Fantasy IndyCar Picks: 2018 Kohler Grand Prix at Road America

Four drivers. $100. Here’s a quick look at Single Seater’s Fantasy IndyCar picks for the 2018 Kohler Grand Prix.

Penske secured a front row lockout in qualifying of Josef Newgarden and Will Power. Newgarden was fastest in two of the three practice sessions and it carried over into the qualifying session as he won his third pole of the season.

Here’s the expected points table for Sunday’s race. If you aren’t sure what expected points are, check out this post first. There are a few tweaks to the model for this week’s race because IndyCar hasn’t raced at Road America enough in recent years to get accurate data for enough drivers. So Road America performance has been supplemented for this race with average finishing position on road courses in general:

In Brief

Scott Dixon has the highest expected points for the race despite his fourth row start. He has been on a great run so far this year with two wins and six top-fives in nine races. Dixon’s average finish on road and street courses is 5.0 as well, which shows in his price. He’s the highest cost driver with a price of $34.

The pole-sitter is third in expected points at 25.8 and comes at a cost of $29, the fourth most expensive of any driver. Rossi will start fourth on the grid with 26.4 expected points. At $32 he is an expensive but worthy pick at Road America if you can afford him.

Further down the grid are Andretti and Hinchcliffe who rank high in expected points but aren’t in the top tier of cost. They will start side by side in Row 8 with comparable expected points values both in the 21 range. The five drivers starting directly ahead of them all have lower expected points.

The Single Seater’s Picks

Using our expected points model, here is the optimal lineup for $100 or less that maximizes expected points with four drivers: 
This is my team for the week! Let me know which drivers you decide to go with in the comments. If you have any Fantasy IndyCar questions, you can leave a comment below or send them at me on Twitter. Best of luck in your leagues this week!

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Photo courtesy of Chris Jones/IndyCar

by Drew

Power Has Been Incredible – When He’s Been on Track

Will Power is third place in the championship right now. In a typical year this wouldn’t be surprising, but considering that he has failed to finish three of the nine races so far this season, this is an amazing feat.

With 321 points, he sits just 13 points shy of second place Rossi and 46 back from the championship leader Dixon. So how’s he doing it?

First, let’s address the DNFs. In the three races Power didn’t complete, he finished 22nd, 21st, and 18th. Those results gave him a combined 32 points or 10 percent of his total points through nine races. This means he has averaged 48 points in the other six races! Even once you account for Indianapolis’ double points, that’s still an average of over 40 points per race – this is equivalent to a second place finish.

Power has been on an absolute tear in the races he has finished this year. Despite completing only 85.8% of the laps run, the least of any driver in the top ten, he is third in the championship. In the races he completes, he is averaging a finish of 3.8. In those same races, he has never finished outside of the top ten and has four podiums.

One way to gauge how efficient a driver is on track is by looking at their points/100 laps. The best drivers who have consistently strong results will usually have a high value for this stat. A driver who DNFs a lot but is very good when he’s on track will also have a high points/100 laps. That is the benefit of looking at efficiency in this way–it equalizes drivers who have completed many laps with those who have not. 

Power has the highest value for this stat out of the entire field:

Power’s points/100 laps value of 31.2 is a full point ahead of Dixon’s, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this means Power has been better than Dixon overall: Power would very much rather be in Dixon’s shoes right now with the championship lead. What it does mean however is that we would expect Power to have a stronger second half of the season (in terms of points scored) than the first half. He has been driving superbly when he’s had the chance to, and that shows in his per 100 lap efficiency.

Power has not had a knack for racking up DNFs throughout his career. In the last ten seasons, the most DNFs Power has had in a season is four in 2017. The odds are he won’t have as many DNFs in the remaining seven races as he had in the first nine, meaning he’ll have more time to be on track and generate high points-returning finishes.

Look for Power to make a second-half season push towards the top spot on the championship table with the way he has been driving.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Owens/IndyCar

by Drew

Fantasy IndyCar Review for the Indy 500

Single Seater’s Fantasy picks for the Indy 500 scored a respectable 490 points on Sunday. The team was hurt by spins from front-runners Castroneves, Patrick, and Bourdais. They were one of the eight drivers caught up in wrecks during the race. Despite these wrecks, our picks had the podium finishers in the lineup as well as Pagenaud and Munzo who both made the optimal lineup for max points below.

The optimal lineup for the 2018 Indy 500, for $495, was as follows:

  • Carpenter – 92 points
  • Pagenaud – 65
  • Power – 108
  • Leist – 34
  • Hunter-Reay – 61
  • Wickens – 45
  • Dixon – 71
  • Rossi – 65 
  • Hildebrand – 38
  • Munoz – 53
This is the best ten-car lineup you could have selected for the race. This set of drivers scored 632 points on Sunday, meaning Single Seater’s picks scored 77.5% of the maximum points they could have. Not a bad outing for the first run of our model. 

I don’t plan on changing anything with our model just yet, and I’m excited to see how it does in both of the Detroit races. As of right now, I’m planning on doing one set of picks for both Duel in Detroit races, but that may change as the weekend comes closer and I think about it more.

Let me know how your Indy 500 picks did in the comments!

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Photo courtesy of Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

by Drew

I Think I Can Go Another Lap: Tire Wear at the Indy 500

All of the top finishers at this year’s Indy 500 stopped five times for fuel and tires throughout the 200 lap race. Most drivers came in around Lap 30-34 for their initial stop since the first caution didn’t come out until Lap 48 when Sato ran into the back of a slow moving Davison. Since this first stint was run completely under green, I wanted to use it to evaluate the tires at the race.

I chose to use the top three finishers of the race–Power, Carpenter, and Dixon–for my analysis for two reasons. First, since getting the data into the format I needed took a bit of leg-work, it’s simpler to limit the number of drivers I use. And second, since they performed the best on Sunday, I thought it would be interesting to see how the tires worked for them especially.

Both Power and Dixon ran 32 lap stints while Carpenter ran one lap less before pitting for the first time. Here is a graph of all three of their lap times for every lap of their first stint, not including the in-lap.

From a first look at the graph, it appears tire wear wasn’t too bad for most of the stint. There were fluctuations from lap to lap as is to be expected as drivers deal with passing other cars or get into the draft, but overall it is a fairly straight line for the first 25 laps of the stint. After that there appears to be a significant dropoff over the course of the next few laps before drivers came in to pit.

Taking a deeper dive into the data yields the same conclusion. Below is a table of the average dropoff in average lap speed compared to the average speed of Lap 2. The second lap was chosen because it was the first full speed lap for the field.

By Lap 20, the tires were on average 2 mph slower than they were on Lap 2. I would personally consider this fairly good tire wear for the 2.5 mile oval, particularly because many people were unsure how this new aero kit would react around Indy both in terms of downforce and tire wear. While there were complaints from the drivers about downforce levels and passing, the field generally seemed pretty content with the tire wear.

After Lap 23 or so tire wear really started to kick in and by Lap 25 the tires were losing nearly 3 mph off of their peak performance. Two laps before Dixon and Power came in and one lap before Carpenter came in the tires were losing 5 mph. Dixon, historically good with tire and fuel use, had the smallest dropoff of this sample of drivers. This could also have been a product of track position too, though. The leaders were catching the tail end of the field at this time and had to deal with overtaking lap cars, so it’s likely some of the disparity in their lap speeds is due to this and not simply just tire management. That is why I chose to look at a group of drivers and not just one.

What we learn from looking at this data is that overall the tires wore pretty well at Indy. They had a minimal dropoff for the first 22 laps of the stint and then a few tenths of a mile an hour per lap after that. The two laps before the end of the stint saw a much larger dropoff than other laps and it signaled to the driver it was time to come in.

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Photo courtesy of Richard Dowdy/IndyCar

by Drew