Jimmie Johnson races during the Southern 500 on Sept. 1 (Richard Shiro)
Jimmie Johnson races during the Southern 500 on Sept. 1 (Richard Shiro)|Associated Press

NASCAR Sunday - The Eckel Three on the Big Machine Vodka 400, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson

Mark Eckel

Big Machine Vodka 400

Indianapolis, 2 p.m.

The first week of the NFL’s regular season coincides with the final week of NASCAR’s regular season, as the circuit heads to Indy.

With the playoff field to be set at the end of Sunday’s race the storyline is on the four drivers battling for the final two spots in the 16-man field.

Here’s a quick look:

♦ Clint Bowyer sits in 15th place with 626 points. He comes in with two top 10 finishes his last two races (Darlington and Bristol), so basically if he runs a good race he’s in the playoffs.

♦ Daniel Suarez sits in 16th place with 617 points. He’s only raced at “The Brickyard’’ twice and his best finish was 17th. So he needs a good showing to say above the line.

♦ Ryan Newman is tied in points with Suarez at 617, but sits below him in the playoff chase. He’s driven 18 times at Indy, with three top fives and five top 10s. He’s going to need his best race Sunday.

♦ Jimmie Johnson is in 18th place with 599 points. You know the story. He’s a seven-time champ. He’s never missed the playoffs since this format began in 2004. H’s also won at Indy four times ad has six top fives and seven top 10s.

Here’s the selections, with help of course from Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker and Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney for Sunday’s winner, top 3, top 5 and your fantasy teams.

Brad Keselowski (10-1): It was basically a unanimous selection that BK, who won here in 2018 becomes the first repeat winner since Johnson did so in 2008-09. It would also be his fourth win of the season moving him into a tie with Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, and Denny Hamlin.

Kyle Busch (3-1): The odds are terrible, but they only thins worse than picking the favorite, is not picking him and then watching him win. Busch could do just that. He’s won here twice, including a win as recent as 2016. A win would be his fifth of the year, more than anyone else in 2019.

Kurt Busch (20-1): Kyle’s big brother has never won here, his best finish is 5th. But Chevys seem to dominate at Indy (17 wins in 24 races; 13 of past 16), so he might have a shot Sunday.

Here are two longshot plays courtesy of “Tobacco Road’’ and “Left Turn’’.

William Byron (40-1) and Clint Bowyer (40-1).



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