NASCAR Picks for Pocono
Length: 2.500 miles
Location: Long Pond, Pennsylvania
The Cup Series makes a stop at Pocono Raceway this weekend. While racing at the track is often knocked for being boring, Pocono is actually one of the more challenging tracks for drivers and teams. The 2.5-mile, triangle-shaped track has a layout all its own. Thanks to its massive straightaways and flat and sweeping corners, finding a comfortable setup is tough. Worse yet, the corners at Pocono vary so greatly that adjustments that help a car handle in one set of turns can often hurt the handling in another set of turns. Throw in the fact that fuel mileage often becomes a factor at Pocono, and (while racing on the track doesn't always look intense) the drivers behind the wheel aren't exactly enjoying an easy Sunday drive.
From a fantasy standpoint, Pocono is a track that can require a lot of roster adjustments. Not surprisingly, the track's unique layout has treated certain drivers better than others, and several big names have posted mediocre numbers at Pocono in their careers. More importantly, momentum doesn't seem to mean as much at the track. For example, Tony Stewart has limped into Pocono mired in slumps on multiple occasions throughout his career, only to emerge with a top-five finish. On the flip side, Matt Kenseth was the hottest driver in the series for much of last year, but when he showed up at Pocono, he had the same mediocre results he has always had at the track. Take the time to cater your lineup specifically to Pocono this weekend. It will be well worth the effort.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race and a three-time winner at Pocono overall. Meanwhile, his 8.8 average finish at the track is the best among active drivers. Johnson never seems to have a bad run at Pocono; in fact, Johnson has reeled off 13-straight top-15 finishes at the track and (more importantly) he has seven top-five finishes during the stretch (including four finishes of fourth or better in his last six starts).
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon has dominated several tracks in his career, and Pocono is one of his best. He is a six-time winner at the triangle-shaped track, and his 10.0 average finish is the second best in the series. Gordon also has five top-six finishes in his last seven starts at Pocono, picking up two wins during the stretch and a second-place run last summer.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Since picking up his first win at Pocono in June of 2012, Logano has been on a tear at the track. He has four-straight top-15 finishes, posting a 7.8 average finish during the stretch. Last year, Logano finished 10th and seventh in two starts at Pocono in his first two starts at the track with Team Penske.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Junior has yet to win at Pocono, but he has been inching closer the last couple of years. He has notched five top-10s in his last six starts at the track, and last year, he finished third in the June event and fifth in the August race. In fact, Junior was one of only two drivers to finish in the top five in both races at the track in 2013.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
While Pocono has never been Harvick's best track, he has been a reliable option at the track. He has seven top-15s in his last nine starts at Pocono, and his worst finish during the stretch is 17th. Throw in the fact that he has been one of the strongest drivers in the series in 2014, and Harvick should be in for one of his better runs at the track.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Entering Sunday's race, Keselowski has compiled a 9.0 average finish in the last five races at Pocono. More importantly, he has shown a knack for contending for wins during the stretch. Keselowski has three finishes of sixth or better in the last five races at the track, including a win in the fall of 2011.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Hamlin was unstoppable at Pocono when he first joined the Cup Series, logging four wins and eight top-six finishes in his first 10 starts at the track. He hasn't been nearly as consistent in recent years, but he shouldn't be written off. After all, he has finishes of eighth and fifth in his last two starts in the June race, and his 165 laps led in the last six races at Pocono are the second most in the series.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
After struggling a bit at Pocono early in his career, it appears Busch has figured out the track. He has five top-10s in his last eight starts at Pocono, notching three top-three finishes during the stretch. Last year, he finished in the top 10 in both races at the track. Busch is still searching for his first win at Pocono, but in the meantime he has established himself as a solid option at the track.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
While his overall resume at Pocono isn't overly consistent, it's hard to overlook what Kahne has accomplished at the track in recent years. He won the August race last year, giving him two wins at Pocono since 2008. More importantly, he has a pair of top-two finishes in his last three starts at the track. He offers fantasy owners a ton of upside this weekend.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
With 42 of his 48 wins coming after May 31, Stewart is famous for catching fire in the summer, and many of his hot streaks have started at Pocono. He is a two-time winner at the track, and his 11.0 average finish is the third best in the series. Stewart has finished 11th or better in 10 of his last 11 starts at Pocono, notching seven top-five finishes during the stretch.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
If you are looking for a safe pick this weekend, Newman is definitely a driver to target. After all, he has reeled off 11-straight top-15 finishes at Pocono, and he has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six starts at the track. In fact, Newman has three-straight top-six finishes at Pocono, including back-to-back top-five efforts, so he has been flashing some upside to go along with his reliability.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is a two-time winner at Pocono for his career, and Busch has remained consistent at the track despite driving for several different teams in recent years. He has six top-10 finishes in his last eight starts at Pocono (including finishes of seventh and third last year while driving for Furniture Row Racing). Meanwhile, Busch actually has three top-three finishes in his last five starts at the track, so he has plenty of upside this weekend.