After a couple of weeks of racing at 1.5-mile ovals, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes a trip one of the unique tracks on the schedule, Pocono Raceway. Nicknamed the “Tricky Triangle,” the 2.5-mile track combines massive straightaways with three different corner layouts, creating a challenge for drivers and crew chiefs.
Finding a setup that works well across all three sets of turns is almost impossible, and when you also factor in the lack of banking in some portions of the track, it is no surprise that passing can be extremely difficult at Pocono. This leads to some wild restarts and a variety of pit strategies, and there is a good chance that Sunday’s Pocono 400 will be decided by which crew chief makes the right call and not which driver has the fastest car.
Races at Pocono can be a headache for fantasy owners, but they can also be an opportunity in many season-long formats like the Driver Group Game and fantasy Live. With the outcome often hinging on strategy calls and when cautions fall, this is a race when you take a chance on some middle-tier and sleeper drivers and still post a strong score. At the very least, you can save a start from the elite fantasy options.
In any season-long format, especially those that limit how often you can use each driver, you can’t afford to waste starts from the top options, and you want to maximize your production from the midrange options. A track like Pocono allows you to address both issues at the same time, so make sure to take advantage.
1. Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
A cut tire ruined his night at Charlotte, but there isn’t a week that goes by where Harvick doesn’t seem to have the best car at the track. I don’t expect that to change at Pocono Sunday. Harvick was the runner-up in both races here last year, and he has six Top 10s in eight starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing, including four second-place runs.
2. Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing
Coming off his dominating win at Charlotte, Busch is a safe bet to contend for another victory Sunday at Pocono. He has three straight Top 10s here, including a win last July. Busch had the car to beat in both Pocono races in 2017, leading 100 of the 160 laps in the first race and 74 laps in the return trip.
3. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
In terms of overall consistency, Keselowski has been on another level at Pocono. Over the last eight races here, he leads the series with six Top 5s and a 7.4 average finish. In fact, Keselowski has cracked the Top 5 in his last five starts at the track.
4. Martin Truex, Jr., #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing
He has figured out Pocono in recent years, leading laps in five of the last six races and winning the June race in 2015. Truex was excellent here a year ago, finishing sixth and third in the two races. He should be a Top 5 threat this weekend.
5. Kurt Busch, #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing
Busch has been one of the best in the business at Pocono throughout his career, and with Stewart-Haas Racing rolling in 2018, I’m expecting a big performance Sunday. He has been particularly stout in the June race, logging four straight Top 5s and winning in 2016. Use him as a Group B play in the Driver Group Game and in Fantasy Live.