The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes a return trip to Pocono for the GoBowling.com 400.
This week’s race will be the second race at the racetrack in less than two months and the third consecutive race at a flat racetrack.
Jimmie Johnson dominated the June race at Pocono. He started on the pole and led 128 of the 160 laps on his way to Victory Lane. He is the class of the field this week.
In order to select the best drivers for the race on Sunday, the stats from the last race at Pocono and the stats from the past two races at New Hampshire and Indianapolis will be used. The drivers who performed well in all three races will have a great chance to perform well on Sunday.
Here is my top 30 and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the driver’s career statistics at the Pocono.
Racing for the Win
1. Jimmie Johnson must be on every team this week. Do not worry about saving him for the Chase. Each week he qualifies up front, leads the most laps and finishes in the top three. He won the last race at Pocono and will do it again on Sunday.
2. Tony Stewart is on a hot streak. He would have three consecutive top-three finishes if he did not run out of gas at New Hampshire. Smoke is back to driving aggressive. That is what won him the Championship in 2011. He will be a driver to consider for your fantasy team down the stretch.
3. Kasey Kahne had another fast car at Indianapolis, but was unable to win the race. Overlook his last start at Pocono. Kahne started seventh and finished No. 36. His car had a vibration and he spent many laps in the garage. The Hendrick Motorsports cars are much stronger now.
4. Matt Kenseth runs up front each week. He has been much better on the cookie cutter racetracks than he has been on the flat racetracks. Kenseth will run in the top 10 for most of the race and finish inside the top five.
5. Kyle Busch could easily find his way to Victory Lane on Sunday. He always has a strong car at Pocono, but often overdrives it. I do not see any reason why this week will be any different. Busch will qualify up front and finish in the top five.
6. Ryan Newman has momentum coming off his victory at Indianapolis. Stewart Haas Racing is starting to find its groove and has a great chance to have two cars finish inside the top six. Newman and Stewart both finished inside the top five in the June race at Pocono. They will come close to doing it again.
7. Carl Edwards will quality up front, run the first half of the race up front and fall to the back of the top 10 when the checkered flag is waived. He has consistently run this type of race during the summer. It is good for fantasy NASCAR, but it will not win him the Championship.
8. Kevin Harvick was expected to run much better than he did at Indianapolis. He finished ninth in the last race at Pocono and seventh at New Hampshire. Harvick will perform the same this week with another top 10 finish.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. does not qualify up front and he does not dominate any races. What he does do is run the race near the top 10 and find a way to finish inside the top 10 each week. Expect the same kind of race from Junior this week.
10. Jeff Gordon was once the King of Pocono. He qualified No. 11 and finished No. 12 in the June race at the racetrack. Gordon will finish the race with his ninth top-10 finish this week.
11. Joey Logano is my sleeper pick this week. He ran well last week at Indianapolis and he finished No. 10 in the June race at Pocono. Logano may be the best driver for Penske Racing right now. It is time to start using him on your fantasy team.
12. Greg Biffle almost won the last race at Pocono. He qualified No. 13 and finished second. Biffle looked lost at Indianapolis, but look for him to bounce back this week at Pocono.
13. Juan Pablo Montoya is very good on the flat racetracks. He finished No. 14 in the first race at Pocono, No. 12 at Phoenix and ninth at Indianapolis. His only poor performance on a flat racetrack this year came at New Hampshire. He qualified No. 10 and finished No. 24. He was able to lead 20 laps in the race.
14. Kurt Busch has been driving the wheels off his car this year. His talent often allows him to qualify up front, but his poor pit crew forces him to finish outside the top 10. It would be nice to see Busch with a top pit crew. Expect another top 15 finish from Busch this week.
15. Clint Bowyer qualified third and finished No. 15 in the last race at Pocono. Two consecutive races on flat racetracks have Bowyer in a slump. He finished No. 13 at New Hampshire and No. 20 at Indianapolis. Pocono is a flat racetrack so expect his struggles to continue this week.
16. Jamie McMurray has had some great races this season. The problem is that it is almost impossible to predict when they will occur. The statistics suggest that McMurray is a little better than average on the flat racetracks this season. That is why he is in the No. 16 spot on this list.
17. Brad Keselowski is having one of the worst post Championship seasons in NASCAR history. So was last year’s Championship a fluke? It looks like it. Stay away from Keselowski until he turns his season around.
18. Martin Truex Jr. finished No. 11 at Indianapolis, but it was one of the best No. 11 finishes of the year. Truex started No. 38 and passed many cars on his way to the top 15. He will need the same kind of performance to finish inside the top 20 this week.
19. Denny Hamlin should have his picture in the dictionary next to the words "bad luck." Even when Hamlin qualifies up front, he finishes in the middle of the pack. The 2014 season cannot come soon enough for Hamlin.
20. Paul Menard would like to forget his last trip to Pocono. He qualified ninth, but finished No. 30. He will not perform that poorly this week, but do not expect much more than a top-20 finish from Menard this week.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Mark Martin has looked like a driver out for a Sunday drive each week. Maybe someone should remind him that he is not retired yet. Martin is not worth using in most fantasy formats this week.
22. Aric Almirola qualified No. 12 and finished No. 21 in the last race at Pocono. He has not shown any signs of improvement since the last race so expect the same results this week.
23. Jeff Burton barely fired up the car at Indianapolis before his race was finished with engine problems. Burton had a nice eleventh-place finish in his last race at Pocono, but do not expect the same this week.
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be the best driver in Group C this week. Stenhouse is now making his second start on most of the racetracks for the rest of the season. This is the time to start using him if you were wise enough to save some starts with him.
25. Marcos Ambrose really wants to win on an oval racetrack. I am sure he would take a win at the Tricky Triangle. Unless 24 cars have engine problems on Sunday, it will not happen.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart
Group B: Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch
Group C: Ricky Stenhouse, A.J. Allmendinger
Fantasy Live Picks
Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, J.J. Yeley
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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