By: Tanner Watkins
March 21, 2019 | 3:00 PM
With first practice for the inaugural INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas going green tomorrow morning, you still have plenty of time to submit fantasy picks in the IndyCar Fantasy Challenge! If you don’t already have a league, check out the Open-Wheels.com league by clicking this link. Join the fun, invite your friends and ignite that competitive spirit!
Last week, I will be the first to admit that things didn’t go so hot for my team – Hinch’s Dirty Firesuit. I placed 14th out of the 15 teams in the league thus far, but hope is easy to conjure up early in the season! Just like Ryan Hunter-Reay – who I spent a pick on last week – there is more than enough time to turn around a championship effort after a bad first race.
Since there are only four slots you can fill in the official IndyCar Fantasy Challenge presented by Fantrax, I will just pick four drivers inside the $100 dollar limit. Additionally, there is little track record to rely on regarding past performance for the current crop of IndyCar stars since we have never raced at COTA, so this week’s picks will come from the gut!
Okay, lets not put this off any longer! Here are my picks for the first-ever INDYCAR Classic from Circuit of the Americas.
I mentioned above that there will be little in the way of statistical evidence to back up anyone’s picks this week, but there are a few drivers with some experience racing at the 20-turn Austin, Texas circuit. Alexander Rossi is one of them.
Sure, the Andretti Autosport driver has only one start at COTA in Formula One competition – a 12th back in 2015 – but Rossi and his crew grinded their way through a challenging St. Petersburg weekend where they didn’t have their best stuff and picked up a top-five finish.
If Rossi’s goal for 2019 was to eliminate the awful finishes even on days when the No. 27 team isn’t at their best, he passed the first real test in the season opener when things could have gone awry. Look for Rossi to be quick out of the gate when practice opens on Friday.
I’m really going out on a limb here, right? When in doubt, it is always a comfortable pick to go with the five-time, reigning series champion in Scott Dixon.
While Dixie doesn’t have any racing experience at Circuit of the Americas, the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda got stronger as the race progressed in St. Petersburg – even while Dixon had to run the full 110 laps without fluids.
Last season, Chip Ganassi Racing struggled out of the gate finding balance in the road and street course package. Mike Hull and crew found a little something at the INDYCAR Grand Prix in Indianapolis last May, and they have been clicking ever since. I think Dixon can click again this weekend.
While Felix Rosenqvist stole the headlines in the breakout Swedish rookie category, Marcus Ericsson was having a solid race of his on in St. Petersburg before a mechanical failure ended the No. 7’s run prematurely. After starting the race 18th on the grid, Ericsson had worked
Being a former Formula One competitor, Ericsson also has experience racing at Circuit of the Americas – even more than Rossi, actually. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie has four career starts in Austin, registering a best finish of 10th last October for Alfa Romeo Sauber.
Taking the law of averages plus his prior experience into account, Ericsson should have a run at the top ten once again when it comes down to the nitty gritty on Sunday afternoon.
Last but not least, how could we leave out rookie Pato O’Ward?
Yes, the Mexico native has never raced – or tested – at Circuit of the Americas. Yes, he missed the season opener in Florida after his original full-season deal with Harding Steinbrenner Racing fell out. And yes, Carlin hasn’t quite blown the doors off of anyone since they entered IndyCar full-time last year. Taking all of that into account, there is one thing you can’t dispute: this kid can flat out drive.
O’Ward finally got back in the driver’s seat last week when he tested at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, and surely he will be working the rust off when first practice opens on Friday. But at a cost of just $15 in the Fantrax IndyCar Fantasy Challenge, this is a pick with low risk and high reward potential.
While the Andretti assistance at last year’s Sonoma season finale certainly helped spark O’Ward’s breakout debut, if Carlin can just get the car close, a top ten could be in the cards for the reigning Indy Lights champion.
So there you have it – those are my four picks on the road to redemption after a lackluster first race of the season. Who are you banking on to either get you back on
Tanner’s fantasy picks for the
INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas
- Scott Dixon ($32, Chip Ganassi Racing)
- Alexander Rossi ($31, Andretti Autosport)
- Marcus Ericsson ($21, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports)
- Patricio O’Ward ($15, Carlin)
Header image by Stephen King/INDYCAR.