The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Pocono, Pennsylvania, this week for the Pocono 400.
The race track known as the “Tricky Triangle” is like no other track on the circuit. Pocono has three distinct corners that make setting up the car a challenge for all teams. Making the car good in Turn 1 may make it difficult to get through Turn 3. They key to the winning setup will be to find a downforce package that will allow the car to get through all three corners without losing speed.
Hendrick Motorsports dominated the two races at Pocono last year. Jimmie Johnson won the race in June, and Kasey Kahne won the race in August. The four drivers from Hendrick Motorsports (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kahne and Johnson) would be good selections for your fantasy team this week.
Johnson won the pole for the last race at Pocono and led many of the early laps. After getting into the wall, he fell back in the pack, giving the lead to Kahne. Gordon took the lead from Kahne until Matt Kenseth spun out at the end of the race, resulting in a green-white-checker finish. Kahne then passed Gordon on the final lap to win the GoBowling.com 400.
Racing for the Win
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has a great chance to win his third race in a row this week. Pocono is one of his best race tracks, and no other crew chief masters the Tricky Triangle like Chad Knaus. JJ has three wins, 10 finishes in the top five, 16 top-10s and four poles in his 24 career races at Pocono. He is the driver to beat Sunday.
2. Jeff Gordon: There is a great chance that Gordon will be the driver chasing Johnson to the checkered flag this week. He has won six races at Pocono and finished 29 of his 42 starts in the top 10. He is having a terrific season, and there is no reason why he should not be running up front again this week.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Although Earnhardt has only one win at Pocono, he is one of the better drivers at the track, with the second-best driver rating over the last four Pocono races. He finished both races in the top five last season and will be good again this week.
4. Kevin Harvick: Harvick has never won a race at Pocono, but that could change this week. He has been the class of the field this season. Each week, he runs up front, and this week should be no exception. Keep using Harvick on your fantasy team until the other teams figure out a way to catch him.
5. Joey Lgano: Logano has been fast at every race track this season, and the No. 22 team should bring a fast car to Pocono this week. Logano won the 2012 race at the track and could be competing for the win Sunday. Logano finished both races at Pocono in the top 10 last year and will add a top-five finish to his resume this week.
6. Kyle Busch: Busch knows how to get around the Tricky Triangle. He has never won a race at Pocono, but has finished runner-up two times. Busch will be fast and run up front. He will easily finish in the top 10.
7. Kasey Kahne: Kahne won the last race at Pocono and should be fast again this week. He has two wins and seven top-10 finishes in his 20 starts at the track. If Kahne was ever going to win a race and steal a spot in the Chase, this would be the week for him to do so.
8. Ryan Newman: Pocono is one of Newman’s best race tracks. If you were ever going to use Newman on your fantasy team, this is the week to do so. He has one win, finished nine races in the top five and finished half of the races he started at the track inside the top 10. It may be wise to take a chance with Newman Sunday.
9. Tony Stewart: It is almost the time of the season to start thinking about Stewart for your fantasy team. When the race tracks heat up, so does Smoke. Last week, Stewart was able to race his way to a top-10 finish. In this race last year, he started No. 19 and finished fourth. Stewart is a good pick for your team this week.
10. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski won the race at Pocono in 2011. He is usually better in the August race than he is in the June race, but as good as he has been this season, that could change. Expect Keselowski to run up front Sunday.
11. Matt Kenseth: Pocono is one of the race tracks that Kenseth has never won a race at, but that does not mean he's not a good pick for Sunday’s race. Kenseth has finished 10 races in the top 10, and he will bring a fast car to the track this week. Watch him in practice and see how he runs before selecting him for Fantasy Live.
12. Kurt Busch: Busch has been unpredictable this season. He has not run up front much this season, but he does have a win. Pocono is a great race track for Busch to finish inside the top 10. He has finished six of his last eight races at Pocono in the top 10 and will come close to adding another top-10 finish Sunday.
13. Carl Edwards: Edwards has been finishing races a lot better than he has run during the race. As long as he continues to find his way to the front at the end, he will be worth using, although this may be the week to sit him and use another driver. He has only finished one of his last four races at Pocono inside the top 10.
14. Greg Biffle: Biffle won the 2010 race at Pocono. Last season, he finished both races in the top 10. He is a risky pick this week because he only has four top-10 finishes this season. He will come close to adding another top-10 finish this week.
15. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin usually starts much higher than he finishes at Pocono. His average starting position is 6.5, and his average finishing position is 12.5. That has been the story of the 2014 season for him as well. Expect him to qualify in the top 10 and finish in the top 15.
16. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer’s average starting position at Pocono is 18.4, and his average finishing position is 15.1. He needs a good run to turn his season around, but this probably won't be the race track where he wins his first race of the season.
17. Paul Menard: Menard has not been great at Pocono in his career, but he has not been bad either. His average starting position is 18.7, and his average finishing position is 22.1. Menard has had speed on the larger race tracks this season. He will run higher than his average Sunday.
18. Jamie McMurray: McMurray was struck with bad luck last week when he ran over a piece of the race track at Dover. His luck should be better at Pocono. He has only four top-10 finishes in his 22 starts, but he's been running well lately and will be able to run inside the top 20 this week.
19. Brian Vickers: Vickers has not competed in a race at Pocono in the Sprint Cup Series since 2011. That year, he finished both races outside the top 20. He has better equipment this year, though, and has been running well lately (not including his engine problems last week). Vickers will be able to finish inside the top 20 this week.
20. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has not run well at Pocono throughout his career. He has started the last four races outside the top 15 and finished three of the last four Pocono races 15th or worse. He will barely finish inside the top 20 this week.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Aric Alimrola: Almirola finished both races at Pocono inside the top 21. Richard Petty Motorsports cars have been better on the short race tracks this season than they have on the larger race tracks. Pocono is not the track to use Almirola on your fantasy team.
22. Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose often tries to drive Pocono like it's a road course. Sometimes, out-breaking other drivers works, but most of the time it leads to problems. That explains why he has an average finishing position of 21.7 at the race track. Ambrose is not worth a selection for your team this week.
23. Kyle Larson: Usually, Larson is a good pick at any race track. This week, howeverm he is a very risky pick. The yellow rookie stripe on the back of his car will shine bright this week, as Larson has not completed any laps in the Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series at Pocono. It will be fun to see how the young, talented driver tries to solve the Tricky Triangle.
24. Austin Dillon: See comments about Larson above...
25. AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has not had a lot of success recently at Pocono. His average starting position is 21.4, and his average finishing position is 24.3. He is a risky pick this week for your fantasy team.
26. Danica Patrick: Patrick has only started two races at Pocono in her career and has yet to finish inside the top 25. She will struggle Sunday to run inside the top 25 as well.
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse is not having a great sophomore season in NASCAR. He has had a hard time running inside the top 20 this season, and there is no reason this week should be any different.
28. Casey Mears: Mears is not worth his price in most fantasy games, and he is not worth selecting in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing. His average finishing position at Pocono is 24.1. He will have a hard time finishing ahead of his average this week.
29. Justin Allgaier: This will be Allgaier's first race at Pocono. Expect him to have problems figuring out the Tricky Triangle Sunday.
30. David Gilliland: Gilliland has run near the top 25 when he is able to avoid an accident at Pocono. The question is if he can avoid an accident this week. I wouldn't bet on it.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon
Group B: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart
Group C: Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon
Fantasy Live Picks
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Michael Annett, Reed Sorenson
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Jimmie Johnson
Driver 2: Jeff Gordon
Driver 3: Ryan Newman
Driver 4: Tony Stewart
Driver 5: Joey Logano