Hamlin, Harvick Brickyard faves

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Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be the 16th race of the modified 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and 27th NASCAR race held on the most famous track in the world. There won’t be any practices or qualifying before the race, but we should have more than enough data to go off of to make some educated selections at the sportsbooks.

To begin the handicapping process, we have 10 races to reference that used the race package with 550 horsepower that will be employed Sunday and the most important results came last weekend in the two races at Pocono Raceway where Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin traded 1-2 finishes. Both of those guys have each won three times using this week’s race package. Any betting conversation regarding who is going to win starts with Hamlin and Harvick.

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I’ve created driver ratings and odds for every NASCAR race at Indianapolis since Jeff Gordon won the inaugural race there in 1994 and the main theme always has been “What happened at Pocono.” I always heard crew chiefs and drivers use the two tracks as a reference, so I used it myself and the trends always correlate.

Although Pocono is shaped like a triangle and has three differing corners while Indy has four equal corners shaped like a rectangle, where the two are similar is they both have the longest straightaways on the schedule requiring lots of horsepower and turn 2 at Pocono was modeled exactly like Indy.

The Brickyard 400 usually happens a month later after Pocono races in June and July and the notes always hold true despite running on different tracks in between. But this season we get the bonus of having just watched two Pocono races and seeing who the best drivers were. Harvick, Hamlin and Aric Almirola finished in the top-five of both Pocono races, and there’s a great chance they’ll do it again Sunday at Indy. But don’t expect to get 100-1 odds on Almirola the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted last week on him. He’s 30-1 this week.

It was apparent that Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing had the best set-ups and shared the information with all their drivers and crew chiefs. JGR had Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, and Hamlin finish in the top-6 on Saturday. Hamlin and Erik Jones were in the top-3 on Sunday. Clint Bowyer was eighth or better in both races joining teammates Harvick and Almirola with strong finishes.

Harvick comes in as the active Indy leader with an 8.9 average finish between his 19 starts, which includes two wins, the last coming in 2019. Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with four wins and the only other driver with multiple wins on the 2.5-mile layout is Kyle Busch. Of Hamlin’s 41 career wins, none have come at Indy, although he’s averaged a very respectable 12th-place finish during his 14 starts.

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