NASCAR Fantasy 2015: Axalta 400 Top Drivers and Sleeper Picks

Chad Robb@@MrFantasyNASCARCorrespondent IJune 4, 2015

Kyle Larson (42) leads a pack of cars at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Mel Evans/Associated Press

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Long Pond, Pennsylvania, this week for the Axalta 400. The secret to winning your DraftKings contest will be selecting the perfect combination of top drivers and adding in a couple of sleeper picks at a bargain price.

The race Sunday will come down to who has the most horsepower. The drivers with Hendrick Motorsports engines will be the teams to beat. Hendrick Motorsports has won five of the last six races since the track was repaved in 2012. All four drivers from the team have visited Victory Lane in the last three seasons.

Each week, the strategy for constructing the perfect lineup for DraftKings is different. Since Pocono is a 2.5-mile track and there are only 160 laps in the race, fantasy teams will not win their contest by selecting the drivers who lead laps. There will only be 40 bonus points available for leading laps Sunday.

The best strategy will be to select drivers who start in the back of the field with an opportunity to pass cars on their way to the front. This will give your team the maximum bonus points for place differential and pass differential (teams are awarded one point for each spot gained in the race and .25 points for each car passed in the race).

Top Drivers

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports, Chevy ($12,200)

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Earnhardt Jr. is the best choice in the DraftKings contest this week. He swept the races at Pocono last season and has finished four consecutive races at the track in the top five. Earnhardt's 118.8 driver rating and 2.5 average finish position are a series best in the last four races at the track. 

Fantasy teams will have to pay if they want to use Earnhardt this week. His price is the fourth-highest in the game, but no driver can match his success at Pocono since the repave. Earnhardt is worth his price this week.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Stats at Pocono (30 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
291314.615.6
Racing-Reference.Info

Earnhardt already has a win, so his place in the Chase is secure. Do not be surprised to see the No. 88 team gamble this week on pit road to make their way back to Victory Lane for a third consecutive time at Pocono.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevy ($13,400)

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Johnson is a driver worth considering this week. He has not qualified well this season, but he has been one of the best drivers at making his way through the field. Johnson should score many bonus points for place differential and pass differential in DraftKings contests.

Johnson dominated this race two years ago. He started on the pole and led 128 of the 160 laps on his way to Victory Lane. Another performance like that would greatly increase your chances of winning your contest.

Johnson is the second-highest-priced driver in DraftKings this week. The six-time champ is worth his price if you are able to find a bargain to pair with him. That should be possible this week if you are willing to take a chance with a driver like Ty Dillon at $7,400.

Jimmie Johnson Stats at Pocono (26 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
310179.49.9
Racing-Reference.Info

There is one concern with using Johnson for your contest. The No. 48 team is securely in the Chase. They seemed more concerned about running well at tracks which are part of the Chase. Pocono is not one of those tracks. If the team has a fast car in Happy Hour practice, Johnson will be well worth the risk on Sunday. If the No. 48 team does not have a fast car in practice, do not waste the money on Johnson Sunday.

Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevy ($12,500)

David Graham/Associated Press

Busch is my pick to win Sunday. He has had a fast car all season, and Pocono is one of his better tracks. Busch has the second-best driver rating and the third-best average finish position in the last four races at the track. Last season, he started on the front row and finished third.

This is the week to spend $12,500 on Busch. Usually, he is overpriced, but if he performs like he has in the last four races at Pocono, he will be a bargain.

Kurt Busch Stats at Pocono (27 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
2111510.814.7
Racing-Reference.Info

Stewart-Haas Racing has had the best horsepower this season. The team has found a way to get more out of their Hendrick Motorsports engines than any other team. Busch will be fast this week.

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevy ($14,000)

CHRIS KEANE/Associated Press

Pocono is not one of Harvick's best tracks, but a list of top drivers would not be complete without Harvick included. He has finished nine of the 13 races this season in the top five and 12 races in the top 10. Harvick is almost a lock to run up front Sunday.

Harvick has the sixth-best driver rating and the seventh-best average finish position in the last four races at Pocono. He knows how to get around the Tricky Triangle, and his team will provide him one of the best cars in the field.

Harvick is the highest-priced driver in DraftKings this week. He has also averaged 76.7 points per contest, while the second-place driver has averaged 49.2 points per contest. Do not be afraid to pay for Harvick this week.

Kevin Harvick Stats at Pocono (28 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
061018.013.6
Racing-Reference.Info

The last race at Pocono was Harvick's best chance to get to Victory Lane. He started sixth and finished second. Do not be surprised to see Harvick win his first race at Pocono this week.

Sleepers 

Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevy ($10,800)

CHRIS KEANE/Associated Press

Do not overlook Kahne this week. Hendrick Motorsports has been the best team at Pocono, and they will give Kahne a car capable of winning the race Sunday.

Kahne has been running well lately, and he has had success at Pocono in his career. Coming off his fourth-place finish at Dover, Kahne will have momentum heading into the race Sunday. His recent hot streak and ability to run up front at the track could propel Kahne into Victory Lane and the Chase.

Kahne is underpriced this week at $10,800. There are 10 drivers with a higher price than Kahne. Most of those drivers will not outperform him this week.

Kasey Kahne Stats at Pocono (22 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
25810.017.8
Racing-Reference.Info

This is the week to take a chance on the No. 5 car. Kahne has been hit-or-miss this season, and I think he will definitely be a hit at the Tricky Triangle.

Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota ($9,200)

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

There is little risk with using Bowyer for your contest this week. He has finished 12 of the last 13 races at Pocono inside the top 15. Bowyer has only finished one race in the last 11 years at the track outside the top 20.

Bowyer is a good sleeper pick because he has never won at Pocono and most of your competition will overlook him this week. Fantasy teams will have a hard time finding a better driver for the price of $9,200.

Clint Bowyer Stats at Pocono (18 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
02818.214.2
Racing-Reference.Info

Bowyer had one of his best runs of the season last week at Dover. Michael Waltrip Racing has not been very good this season, but Bowyer has been able to get more out of his car than what the team provides him.

Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy ($10,100)

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Larson does not have much history at Pocono. He has only competed in two races, but he ran very well in both of them. Last year, Larson started 14th and finished in the top five. He followed it up by winning the Pole and finishing 11th in the fall race. 

After a great rookie season in 2014, Larson has had a sophomore slump. He seems to be getting back to his old form after his third-place finish at Dover. Larson is a great sleeper pick this week that could pay off for your team.

Larson is at a good price in DraftKings contests. There are 13 drivers with a higher price than Larson. He is a good pick to finish in the top 10 Sunday.

Kyle Larson Stats at Pocono (2 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
0117.58
Racing-Reference.Info

Chip Ganassi Racing uses engines supplied by Hendrick Motorsports. Larson will have the horsepower to get his car to the front. It will be his job to navigate the car through traffic. That is something Larson has not had many problems with in his career.

Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing, Chevy ($9,500)

CHRIS KEANE/Associated Press

Newman is one of the most consistent drivers at Pocono. The last time Newman failed to finish in the top 14 at Pocono was in 2008 (14 races ago).  He also has a streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes at the track. He is the best sleeper pick in the field this week.

Newman has the second-best average finishing position in the last four races at Pocono. He has finished eight of the 13 races this season in the top 10. It is time for fantasy teams to figure out the No. 31 team is a threat to make the Chase.

Fantasy teams will have a hard time finding a better bargain than Newman at $9,500. There are 15 drivers with a higher price than Newman this week. He should outscore at least 10 of them.

Ryan Newman Stats at Pocono (26 Career Races)
WinsTop 5'sTop 10'sAVG StartAVG Finish
191410.711.4
Racing-Reference.Info

Richard Childress Racing has performed well at tracks where horsepower was the difference in the race. Newman will be able to outrace his competition down the 3,740-foot front stretch and should add another top-10 finish to his resume.

 

DraftKings Picks for Pocono

Driver 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($13,000)

Driver 2: Kasey Kahne ($10,800)

Driver 3: Ryan Newman (($9,500)

Driver 4: Clint Bowyer ($9,200)

Driver 5: Aric Almirola ($8,300)

Advanced stats courtesy Racing-Reference.info

If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR

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