NASCAR Picks for Pocono
Length: 2.500 miles
Location: Long Pond, Pennsylvania
It has only been a couple of months since the Cup Series visited Pocono Raceway, but a return trip to the triangle-shaped track is already on tap this weekend. Granted, track conditions can change substantially from the June race, but the overall strategy that teams will employ will remain largely unchanged. After all, the sweeping, flat turns and uniquely-shaped corners aren't going anywhere, and passing at Pocono is always difficult no matter what month it is. As a result, crew chiefs will be playing the track position game all afternoon and will be using a variety of tire and fuel strategies to try to put their drivers in position to win.
While pit strategy often decides which drivers end up in victory lane, it doesn't mean that Sunday's race is a complete crapshoot. Certain drivers just seem to have a better feel for Pocono's unique layout, and while these drivers don't always win, they do have a tendency to end up with a solid finish, even if pit strategy doesn't play out in their favor. With that in mind, anchoring fantasy rosters with a couple of Pocono experts is the best way to set up for a successful trip to the "Tricky Triangle."
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
He was cruising to a win at Pocono in June when a piece of trash got stuck on his grill and forced him to give up the lead in order to avoid overheating. Despite the bad luck, Keselowski still has four finishes of sixth or better in his last six starts at the track, including a win. Throw in the fact that he has been dominant at flat tracks in 2014, and Keselowski could certainly get the win that was stolen from him a couple of months ago.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
A pit road issue cost him a chance at a better finish at Pocono in June, but Johnson still rallied for a sixth-place finish. Meanwhile, his 8.6 average finish in the last 20 races at the track is the best in the series, and he hasn't finished outside the Top 15 in his last 14 starts at the track. During the stretch, he has finished in the Top 10 in 11 races.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he benefited a bit from Brad Keselowski's bad luck when he won at Pocono in June, Junior was heading to a second-place finish either way. Meanwhile, he has finished in the Top 10 in six of his last seven starts at Pocono and has finished in the Top 5 in his last three starts at the track. A sweep at Pocono is a real possibility this weekend.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon has been excellent at Pocono in general, and he has been even better in the August event. His 9.6 average finish at the track over the past 20 races is the third best in the series, and he has cracked the Top 10 in his last eight starts in the August race, finishing sixth or better in his last four starts.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He is a four-time winner at Pocono, and Hamlin had a Top 5 car throughout the June race earlier this year, eventually finishing fourth. Overall, he has 11 Top-10s in 17 starts at the track, including nine Top-5 finishes. Hamlin swept both races at Pocono in his rookie season, and he remains one of the top options at the track.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Stewart arguably had the car to beat at Pocono in June, but he threw away a potential win with a late speeding penalty. Still, he has 11 Top-15s in his last 12 starts at Pocono, including six straight. During the stretch, he has nine Top-10 finishes, including seven Top-5 finishes.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
A pit road mishap cost Harvick a top-five finish in the June race at Pocono, but he did manage to rally for a Top-15. He has also been one the more consistent drivers at the track lately, compiling a 10.9 average finish in his last 10 starts at the track. During the stretch, he hasn't finished worse than 17th, and he has logged eight Top-15 finishes.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Pocono has always been one of Busch's best tracks, and in addition to his two wins, he has been in enjoying one of his best stretches at the track the past few years. He has five finishes of seventh or better in his last six starts at Pocono, including three straight. During the stretch, he has four Top-3 finishes, including back-to-back third-place finishes.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Newman has been one of the most reliable options at Pocono for a while now. His 10.8 average finish at the track in the last 20 races is the fifth best in the series, and he has reeled off 12 straight Top-15 finishes. In fact, Newman has reeled off eight straight Top-12 finishes at Pocono, including four straight finishes of seventh or better. He is one of the safest picks available this weekend.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
An engine failure ended his afternoon early in the June race at Pocono, but Logano has been piling up solid finishes at the track otherwise. He has four Top-15s in his last five starts at the track, and during the stretch, he has three Top-10s, including a win. Expect him to bounce back from his June issues in a big way.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He can be a little hot and cold at Pocono, but Busch's ability to pile up strong finishes is undeniable. In his last nine starts at the track, he has three finishes outside the Top 20, but he also has six Top-12s, including three straight. Busch also has three Top-three finishes during the stretch, so his upside is undeniable, even if it comes with a little risk.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
While he has managed only one Top-five finish in 17 total starts at Pocono, Bowyer has been a reliable option at the track. He has reeled off 12 straight Top-20 finishes at Pocono, and during the stretch, he has 10 Top-15s, including five straight. Bowyer won't carry a fantasy team this weekend, but he should make a solid addition.