NASCAR Picks for Pocono
Length: 2.500 miles
Location: Long Pond, Pennsylvania
The Sprint Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, and while the 2.5-mile, triangle-shaped track has been accused of producing boring racing, fantasy owners probably shouldn't complain. After all, the drivers that were supposed to perform well at the track in June lived up to expectations for the most part. Starting with Jimmie Johnson's dominating win, the drivers with the top-seven average finishes at the track all finished in the top 12 with six cracking the top 10. Meanwhile, the four other drivers that notched top-10 finishes were Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Greg Biffle so it's not like there were any major surprises at the front of the field. Boring or not, fantasy owners should be hoping for a repeat performance this weekend. When all the big names run well, it is usually good news for fantasy owners.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He was already the most consistent driver in the series at Pocono heading into the season, and Johnson's dominant victory at the track in June only cemented his status as the top option. His 8.5 average finish at Pocono is the best among active drivers, and he has finished fourth or better four times in his last five starts at the track, including his win earlier this year. Johnson is a three-time winner at Pocono overall, and that total could jump to four with a season sweep this weekend.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His 10.5 average finish at Pocono is the second best in the series, and Hamlin is as good as any driver when it comes to running up front at the track. In 15 starts, he has finished sixth or better nine times. More importantly, he has made four trips to victory lane at the track and only Jimmie Johnson has led more laps in the last five races at Pocono.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Stewart logged his third straight top-five finish at Pocono earlier this year, and he has been one of the most reliable drivers at the track throughout his career. In addition to his two victories, he has finished 11th or better 14 times in his last 16 starts at the track. In his last 10 starts at Pocono, Stewart has seven top-five finishes.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Not only is he the defending winner of this weekend's race, but Gordon has been excellent at Pocono lately overall -- finishing fourth or better four times in his last six starts. Gordon also has 12 top-15 finishes in his last 14 Pocono starts, so he is about as low risk as a fantasy option can get.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
There has been little middle ground with Busch at Pocono, but when he has run well, he has been excellent. In fact, he has finished sixth or better four times in his last seven starts and has three top-three finishes during the stretch. Busch finished sixth at the track earlier this year, and another excellent run should be on tap for Sunday.
Kurt Busch, #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing [Yahoo Class B]
If there were any questions about whether or not Busch could deliver strong results at Pocono in the No. 78, he answered them with a seventh-place run at the track in June. The top-10 effort was his fifth in his last seven starts at Pocono; for his career, Busch has two wins at the track to go along with four second-place finishes.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
It is going to be tough for fantasy owners to find a safer option than Harvick this weekend. After all, he has finished 16th or better in eight straight starts at the track. He also has three top-five finishes during the stretch, and since the start of the 2005 season, he has finished outside the top 20 only once in 17 starts.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Kahne was one of the bigger disappointments at Pocono in June when a mechanical issue sent him to the garage before he ever got up to speed. On the plus side, he was one of the fastest cars on the track when he finally returned. It may have been too little too late in June, but Kahne is a former winner at Pocono, and he should get a chance to show just how fast he can be at the tricky triangle this weekend.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although a late wreck ultimately ruined a potential top-10 run at Pocono in June, the track has never been one of Kenseth's best. He has just two top-10s in his last 10 starts, and his last top-five run came way back in 2005. Kenseth should have a decent afternoon, but in leagues where driver starts are limited, owners should probably save him for another day.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
During the past five races at Pocono, Junior has been delivering solid results. He has four top-10s in his last five starts at the track, tying him with Jimmie Johnson for the most top-10s over the stretch. More importantly, Junior finished third at Pocono earlier this year, so he has the always-coveted combination of reliability and upside.
Ryan Newman, #39 Quicken Loans/Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While he isn't flashy, Newman has been rock solid at Pocono for a while now. He has reeled off 10 straight top-15 finishes at the track and has 16 straight finishes inside the top 20. Newman also finished fifth at Pocono earlier this year, giving him three finishes of sixth or better in his last four starts.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Keselowski's 14.7 average finish at Pocono isn't bad, but he has been somewhat inconsistent, finishing outside the top 15 in five of his seven starts at the track. On the flip side, he has been at his best in the August race at Pocono, winning and finishing fourth in his last two starts. Owners should temper expectations a bit, but the potential for a great run is there.