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FANTASY CHALLENGE BREAKDOWN: Long Beach

With the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach less than a week away, the focus for Firestone Fantasy Challenge players has changed.

In direct variance to St. Petersburg, Florida, a case for having Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato as one of the drivers has improved. Although the jury is out on whether or not the Japanese veteran can manage to keep his nose out of trouble, his fifth-place finish earned him followers for Long Beach. According to IndyCar.com, Sato is currently a member of more fantasy teams than any other driver.

The St.Pete result is not the only reason to like Sato. His lone Verizon IndyCar Series victory came four years ago at Long Beach. He also finished fifth last year in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with a A.J. Foyt Racing team that on paper is lower in potential output than Andretti Autosport can provide. Finally, when you consider his current value of twenty dollars, represents only one-fifth of a maximum team budget, even yours truly has officially joined the bandwagon.

With Sato, my fantasy roster remains largely unchanged since St. Pete. The top spot once again goes to Team Penske’s Will Power, perhaps the best road racer in IndyCar since 2008. The Australian is deserving of a second chance after suffering mechanical issues.

Although teammate Simon Pagenaud seems to be a better fantasy option following his second-place effort at St. Pete and Long Beach win last year, the lower price tag for Power provides me more flexibility. That wiggle room allowed me to call upon St. Pete winner Sebastien Bourdais for the second straight event. While the fantasy price for the Dale Coyne Racing pilot has been upped to $27, he must gain a better place on the starting grid. Although a Firestone Fast Six advancement may not be required, Bourdais cannot solely rely on lucky breaks to secure victories as he did last month.

Rounding out this week is Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot, who was the most aggressive driver in the opening laps in March. He could have challenged for a top-ten result, if not for a fluke suspension failure suffered during his first pit stop. If Pigot can make the finish in the top half at Long Beach, chances are that his fantasy value will increase from $17. 

Stay tuned every IndyCar race week at PopularSpeed.com for my Firestone Fantasy Challenge picks.

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By Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

A major follower of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Matt has attended six previous Indianapolis 500s and rates Tony Kanaan's long awaited victory in the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as his favorite memory.

Outside of following auto racing, Matt is an avid fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletics program and can often be seen at home games throughout the season or running the audio controls on several ND-related radio programs. A native of Springboro, Ohio, Matt now resides in Mishawaka, Indiana.