're coming to the end and I haven't seen a standout performance from IndyCar's star. I'll give her props for keeping a (mostly) cool head this season but I'm still waiting for, at the least, a podium finish from her.
Sleeper: Marco Andretti
I'm still impressed by Marco's win this year and I wouldn't put it past him to end up in victory lane again this season. Out of all of Andretti Autosport's drivers, Marco has been the most consistent. Plus I heard through the Twitter grapevine he was in the market for a new car- but only after another win. Sounds like the perfect incentive to me!
---Kristin Slevin’s picks