Crown Royal Brickyard 400 Practice Recap

Crown Royal Brickyard 400 Practice Recap

FFToolbox's Fantasy NASCAR Expert Brian Polking offers his insight on the drivers who could surprise in the Crown Royal Brickyared 400.

In many ways, talking about potential sleeper options at Indianapolis Motor Speedway seems ironic given the stranglehold that big names have had on victory lane at the track. While 15 of the 20 winners at the Brickyard belong to drivers that are also series champions, that doesn't mean that finding a few sleepers still isn't necessary when building fantasy lineups this weekend. Meanwhile, practice times at Indianapolis tend to be somewhat indicative of what to expect on race day because it is hard to fake speed at the track. The straightaways at Indianapolis are so long that if a driver is down on horsepower even a little, it is going to show on the stopwatch. Similarly, it is going to show on the stopwatch if a car isn't handling well enough through the corners to maintain speed back on to those massive straightaways. In other words, there aren't usually many great sleeper picks at Indy, but the ones that there are tend to live up to expectations. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the top sleeper drivers to target for your fantasy lineups heading into Sunday's race.

1. Kyle Larson
Larson hasn't been the least bit intimidated by the big stage that is Indianapolis. He turned the fifth-fastest lap in the first practice session at the track Friday, and he logged the eighth-fastest lap in Happy Hour. He also qualified in the Top 15. In addition to showing plenty of speed in practice so far, Larson's recent performances at flat tracks also bode well for his chances Sunday. He has been steadily improving at flat tracks throughout the year, and in his two most-recent starts, he finished fifth at Pocono and third at New Hampshire. The rookie offers a ton of upside this weekend.

2. Juan Pablo Montoya
He is making just his second Cup start of the season this weekend, and while he looked rusty in the opening practice at Indianapolis Friday, Montoya found his footing Saturday in a big way. He turned the sixth-fastest lap in Hour and qualified in the Top 10. Of course, Montoya isn't exactly a stranger to running fast laps at Indianapolis. He owns the fourth-best driver rating at the track, and since he made his Cup debut at Indy in 2007, only Jimmie Johnson has led more laps. Montoya actually finished in the Top 10 at the Brickyard just last season, and based on the speed he showed Saturday, a Top-10 finish is a real possibility Sunday. A strongly recommend using him as a C-List option in Yahoo! leagues, and he is worth a look as a sleeper pick in any format. He is also a bargain in NASCAR.com Fantasy Live.

3. Ryan Newman
Newman cracked the Top 20 in both practice sessions at Indianapolis this weekend, ranking as high as 12th in the first session Friday. Meanwhile, he showed a ton of muscle in qualifying Saturday afternoon, grabbing the No. 4 starting spot. By the way, Newman is also the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he has compiled a solid 10.7 average finish in his last six starts at the track. At the very least, he looks like a safe bet to challenge for a top-10, and he showed last year that his ceiling is even higher. With his blend of reliability and upside, Newman could make a solid addition in any format.

4. Danica Patrick
She has been one of the bigger surprises of the weekend, showing consistent speed whenever she has been on the track. Patrick turned the 16th-fastest lap in the first practice session Friday, and she jumped to 14th on the charts in Happy Hour Saturday. She also qualified 14th. Granted, she hasn't had much success at Indianapolis so far at the Cup level, but she is definitely familiar with the track thanks to her starts in the Indianapolis 500 in the IndyCar Series. She could be a sneaky source for a Top-20 finish this weekend, making her a solid option in deeper formats.

5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
After a rough debut at Indianapolis last year, Stenhouse has looked much more comfortable this weekend. He cracked the Top 20 in the practice session Friday and in final practice Saturday. No, he doesn't appear to be a sleeper pick with a lot of upside, but in deeper formats, he looks like a guy that could round out a fantasy roster and deliver a Top-20 finish. Consider him a serviceable but unspectacular option this weekend.

6. Trevor Bayne
He didn't show a lot of speed in the first practice at Indianapolis Friday, but Bayne came to life a bit in Happy Hour Saturday, turning the 12th-fastest lap. He also qualified in the Top 20 for Sunday's race. Bayne has had mixed results in three previous starts at the Brickyard, but he did crack the Top 20 in the 2012 event. Another Top 20 isn't out of the question this weekend, making him a viable option in deeper formats. Bayne could make a particularly useful option in NASCAR.com Fantasy Live where he can be added at a very affordable price for the potential results.

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