For the second time in two months, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway. The 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped track will host Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400, and if the June race was any indication, fantasy owners need to be prepared to be aggressive with their lineups.
In the past, I have used Pocono as a chance to save some starts from the big names because of the tendency for fuel mileage and pit strategy to impact the outcome and shuffle up the running order. However, stage racing seems to have limited the opportunities for crew chiefs to make strategy plays.
Back in June, nine drivers ended up earning points in both Stage 1 and Stage 2, and eight of those drivers also finished in the Top 10. The best cars ran up front almost all race and most of them finished up front, as well. Meanwhile, it was the usual suspects taking home the top spots as Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick finished first through fourth.
If you have the starts remaining from the top-tier options, you will probably want to use them in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. Personally, I will probably go with a combination of studs and the stronger alternatives. I’m thinking two of the Big 3 for Fantasy Live and one strong Group B play, but you should always be willing to adjust after practice in qualifying.
FANTASY NASCAR RANKINGS
Martin Truex, Jr., #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing
He will try for a Pocono sweep this weekend after his win in the June race, and Truex has now led laps in six of the last seven races here. He’s actually led more than 30 laps in each of his last two starts, and he has three straight finishes of sixth or better.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
Harvick has been the model of consistency at Pocono, and his fourth-place finish in June was his fourth straight Top 5 and fifth straight Top 10 at the track. He also led a race-high 89 laps in the June race. In eight starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick has six finishes of fourth or better.
Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing
He is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and Busch ran up front all afternoon and finished third at Pocono back in June. He has cracked the Top 10 in four straight races here and has six Top 10s over the last 10.
Kyle Larson, #42 CreditOne/DC Solar, Chip Ganassi Racing
Larson was the runner-up at Pocono back in June, building on an impressive resume at the track. He has a 10.6 average finish in nine starts here, finishing 12th or better eight times. If you are fading the Big 3, Larson is your best Group A alternative in the Driver Group Game in terms of upside.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
He picked up a Top 5 at Pocono back in June, giving Keselowski six consecutive Top 5s at the track. Over the last 10 races here, his eight Top 10s and seven Top 5s are both tops in the series. Keselowski should be one of the smartest alternatives to the Big 3 in the DGG.