NASCAR fantasy picks for Pocono
Length: 2.500 miles
Location: Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Coming off Brad Keselowski's win at Kansas Speedway, Fantasy owners have probably had just about enough of fuel mileage races these days. Unfortunately, the schedule has the Cup Series heading to Pocono Raceway this weekend – a track famous for fuel mileage finishes. Like it or not, owners will have to be prepared to see the running order once again jumbled in the closing laps.
The 2.5-mile triangle-shaped track is one the trickiest on the schedule and is notorious for difficult passing conditions. Expect crew chiefs to be working multiple pit strategies throughout the afternoon, including short pitting, in order to get their drivers in clean air. As big as Pocono is and as high as the speeds can get, the race often comes to smart decisions rather than a fast car.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Hamlin is hitting his stride just in time for a trip to his best track. He is a four-time winner at Pocono, and his 8.2 average finish is the best in the series. Hamlin has finished sixth or better in eight of his 10 starts at the track, and only a cut tire and an engine failure have stopped him from having even better numbers.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He has a pair of wins at Pocono in his career, and his 9.6 average finish is the second best among active drivers. Johnson has been the model of consistency at Pocono, finishing in the top 15 in 17 of his 18 starts. In his last seven starts, he has finished in the top 10 on six occasions.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
With summer rolling in, fantasy owners should expect Stewart to start heating up. He is a two-time winner at Pocono, and he has finished inside the top 10 in 10 of his last 11 starts at the track. Stewart finished second and third at the tricky triangle last season and has finished third or better in four of his last five starts.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
The two-time Pocono winner has been contending for wins at the track on a regular basis lately. Edwards has finished third or better in three of his last five starts, including a third-place finish last August. The Ford engines have been on the mark this season, and that extra power should be crucial down Pocono's massive straightaways.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His last win at Pocono came in 2007, but that hasn't stopped Gordon from being one of the more consistent performers at the track. He has finished in the top 15 in eight of his last nine starts, including seven top-10 finishes. Fantasy owners should know by now that while Gordon may not win, he can still be a valuable fantasy contributor.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Pocono was never Harvick's strongest track, but he flipped a switch last season. He finished fourth in both events in 2010, and as well as he has been running in 2011, Harvick could end up in Victory Lane this weekend. At any rate, he should deliver another solid finish for fantasy owners.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Newman is a former winner at Pocono, and he has been a reliable option at the track throughout his career. He has finished inside the top 20 in his last 11 starts, finishing in the top 15 in nine of those starts. Newman should have a good shot at a top-10 run this weekend.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He only has one top-five finish at Pocono, but Bowyer has delivered plenty of solid runs. He has finished inside the top 15 in seven of his last eight starts, including five straight. Bowyer isn't a threat to win this weekend, but he does deserve consideration from fantasy owners.
Juan Montoya, #42 Target, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing [Yahoo Class C]
A problem on pit road cost him a shot at the win at Pocono last season, but the 2.5-mile track has been kind to him in recent years. He has finished 16th or better in his last four starts, including three finishes of eight or better. Montoya isn't the most consistent option in the field, but he has top five upside this weekend.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He has finished in the top 15 in five of his last six starts at Pocono, and although he has just one top-10 finish during that stretch, that top-10 run was a victory in the summer last season. While he hasn't been a consistent top-10 threat at the track, there is nothing wrong with gambling on a proven top-15 driver that is coming off a win last season.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has had his share of awful outings at Pocono, but mixed in between have been some elite performances. Busch has a pair of wins and three runner-up efforts at the track in his career, and he has a pair of top-10 finishes in his last three starts. Busch finally looked like a contender last weekend at Kansas, which could be the start of a turnaround.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Fuel mileage has played a big part in his recent success, but Pocono has seen plenty of fuel mileage races over the years. Junior's numbers at the track haven't been great, but the same can be said about his numbers at just about every track lately. It's time for fantasy owners to buy in.