With only six races to go before the playoffs begin, the action in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is heating up as it returns to Pocono Raceway for the Overton’s 400. Earlier this season at the site, Ryan Blaney won for the first time in his career. He is part of an ongoing streak of nine different race winners over the past nine races. Will this streak continue? The possibility is high, as four of the last five winners at Pocono won at the site for their first time.
Kyle Busch ($10,700) seems to have bad luck in terms of wins, but he still makes a strong case as a great fantasy pick every week. In the last three Pocono races, Kyle Busch has the third-best Average Running Position of 8.8, the third-highest Driver Rating of 105.5, and the most Laps Led with 104, 100 of which came earlier this season. Kyle Busch also led the most Laps last week at Indianapolis, a track with some similarities to Pocono. Kyle Busch was fastest in final practice and had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. Kyle Busch will qualify close to the front and lead a lot of laps like in the previous Pocono race in 2017.
Kyle Busch was the biggest dominator last week but the driver that matched him in speed was Martin Truex Jr. ($10,500). Truex is a former winner at Pocono, but since his win there, Truex has one Top 10 finish, which he earned earlier this season. Truex was seventh in both practices and has shown great speed compared to the rest of the field throughout the year. Even if the overall history is not favorable, Truex will qualify and finish in the Top 5 based on practices and his overall performance this season.
The runner-up from the most recent Pocono race, Kevin Harvick ($10,200), has been one of the most consistent drivers in 2017. Harvick has 13 Top 10 finishes, one of only three drivers to achieve the feat. Harvick has never won at Pocono, but came close on numerous occasions, as he has three second-place finishes since 2014 when he joined Stewart Haas Racing. In the last three races at Pocono, Harvick has the best ARP of 8.2, ranks first in Fastest Laps at 54, and has the best DR of 113.0. Pocono is a great track for Harvick and you can trust him to score a good finish due to his consistency this season. Harvick also is a driver who generally does not qualify in the Top 5, so he can pick up Place Differential points.
In the spring race at Pocono, Kyle Larson ($10,000) started in the seventh position and finished in the seventh position. In seven starts at the site, Larson has finished no worse than 12th with four Top 10 finishes. In the past three races at Pocono, Larson has led the third-most Laps at 54, the seventh-best ARP of 10.0, and the seventh-best DR of 100.9. Larson was second in both practices. Larson has shown good speeds compared to the rest of the field in 2017 and based on practice speeds, looks likely to continue that trend.
Denny Hamlin ($9,700) has quietly been having a solid season so far, as he has the fifth-best ARP of 10.9 in 2017. Hamlin has four wins at Pocono, the most of active drivers. In his past three races at Pocono, Hamlin has the ninth-best ARP of 12.5, the seventh-best Average Finishing Position of 11.0, and ranks 11th in DR at 87.6. Hamlin was fourth in final practice. Based on practice speeds, Hamlin will finish inside the Top 10, making him a good play, but that can change if he qualifies close to the front row and loses PD points.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,600) will be a quality pick this week. In 31 starts at Pocono, Johnson has three wins, 19 Top 10 finishes, and 738 Laps Led, the most of active drivers. Johnson was 11th in final practice, indicating he will finish close to the Top 10. Qualifying has not been one of Johnson’s strongest qualities this season, so he might start further back and can take advantage of capturing PD points. Watch for him to finish ahead of his starting position, which was something he nearly accomplished last week at Indianapolis before wrecking.
Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott ($9,500,) has made only three starts at Pocono but also has been a solid performer at the site. Elliott has two Top 10 finishes at Pocono. Elliott was fifth in final practice. Based on practice speeds, Elliott will qualify in the Top 10 and finish just ahead of his starting position, making him one of the better plays for Pocono.
Matt Kenseth ($9,200) is one of three former Pocono winners without a victory this season. Kenseth won’t win at Pocono, but he will still be a favorable play. Kenseth has some recent momentum from two Top five finishes in the last two weeks. In the last three Pocono races, Kenseth has the third-most Laps in the Top 15, the fifth-most Fastest Laps at 24, the fourth-best ARP of 9.7, and the eighth-best DR of 96.2. Kenseth was the fastest in first practice and was 16th in final practice. As indicated by his practice speeds, Kenseth will qualify around the Top 10 and finish around there.
Brad Keselowski ($9,100) has been one of the best performing drivers at Pocono within the last few races. In the last four Pocono races, Keselowski has finished no worse than fifth. In the last three races at the site, Keselowski has the eighth-best ARP of 10.4, and the seventh-most Laps in the Top 15 at 351. Keselowski was 12th in final practice. Keselowski’s speed looks decent this week, but look to see where he qualifies before using him. If he qualifies very high he may not stay up near the front and could lose a few PD points.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
There are a few reasons why you should pick Ryan Blaney ($8,700) for Pocono. Blaney is the most recent winner and has great history at Pocono. In three starts at the site, Blaney has finished ahead of his starting position every time. Blaney also has the sixth-best AFP of 7.3, the 10th best ARP of 13.1, and the ninth-best DR of 93.4. Blaney was sixth in final practice. Blaney will qualify high and finish high just like he did earlier this season, based on his practice speeds.
There is a lot to like about Kurt Busch ($8,500) this week as a fantasy pick. In 32 starts at Pocono, Kurt Busch has three wins, 19 Top 10 finishes, and 538 Laps Led, which is third of active drivers. In his last three starts at Pocono, Kurt Busch has the sixth-best ARP of 9.8, the third-best AFP of 5.0, and the fourth-best DR of 104.5. Kurt Busch was 14th in final practice. Kurt Busch generally qualifies in the Top 10 or in the Top 15 and his history indicates that he will finish inside the Top 10.
Erik Jones ($8,300) captured his career-best finish of third earlier this year in the first Pocono race. Jones has five Top 10 finishes in 2017, including two in the last four races, but he has six DNFs, the fourth-most of all drivers this year. Jones was 19th in final practice. Jones has run well in a lot of races this year, but failed to close in just as much races, making him a boom or bust pick. Due to his performance in his only Pocono start, Jones is worth considering, but only if he qualifies in a position where he can also take advantage of PD.
Ryan Newman ($7,600) is one of the best drivers that owners can rely on for a favorable finish. In the last six races this season, Newman has finished in the Top 15 four times and finished ahead of his starting position in five of the last six races. Since joining Richard Childress Racing in 2014, Newman has finished in the Top 15 in all but two Pocono races, including a finish of 14th earlier this year. Newman was 15th in final practice and will qualify around there. Expect Newman to finish ahead of his starting position based on practice speeds and as indicated by his history.
Daniel Suarez ($7,200) will be making his second start at Pocono. In his only start at the site earlier this season, Suarez started 14th and finished 15th. Suarez has six Top 10 finishes, including the last two races at New Hampshire and Indianapolis. Suarez was 23rd in final practice and has qualified poorly a few times this season, only to finish in the Top 15 or better. If Suarez does not qualify well, he is one of the better picks to use for PD points.
Ty Dillon ($6,600) has been one of the biggest scorers in PD this season. Dillon has started outside the Top 20 in three of the last four races, only to finish in the Top 20 or better. This is a trend he has followed at Pocono, as Dillon has finished ahead of his starting position in his only three starts at the site. Dillon was 33rd in final practice, which is a sign that he will not qualify well and therefore can pick up a lot of points from PD like other times in 2017. I recommend using him this week due to his consistency this year.
Chris Buescher ($6,200) is another driver worth his low value this week. Buescher is the defending winner of this race and one of the biggest earners of PD in 2017. Buescher has qualified 20th or worse in all but one race this season and has finished ahead of his starting position in all but four races. Buescher was 24th in final practice, therefore he will continue to qualify outside the Top 20 based on practice speeds. Buescher is one of the best value picks every week.
Buescher’s teammate, A. J. Allmendinger ($6,100) ,is another favorable value pick. In the past four races this season, Allmendinger has finished ahead of his starting position, including last week, when he started 39th and finished 10th. Allmendinger was 26th in final practice. Look for Allmendinger to start around 25th and finish ahead of his starting position once again.
TOP DRIVERS IN EACH PRICE RANGE FOR OVERTON’S 400 – BASED ON COMBINATION OF PROJECTED PERFORMANCE AND VALUE
$10,000 – Plus Range
1: Kyle Busch ($10,700) – As the fastest in final practice, he should qualify up front and be a dominator, just like in the last Pocono race.
2: Kevin Harvick ($10,200) – He will not qualify as well as others in this price range, but still will finish close to the Top 5, meaning he can acquire points from PD.
3: Martin Truex Jr. ($10,500) – Truex will be a Top 5 finisher, but he will qualify around there and not be able to take advantage of stealing many PD points.
$9,000 – Plus Range
1: Matt Kenseth ($9,200) – Kenseth has momentum from two Top 5 finishes the past two weeks and has looked solid in first practice. Expect him to qualify in the Top 10 and just finish ahead of his starting position.
2: Jimmie Johnson ($9,600) – Based on practice speeds, Johnson should qualify just outside the Top 10. He will then finish ahead of his starting position and in the Top 10, gaining points from PD.
3: Chase Elliott ($9,500) – Elliott has looked very good in final practice and will finish close to the Top 5.
$8,000 – Plus Range
1: Kurt Busch ($8,500) – History shows that he has been very consistent with great finishes at Pocono and he has qualified about 12th to 15th on average. He will finish ahead of his starting position.
2: Ryan Blaney ($8,700) – Blaney is the most recent winner and has shown great speed compared to the rest of the field in practices.
3: Erik Jones ($8,300) – He finished well at Pocono earlier in the year and has shown adequate speeds compared to other drivers on several tracks this season.
$7,000 – Plus Range
1: Ryan Newman ($7,600) – Look for him to finish 15th or better.
2: Daniel Suarez ($7,200) – He will not qualify that well, but will finish around the Top 15.
3: Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($7,800) – He will not qualify too well, but will finish around his starting position based on practice speeds.
Below $7,000 Range
1: Chris Buescher ($6,200) – Expect him to finish well ahead of his starting position.
2: Ty Dillon ($6,600) – Dillon will finish inside the Top 20, ahead of his starting position.
3: A. J. Allmendinger ($6,100) – Allmendinger will finish ahead of his starting position but not as high as Buescher or Dillon.