It's the return to the Tricky Triangle in Pennsylvania, as the boys head back to one of NASCAR's most unique tracks—Pocono Raceway.
It was just a few weeks ago that Tony Stewart visited Victory Lane for the first time as an owner-driver in the Pennsylvania mountains.
Stewart has "smoked" the competition all season, and leads the point standings by a whopping 192 points over three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
As you plan to set your Fantasy Roster this weekend, here are a few drivers that you want on your team (Hot) and those to stay away from (Not).
This guy basically deserves the top spot on the weekly fantasy list until he proves otherwise. Heading into the second race at Pocono, Smoke leads all drivers with 12 top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes in 2009.
He leads the points, has won two races this year, and returns to the site of his first win as an owner-driver just weeks ago.
At Pocono: Stewart has 21 starts at the Tricky Triangle, with two wins, seven top-fives, 15 top-10s, one pole and an average finish of 12.4.
His Average Running Position of 10.5 is second-best according to NASCAR's Loop Data. Other data shows that Smoke has a Driver Rating of 104.6 (third-best), 61 Fastest Laps Run (ninth-most), 679 Green Flag Passes (eighth-most) an Average Green Flag Speed of 158.943 m.p.h. (fourth-fastest), a series-high 1,362 Laps in the Top 15 (79.6 percent) and a series-high 405 Quality Passes.
Johnson is quickly reminding everyone why he is the three-time defending Sprint Cup Champion. After collecting his third win of the season at Indy last week (and becoming the first back-to-back winner at The Brickyard), Johnson moved up to second in the point standings—quietly lurking behind Stewart.
With six races left until the cut-off for the Chase, Johnson is shooting for nothing but wins, as the points will be erased before the playoffs begin.
Heading into this weekend's event in Pennsylvania, Johnson feels good. "We should be good," he said on a teleconference call earlier this week. "We were just there a month or so ago. We're competitive. We're making some small adjustments from that setup and should be just fine."
At Pocono: Johnson has hit the banks of Pocono 15 times, collecting two wins, five top-fives, 10 top-10s, two poles and an average finish of 9.6.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Johnson has a series-best Average Running Position of 10.4. The data shows that his Driver Rating of 102.5 is fourth-best and his 1,327 Laps in the Top 15 (88.6 percent) is third-most.
Entering the 2009 season, the elder Busch was rarely talked about as a competitor for the 2009 Championship.
With six races remaining until the cut-off, it's Kurt Busch who sits a comfortable fourth in the point standings, while the "Shrub" is on the outside looking in.
At Pocono: In 17 starts at Pocono, Busch has two wins, seven top-fives, eight top-10s and an average finish of 16.9.
NASCAR's Loop Data ranks him second-best with a Driver Rating of 105 and tops in the series with 229 Fastest Laps Run.
Busch's Average Running Position of 11.1 is fifth-best, while his Average Green Flag Speed of 159.050 mph is second-fastest.
Hamlin swept the track in his rookie season and has had success nearly every time he's visited.
"We've always been competitive there," Hamlin said on a teleconference call earlier this week. Although his last trip to Pocono ended early after fuel pump issues on the first lap, Hamlin is optimistic about this weekend's race.
"I think it's a racetrack that just kind of tends to be my style a little bit. We go there, Mike has a good feel for what we need in a racecar at that track. So I think it's no matter what the car, we're always going to be competitive. It's just hard to repeat what you did in your rookie season when we had a car as phenomenal as it was."
At Pocono: Hamlin has seven starts at the track with two wins, four top-fives, five top-10s, two poles an an average finish of 10.7.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Hamlin has an Average Running Position of 11.2 (sixth-best), a Driver Rating of 111.3 (series-best), 210 Fastest Laps Run (second-most) and a series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 159.396 mph.
Dark Horse: Brian Vickers
At Pocono: Vickers has collected four top-fives, four top-10s and an average finish of 15.1 at the Tricky Triangle.
The Shrub may have three wins on the season, but he currently finds himself on the outside looking in when it comes to a Chase berth.
After a disappointing run at Indy last week, Busch plummeted four spots in the championship standings to 14th—82 points behind 12th-place Matt Kenseth.
Busch's finish at Indy gave him four finishes outside the top-30 and nine outside the top-20—by comparison, he had five finishes outside the top-30 and eight outside the top-20 the entire 2008 season.
At Pocono: While his average finish at Pocono is 22.0, Busch has two DNF's (2005 and 2008) and hasn't finished in the top-10 at the track since 2007—when he still drove for Hendrick Motorsports.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Poor finishes continue to haunt the No. 88 team and NASCAR's most popular driver. The team finished 36th at The Brickyard last weekend, dropping to 22nd in the championship standings.
Earnhardt Jr. has finished outside the top-20 in seven of his last 11 races (including finishes of 36th, 39th and 40th) and has yet to collect a top-10 with new crew chief.
If anyone is ready for the 2009 season to be over with, it's got to be Earnhardt Jr., who has seen all three of his teammates win multiple races and place themselves inside the top-12 in points.
At Pocono: In 19 starts, Earnhardt Jr. has an average finish of 16.8 at Pocono, with five top-fives and six top-10s.
This article also appears on Pit Road Report.
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