By: Tanner Watkins
July 19, 2019 | 8:00 AM
Well folks, it wasn’t my best effort in the official IndyCar fantasy game last week – but I will take a top-ten finish and move on to Iowa for some intense open-wheel short track action this Saturday night!
As a reminder, if you have yet to join our Open-Wheels league on Fantrax, make sure to do so before the season ends! There is tons of fun left in these final six races, so come on down.
Heading into this weekend’s race, we won’t be living off a statistical shortage: seven drivers have made at least 10 starts at Iowa, with 12 total veterans making five or more starts at the Newton track. There is certainly a scouting report for what will happen on Saturday – though we all know how unpredictable IndyCar can be at times.
Let’s check out the favorites to succeed this weekend, plus some sleeper picks that will serve as great value in your $100 salary line-up.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport ($28)
Only one active driver can say that they have won three times at Iowa Speedway, and that is Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Currently seventh in the points standings, Hunter-Reay will be desperately searching for a podium (at the very least) to inject any possible life into his championship hopes. Thankfully for RHR, the series travels to one of his best tracks this weekend – a place where he has an average finish of 8.36 and five podium finishes to accompany the three victories.
If Hunter-Reay wants to have any shot at bringing the championship fight into August, a strong run at Iowa must come first.
James Hinchcliffe, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ($25)
With his second Iowa triumph coming last July, Hinchcliffe has certainly built a respectable resume at the 7/8-mile oval. In seven starts, the Honda driver has two wins and six top-10 finishes to his name.
Furthermore, Hinchcliffe’s average finish position of 7.57 is even better than three-time winner Hunter-Reay’s, and trails only Josef Newgarden (7.00) in that category with drivers holding at least five starts at Iowa.
Sitting ninth in the championship, Hinchcliffe’s run at a title is essentially over – but that doesn’t mean another victory in the Iowa cornfields wouldn’t boost the No. 5 team’s spirits.
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske ($33)
If you select Josef Newgarden, he won’t come cheap – but that is like all weeks in this fantasy game. You get what you pay for, and right now, the championship leader will be motivated to find a strong finish.
Alexander Rossi is nipping on the Tennessee native’s heels, so a trip to Iowa is just what the doctor ordered for Newgarden. As mentioned above, he holds the best average finish of all active drivers with five-or-more starts at Iowa, and who could forget that dominant performance he showed in victory with Ed Carpenter Racing here just a few years ago?
Despite having just one victory, Newgarden leads all drivers in the laps led category at Iowa with an astounding 623 laps led. The next closest driver is veteran Tony Kanaan – who has made five more starts than Newgarden at Iowa – with 523 laps. The three-time winner in Hunter-Reay only has a total of 54 laps led!
In 2017, Newgarden savored these must-have moments on the way to a championship. He is going to need a clutch run on Saturday night to hold off some hard-charging contenders for one more week.
Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport ($25)
I went with Marco last week, and he netted a top-10 finish at Toronto. Perhaps the No. 98 team is starting to find a groove – and just in time. Iowa is one of the two tracks Andretti has a win at, and pretty good peripheral stats as well.
In 12 Iowa starts – tied with Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon for the most among all active drivers – Marco has a respectable average finishing position of 9.42. That is a full position better than where he qualifies at Iowa, and he has led this race a total of six times. Again, only Dixon and Kanaan can say they have done that, as well.
Since 2014, Iowa hasn’t been the kindest place to Andretti – with only one top-10 run in the last five starts, but this feels like an opportunity to turn that trend around this weekend.
At a price of $25 in the official Fantrax IndyCar fantasy game, Marco isn’t really a steal, but if you have the money left over then he could drive home another top-10 on Saturday.
Sage Karam, Carlin ($19)
This is a shot in the dark pick considering Carlin’s struggles this year, but bear with me.
Karam has shown growth this year despite less-than-stunning results. In May, he finished his first Indianapolis 500 since 2014’s rookie start, and again was running at the finish by the end of last week’s Toronto event. For a driver that hasn’t been short on talent, this is a step in the right direction.
And while Carlin was dreadful at Indianapolis, teammate Conor Daly did pick up an 11th-place finish at Texas in June. This will be Karam’s first run on an oval with Carlin, and it comes at a great time – Iowa is the home to Karam’s career-best finish in the NTT IndyCar Series, a third-place result in 2015.
Saturday night could end in a cloud of smoke for Carlin and Karam, but the ceiling is high as well. If you are strapped for cash at the end of your salary budget, Karam could be a great rental for this week.
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing ($25)
It seems as if Rahal is a potential sleeper pick each week – a driver that we wait for a true breakthrough for, though remains on the cusp for the meantime.
Rahal currently sits eighth in points – right between Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe – so it has been a strong season. Teammate Takuma Sato has been even better thus far – with a win, two poles, and sitting sixth in points – so the spotlight is on Rahal to break into the win column or grab a pole.
At Iowa, Rahal has 11 starts with an average finish of 8.91 – good for seventh overall out of the active drivers with at least five starts. What is most impressive, though, is that Rahal has been running at the finish in each of his 11 starts.
Only Dixon has been able to complete more races at Iowa, so it means that Rahal is sticking around for a chance at a respectable run. With eight top-10s to his resume at Iowa, the numbers certainly support that.
Could this be the weekend Rahal has his Iowa breakthrough? It could come as his first podium at the track, but a win would be far more satisfying at this point in the season.
And now, my picks for Saturday’s Iowa 300…
Tanner’s Fantasy Picks for Iowa
- Josef Newgarden, Team Penske ($33)
- Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport ($28)
- Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Racing ($19)
- Sage Karam, Carlin ($19)
Header image by Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.