The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway this season, and “The Tricky Triangle” can be a challenge for both drivers and fantasy owners. Track position means everything at the track, and as a result, there is usually a bunch of pit strategy that jumbles the running order and create some unexpected contenders.
As frustrating as races here can be, Sunday’s Pocono 400 can also be an opportunity in season-long fantasy NASCAR contests like Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. You need to save starts from the top guys like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch at some point, so why not do it at a track that has been known to be a little unpredictable.
Don’t get me wrong, the usual suspects like Harvick, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. all look fast again this weekend, and they could certainly put up big point totals. However, the July race at Pocono last year is a perfect example of how pit strategy can impact the outcome. In that race, just two drivers ended up recording points in both stages. If you are using one of the stud drivers in Fantasy Live, you need to pretty sure that you are getting points in both stages.
The unpredictability of Pocono also factors into my Slingshot picks. I’m going to lean towards the better options starting a little deeper in the field. Again, there are some great options starting up front, but the last thing I want is for the race to come to fuel mileage and end up losing a bunch of points in the place differential category because things get a little wacky at the finish.
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He picked up the win in this race last year, and he has finished 11th or better in three of his four starts here. Granted, he only earned points in one stage here last year, but after winning the pole, he has a huge advantage because of the importance of track position at Pocono. Blaney has too much upside to pass up.
Busch has been an underrated stud at Pocono throughout his career. He is a three-time winner here, and he has finished in the Top 5 in the June race in each of the last four years. He also logged points in three of the four stages at the track in 2017. After qualifying sixth, I’m expecting another rock solid performance from Busch at Pocono.
I was considering Denny Hamlin for this spot, but I’ve been really impressed with Bowyer’s practice times this weekend, particularly on longer runs.. I think he has a borderline Top 5 car, and starting ninth, I like his potential to earn a lot of stage points.
Elliott has quickly become one of the better flat track drivers in the series, and he has cracked the Top 10 in three of his four starts at Pocono. Last year, he also picked up points in three of the four stages here. Elliott qualified 11th and was right around the Top 10 in practice, so he should have no trouble putting himself in position for a decent amount of stage points again Sunday.
I took a chance on McMurray last weekend, and while he didn’t provide the stage points I was hoping for, he did provide an excellent finish. Fresh of a season-best third-place effort in qualifying, I’m going to go back to the well. McMurray earned stage points in two of the four stages at Pocono last year, and I’m hoping for more of the same Sunday while I save a start from one of the stronger options.
Garage Driver – Brad Keselowski
Starting 17th isn’t ideal, but Keselowski has an excellent track record at Pocono. He has five straight Top 5 finishes here, and he was the only driver to earn points in all four stages between the two races at the track a year ago. In case he delivers another vintage Pocono performance, I want him available to swap in.
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Martin Truex Jr.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are always in play, but since I’ve been burning through starts from both drivers, I’m going to save them this weekend at a track where pit strategy can cause things to get a little wacky. Truex has been the best driver not named Harvick or Busch, and he’s been fast at Pocono lately, finishing sixth and third here last year. Truex qualified fourth for Sunday’s race, and he’s a great bet for a Top 5 finish Sunday.
Pocono has been one of Busch’s tracks throughout his career. In the last 10 races here, he has nine Top 15s, including five Top 5s and a win. He will start in the Top 10 Sunday, and he is a solid bet to finish there, if not the Top 5.
He offers a safe floor and plenty of upside at Pocono. Blaney is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and he has finished 11th or better in three of his four starts at Pocono. Blaney starts from the pole, and he ranked in the Top 10 on short and long runs during final practice.
I’ve been big on Bowman all week, and a Top 15 qualifying effort and Top 10 practice times have done nothing to change that. He’s shown serious upside at flat tracks, so I’m not surprised to see him running well at Pocono. I wouldn’t rule out a Top 10 out of Bowman.