The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Long Pond, Pennsylvania this week for the Pennsylvania 400. There are only six races until the Chase. As NASCAR teams prepare for the playoffs, fantasy teams need to prepare to make the march to the top of their league standings. Be sure to test your knowledge of NASCAR by competing in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing.
The track known as "The Tricky Triangle" should be a little less tricky Sunday. The Sprint Cup Series just competed at the track two months ago and the drivers who ran well in that race should run up front this week. Here are the results from the June race at Pocono…
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The car setup for Pocono is similar to the setup needed in the last two races (New Hampshire and Indianapolis). The way I like to analyze the data for the second race at Pocono is to look at which drivers had the top average running position in the last three flat tracks (Pocono, New Hampshire and Indianapolis). These races often come down to fuel-mileage so only looking at race results does not show an accurate picture of which cars were strong in the race. Here are the drivers with the best average running position in the last three flat track races…
The races during the summer months are the hardest to predict because most of the tracks are not in the Chase. The teams with a win sometimes use these races to test out different setups for their cars. NASCAR teams usually get serious after the race at Indianapolis. The last thing a team wants to do is limp into the playoffs. Fantasy teams should expect the top teams to dominate at Pocono this week. This means the Joe Gibbs Racing cars (Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin) should be the cars to beat Sunday.
Track position is important at Pocono. Seven of the drivers who started in the top 10 in the June race also finished in the top 10. The best strategy this week is to take a combination of the fast cars that start in the top 10 and some of the cars from larger organizations who start deeper in the field. The scoring system for Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game rewards drivers who improve their position in the race more than the drivers who lead the most laps. Fantasy teams must capitalize on the bonus points for position differential in order to finish at the top of their league standings.
Pick to Win
Matt Kenseth($11,200) has been the best driver this season on the flat tracks. He finished seventh in the last race at Pocono, second last week at Indianapolis and won the race at New Hampshire. Kenseth has three consecutive finishes in the top 10 at Pocono, including a win in this race last season. Joe Gibbs Racing has had the fastest cars on the track this season and one of them should be in Victory Lane Sunday. My pick to win is Kenseth.
Kevin Harvick ($13,400) shows up at every race track with a car fast enough to win the race. The problem is that the team continues to make mistakes on pit road. Harvick has had a top-10 running position in the last three flat track races so his car is fast enough to run up front. The No. 4 car has led laps in four consecutive races at Pocono and Harvick has finished half of those races in the top two. If the pit crew can avoid making mistakes, Harvick should easily finish in the top five Sunday.
Brad Keselowski ($12,100) has cooled off after his back-to-back wins at Daytona and Kentucky. This could be the race where Keselowski gets back on track and competes for the win. There is no driver in the garage who can save fuel as well as Keselowski. This has been a good track for the Blue Deuce. Keselowski finished the last two races at Pocono in the top three. He should be one of the drivers running in the top five at the end of the race this week.
Kurt Busch($11,400) went to Victory Lane for the third time at Pocono only two months ago. Most drivers have a hard time figuring out the "Tricky Triangle" but Busch seems to have the track figured out. He has finished four of the last five races at the track in the top five. Busch will be one of the favorites to win Sunday.
Joey Logano ($10,300) is always one of the drivers to beat when the Sprint Cup Series travels to Pocono. The race Sunday will likely come down to who can save the most fuel and continue to run fast laps. The No. 22 car has the horsepower to stay up front and the fuel-mileage to make it to the end of the race. Logano has finished three of the last four races at the track in the top five. He should add another top-five finish to his resume this week.
Carl Edwards($9,600) is another Joe Gibbs racing driver to watch this week. Track position is very important at this track and Edwards is one of the best at starting up front. Edwards has qualified in the top 10 in nine of the last 11 races at the track. He finished eighth in the last race at Pocono and he had the sixth-best driver rating in the race. Edwards should easily finish in top 10 this week.
Value Picks (Drivers under $9,000)
Tony Stewart ($8,800) did not run well in the first race at Pocono but Stewart has been a rejuvenated driver since he won the race at Sonoma. He has a series-best average finishing position in the last six races (8.67). Stewart finished four of the last six races in the top 10. He has 21 finishes in the top 10, including two trips to Victory Lane at Pocono. Stewart is a great value pick this week.
Ryan Blaney ($7,400) has run well in his career at Pocono. He has the sixth-best average finishing position in the last five races at the track. In the June race he started 14th and finished 10th. Fantasy teams can expect similar results from the No. 21 car Sunday. Blaney would have a good chance to win this week if this race does come down to fuel-mileage. The Fords seem to be the best at saving fuel. Blaney is a good option for fantasy teams this week.
Jeff Gordon ($7,300) had a good but not great return to the sport last week at Indianapolis. He started the race 21st and finished 13th. I expect him to run even better this week. There is no doubt that Gordon will be a little behind the other drivers when the cars are unloaded Friday, but he has the third-best average finishing position and six trips to Victory Lane at Pocono. I am sure he will figure it out before the end of the race. Gordon is the best value pick in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game this week.