If you’re like many of us out there, the first week of the IZOD IndyCar Series season held some definite surprises, with some top names (Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti) having rough weeks, while newer faces (Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden) did relatively well. For fantasy owners, the realization that a new car and new engine will equal an extremely tricky campaign is slowly settling in.
Once again this week, INDYCAR Nation’s cabal of writers and bloggers are on hand to give you their fantasy picks via Locks, Drops, & Sleepers. If you’re stumped on your picks, check out our advice below for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama:
Zachary Houghton, IndyCarAdvocate.com:
Lock: Marco Andretti
The twin turbos of Chevy are doing their job early, and teams such as Andretti Autosport are the beneficiaries (just as long as electrical issues remain on the sideline). Andretti was one fuel call away from winning this race in 2010, and he gave another excellent performance on this track last year. Don’t let his late handling issues and fade at St. Pete sour your outlook for him this week.
Drop: Sèbastien Bourdais
Look, I know Bourdais did a great job at St. Pete until he was forced to retire from the race, and normally, I’d love to pick him for a course such as this. I’m sure there are a lot of folks preparing to select him this week as a dark horse, and I get where you’re coming from. However, honestly, you want to hold off on choosing Lotus this early in the season. They’re at a power deficit, and Barber is not the course to remedy that. It’s not that the Lotus cars can’t net you a solid finish right now, but it’s nothing to bet on just yet, and especially not when there are far more solid picks to be had. Patience, grasshopper.
Sleeper: Josef Newgarden
One of the best performances in Week 1 belonged to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s rookie driver. Newgarden didn’t have a perfect debut, but he showed he should have plenty of talent to compete with the rest of this field. I’m usually a bit nervous about selecting rookies this early in the season, but with a good team and Chevy power behind him, he could easily land a Top 10 finish or higher this weekend. If you’re wanting to save some “power picks” for later in the season, Newgarden could be good start this week.
Paul Dalbey, MoreFrontWing.com:
Lock: Scott Dixon
Few drivers are as technically sound and as fluid as Scott Dixon, and on a rolling road course like Barber, Dixon should shine. The course has a few fast places, but with so many finesse sections, Scott's ability to maintain his momentum will come in handy. A pair of runner up finishes in this event's first two runnings is a testament to his skills at this track.
Drop: EJ Viso
Following a great run at St. Petersburg, especially given that he was battling food poisoning during the race, many might be looking at Viso as a dark horse to score big points this weekend at Barber. I'm not quite ready to jump on that boat quite yet as I'm still waiting for some consistency that he won't overdrive the road courses and punt anyone in turn 5. The electrical gremlins of the Chevrolet engine could also quickly knock EJ off track, and if EJ has shown anything over the past couple years, it's that bad luck seems to him... if he doesn't find it first.
Sleeper: Sèbastien Bourdais
After turning in what was arguably the most impressive performance of the race at St. Pete, I look for Sebastien should be expecting another good run this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. A solid 11th place finish last year, coming from a 20th place on the starting grid, with an under-engineered effort shows that Bourdais can wheel a car around this track with the best of them. If the Lotus engine can go the distance, look for the beautiful black and gold #7 to be a solid top-10 effort.
Chris Estrada, INDYCAR Nation Contributor
Lock: Marco Andretti
It's too easy to choose Will Power or Dario Franchitti (whom I both think will bounce back this weekend), so let's go with somebody else that's been strong in Alabama lately. Andretti didn't get off to a good start in St. Petersburg, but he's had two straight top-5 runs at Barber Motorsports Park. The new equipment will add some more variables to the mix, but I think we'll see the No. 26 RC Cola Chevrolet up front. He just seems to dig this course.
Drop: EJ Viso
Viso was proverbially running on empty last weekend thanks to a bout of food poisoning, but gutted out an eighth-place finish in St. Pete. Based on past results at Barber, however, I'm not sure if he would be a good choice for your fantasy team this week. In 2010, he finished one lap off the pace, and last year, he lost a battle with Simona de Silvestro in Turn 5, spun out and collected James Hinchcliffe in the process. We'll see if third time's the charm for him in the Deep South.
Sleeper: Charlie Kimball
As a rookie last year, Kimball had one of his better races of the season at Barber as he jumped from 21st starting position to claim 10th at the finish. Adding to the young American's confidence going into his second race there is his ninth-place effort last weekend in St. Pete. That result tied his career best and also bagged an $80,000 payday as the top driver amongst non-Leader's Circle franchises. Breaking into the second round of qualifying on Saturday wouldn't hurt his chances of continuing the momentum.