The Sprint Cup Series heads to the Tricky Triangle in Long Pond, Penn. for the Axalta We Paint Winners 400 at Pocono Raceway. It’s the first of two stops at the track this season, with a second race coming on July 31 for the Pennsylvania 400.
In recent seasons Pocono has been dominated by Chevrolets. In fact, six of the past seven winners have been from that manufacturer, with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth ($9,800) as the lone Toyota to break up the streak last August at the most recent event. Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300), who won the spring event in a Chevy last season, is coming off a victory at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte and will be a popular Fantasy and DFS selection this weekend. Hendrick Motorsports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,300) swept both events in 2014, his only two career wins at the track, and will also be a popular pick.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses)
In fact, Dale Jr. checks in second according to NASCAR’s Loop Data in terms of Driver Rating at Pocono with a 110.7 mark. Despite the two victories, he still has turned just 27 laps out front over the past five stops at the track, running 78.8 percent of his laps in the Top 15. Still, his 4.4 Average-Finish Position (AFP) is hard to ignore.
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano ($10,000) might be primed and ready for his second-ever Pocono win. Over the past five races he leads all drivers with 127 laps led and 81.3 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15. With a 104.7 Driver Rating, his numbers are as impressive as any, and building around he and teammate Brad Keselowski ($9,100) is a very sound Fantasy strategy. Unfortunately you can only use a Penske 1-2 strategy in NASCAR’s Fantasy Live and DraftKings, as Yahoo! Sports has both listed as A-list drivers.
Surprisingly, over the past five races it is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch ($9,400) who leads in Driver Rating at 111.9, pacing 57 laps with 79.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has not won at the track since August 2007, but he does have two career wins with 12 Top 5s, 16 Top 10s and 506 laps led in 29 career starts with a respectable 15.1 AFP. He might end his 10-year drought with a victory this weekend.
Busch’s teammate, Kevin Harvick ($10,400), is the highest salaried driver on the board this weekend. He ranks fifth in Driver Rating over the past five stops, and while he has never won at the Tricky Triangle, he has seven Top 5s, 25 Top 20s and a 14.2 AFP in 30 career starts, sixth-best among drivers with at least five career starts. Harvick hasn’t won at Long Pond, but he always seems to be in the mix.
For awhile, JGR’s Denny Hamlin ($9,200) was the gold standard at Pocono. The team just had it figured out and he raced to four wins from June 2006 to 2010. He hasn’t been back to Victory Lane at the track since June 2010, however, and he is just 10th in Driver Rating over the past five stops at 87.4. His overall 12.3 AFP in 20 starts is nice, and he has finished 10th or better in 13 of his 20 career races at the track. Despite some lean times at the track lately, Hamlin is always a threat.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson ($8,700) is a driver everyone feels is on the brink. The multi-talented driver always seems to be in the mix lately, he just cannot get over the hump. He showed well at the Sprint Showdown during the All-Star festivities, winning that race before turning in 13 of the fastest laps at the All-Star race. He was a runner-up in Dover and 13th in Charlotte, and he has continued to trend upward. In four career starts at Pocono he has a 95.1 Driver Rating, and he has never finished lower than 12th, posting two Top 10s and a fifth-place finish.
Pocono is another track Hendrick’s Jimmie Johnson ($10,100) has excelled, posting three wins, 11 Top 5s, 19 Top 10s and 26 Top 20s in 28 career starts, posting just one DNF with a stellar 9.5 AFP, leading all drivers. He also has 738 laps led to lead all drivers, just ahead of Hamlin’s 669 and Kurt Busch’s 506.
Kyle Busch ($10,200) is on the outside of the Top 10 in terms of Driver Rating in the past five stops at Pocono. He hasn’t had many good memories at the track, posting just four Top 5s and eight Top 10s in 22 career starts with a mediocre 18.4 AFP. He have watched Rowdy exorcise demons at other tracks like Martinsville and Kansas earlier this season. While career numbers at tracks cannot be completely discounted, Busch can never be completely ignored even if the track doesn’t seem to be one of his best.
You’ll need some low-priced drivers for your DFS lineup, and Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman ($7,100) should be at the top of your list among the lower-tier drivers. He is a on a hot streak lately, posting a 10th at Charlotte, 16th at Dover and seventh in Kansas. Add that to the fact he has a win, nine Top 5s and 14 Top 10s in 28 career starts with a 12.8 AFP, and Newman is tremendously attractive from a Fantasy perspective across all formats.
Newman’s former teammate Tony Stewart ($7,500) is also somewhat attractive. While he doesn’t have the recent success on track like Newman, he has dominated at Pocono over the years. He has won twice, posted 12 Top 5s and been outside the Top 10 just 11 times in 34 career starts, posting a 12.0 AFP which is second to Jimmie Johnson among those drivers with at least five career starts under their belt in Long Pond.
Danica Patrick ($6,200) hasn’t even come close to figuring it out at Pocono, posting a 30.7 AFP in six attempts, so avoid her as your No. 5 or 6 driver in all formats. Matt DiBenedetto ($5,500) has been a feel-good story this season, but he has been poor at Pocono, posting a 29th- and 32nd-place finish. Landon Cassill ($5,900) has made 11 attempts at the track with very little success. He has just one Top 20 finish, and a 31.0 AFP. Trevor Bayne ($6,400) has only a 24th- and 40th-place showing to his name, and he too should be avoided.
Ty Dillon ($6,000) will be in the No. 95 this weekend, and he could be a sleeper. He posted an 18th-place finish in his only previous attempt at Pocono. Michael Annett ($4,900) is attractive due to his low price, and he has a 24th-place finish in two tries here. If you’re going to gamble on a salary saver, Annett is better than most.
NASCAR FANTASY LINEUPS FOR POCONO
|No.||Driver||DraftKings Salary||No.||Driver||Fantasy Live Salary||No.||Yahoo! Sports Driver|
|1||Jimmie Johnson||$10,100||1||Brad Keselowski||$26.25||1||Joey Logano|
|2||Joey Logano||$10,000||2||Joey Logano||$26.00||2||Kyle Larson|
|3||Brad Keselowski||$9,100||3||Ryan Newman||$21.25||3||Ryan Newman|
|4||Kyle Larson||$8,700||4||Kyle Larson||$20.75||4||Ty Dillon|
|5||Ryan Newman||$7,100||5||Michael Annett||$5.00|