NASCAR Fantasy: Who's Hot, and Who's Not (Pocono Edition)

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IJune 3, 2009

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 08:  The finish line awaits Kasey Kahne driver of the #9 Budwiser Dodge at the entry to victory lane after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 500 on June 8, 2008 at Pocono International Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Last week, the boys were at Dover International Speedway, where Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe's Chevy tamed the Monster Mile and collected his second win of the season.

Heading into the Pocono Mountains this weekend, a few teams are on fire, while others are quickly falling out of Chase contention.

Dover marked the half-way point in the Sprint to the Chase, and history shows that little movement often occurs in the top 12 after this point.

Could this be the weekend Stewart-Haas wins it's first points-paying event, or will Hendrick Motorsports collect its seventh win of the year?

Here is a look at a few drivers you want (and don't want) on your Fantasy Roster this weekend.

 

Who's Hot

Tony Stewart

Stewart is leading the points as an owner/driver for the first time since Alan Kulwicki did so in 1992, and is poised to win his first points paying event soon.

Pocono could be the place Stewart collects that win, as he has visited Victory Lane once at the 2.5-mile super speedway.

Stewart has also recorded six top-fives, 14 top-10s and one pole, with an average finish of 13.0.

According to NASCAR's Loop Data (which has been recorded since 2005), Stewart has an Average Running Position of 10.9 (fourth-best), a Driver Rating of 102.4 (third-best), 43 Fastest Laps Run (ninth-most), 593 Green Flag Passes (eighth-most), an Average Green Flag Speed of 159.050 MPH (fourth-fastest), 1,182 Laps in the Top 15 (78.3 percent, series-high), and 354 Quality Passes (series-high).

Coming off another runner-up finish at Dover last weekend, Stewart is hungry for that first victory.

 

Jimmie Johnson

Johnson collected his second win of the season last weekend, and moved up to third in the Sprint Cup point standings.

The No. 48 Chevy is a team that is a threat each and every weekend, and Pocono is no different.

Johnson has two wins, five top-fives, nine top-10s and two poles at the 2.5-mile triangle, with an average finish of 9.8.

According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Johnson has an Average Running Position of 11.0 (fifth-best), a Driver Rating of 100.8 (fourth-best), 53 Fastest Laps Run (seventh-most), an Average Green Flag Speed of 159.152 MPH (second-fastest), 1,144 Laps in the Top 15 (75.8 percent, third-most), and 312 Quality Passes (fifth-most).

When Team Lowe's gets on a hot streak, they can easily rip off four or five wins in a row, and Pocono could provide the team with back-to-back wins in 2009.

 

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin dominated this track in his rookie season, sweeping both races. It's a track he was instantly comfortable with, and could provide him with his first win in 2009 this Sunday.

On top of his two wins, Hamlin has four top-fives, five top-10s and two poles at the tricky triangle, where he has averaged a finish of 6.2.

Loop Data shows that Hamlin has a series-best Average Running Position of 6.5, series-best Driver Rating of 123.6, 201 Fastest Laps Run (second-most), a series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 159.808 MPH, 1,002 Laps in the Top 15 (90.6 percent, ninth-most) and 266 Quality Passes (11th-most).

Hamlin may not have had the dream season in 2009, but Pocono could be a place where he turns it around.

 

Dark-Horse: Brian Vickers

Vickers and his No. 83 Red Bull Toyota could be a Dark-Horse this weekend in Pennsylvania.

Although he has never visited Victory Lane at the 2.5-mile track, he has four top fives, four top-10s, and an average finish of 14.5.

Loop Data shows that Vickers has an Average Running Position of 11.9 (eighth-best), a Driver Rating of 95.0 (ninth-best), 68 Fastest Laps Run (fifth-most), an Average Green Flag Speed of 158.572 MPH (12th-fastest), 1,083 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7 percent, sixth-most), and 294 Quality Passes (eighth-most).

Vickers is currently 17th in the point standings, 131 behind 12th-place Mark Martin.

 

Who's Not

Kevin Harvick

To find Harvick's last top-10 finish in 2009, you'd have to go all the way back to the Atlanta Race in March (other than a ninth-place finish in the non-points paying All-Star Race).

Nine straight finishes of 12th or worse, have put Harvick well out of Chase contention, in 24th-place in the point standings.

Pocono is a track that Harvick's struggles will probably continue at.

In 16 races at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track, Harvick has two top-fives and five top-10 finishes.

His average finish, however, is a respectable 15.4.

 

David Ragan

Ragan entered the season as a favorite to compete for a Chase spot, and has faltered thus far in 2009.

With only one top-10 this sesaon, Ragan sits 31st in Sprint Cup points and could be the Roush-Fenway driver ousted after this season if things don't improve.

Ragan appears to be competing for the fourth spot at RFR with teammate Jamie McMurray, who sits a comfortable 22nd in the points.

At Pocono, Ragan has four starts, with one top-five, one top-10 and an average finishing position of 22nd.

Notebook (From NASCAR Media)

History

• Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974.


Notebook

• There have been 62 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway.
• There was one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since.
• All NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been scheduled for 500 miles. By design, the inaugural race was run to a length of 480 miles due to the energy crisis.
• Buddy Baker won the first pole at Pocono.
• There have been 35 different pole winners at Pocono, including David Pearson who won the pole there in June 1984 but did not race. Only 15 drivers have more than one pole there.
• There have been 21 pole winners in the last 26 races. Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne (two each) are the only repeat pole winners there since 1995. Qualifying was canceled once.
• The pole has been swept just three times: Bill Elliott (1985), Ken Schrader (1993), Denny Hamlin (2006).
• Richard Petty won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono.
• 28 different drivers have won races at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott with five victories; 19 drivers have won more than once there.
• There have been 14 different race winners in the 18 races since Bobby Labonte swept in 1999. Jimmie Johnson swept 2004 and Denny Hamlin 2006. Kurt Busch won the July race in 2005 and 2007. Carl Edwards won the June 2005 race and the August 2008 race.
• There have been six season sweeps at Pocono, including two of the past five seasons.
• Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond each won three consecutive races at Pocono.
• 45 of 62 Pocono races have been won from a top-10 start; 13 by the pole winner.
• The June 2005 race was won by Carl Edwards from the 29th starting position, the deepest in the field that a race winner has started.
• Rick Hendrick leads all car owners with 11 Pocono victories.
• There have been two green-white-checkered finishes: June 2005 (201 laps) and July 2005 (203 laps).
• Denny Hamlin won his first two races at Pocono, claiming both victories from the pole. His 6.2 average finish there is the best of any driver with more than one start at the track

 

NASCAR in Pennsylvania

• There have been 97 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Pennsylvania.
• 136 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Pennsylvania.
• There are three race winners from Pennsylvania in NASCAR’s three national series:

Driver

NSCS

NNS

NCWTS

Dick Linder

3

0

0

Jimmy Spencer

2

12

1

Mark Donohue

1

0

0

 

Pocono Raceway Data

Race No.: 14 of 36 (6-7-09)

Track Size: 2.5 mile (200 laps/500miles)

Banking/Turn 1: 14 degrees

Banking/Turn 2: 8 degrees

Banking/Turn 3: 6 degrees

Frontstretch: 3,740 feet

Backstretch: 3,055 feet

Shortstretch: 1,780

 

Denny Hamlin                123.6

Kurt Busch                    106.8

Tony Stewart                 102.4

Jimmie Johnson            100.8

Mark Martin                   98.2

Ryan Newman               96.8

Carl Edwards                 95.7

Jeff Gordon                    95.3

Brian Vickers                 95.0

Kevin Harvick                 90.8

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2008 races (8 total) at Pocono.

 

 

Qualifying/Race Data

2008 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (170.219 MPH, 52.873 seconds)

2008 race winner: Kasey Kahne, 125.209 MPH, 6-8-08)

Track qualifying record: Kasey Kahne (172.533 MPH, 52.164 secs., 6-11-04)

Track race record: Rusty Wallace (144.892 MPH, 7-21-96)

 

Estimated Pit Window: Every 28-30 laps, based on fuel mileage.

 

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