DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Pocono 400
The Sprint Cup Series boys head to the Tricky Triangle in Long Pond, Penn. for the Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400 at Pocono Raceway. Last season it was a Hendrick Motorsports driver dominating the Pennsylvania run. No, it wasn’t Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon, drivers with a total of nine career victories at the track. In case you forgot it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. virtually coming out of nowhere for his first two wins at Pocono after just seven Top 5s and 11 Top 10s in his first 28 career starts at the tri-oval.
DFS owners might be targeting Dale Jr. ($12,200) this weekend, but history proves that this isn’t the best of moves. First off, it’s extremely difficult to three-peat at any track, especially so at Pocono with its unique layout. And Earnhardt just hasn’t fared well before, so there is no reason to get overly excited and spend money based upon last season’s unlikely sweep. Will he lay a total egg? It isn’t likely, but it is also entirely possible. Making matters slightly worse, Little E will go off in the 20th position, so he’ll have to work his way up through a crowded field.
NASCAR’s Loop Data shows Little E has been trending upward at the track lately, as he leads all drivers with an average Driver Rating of 115.6 while sitting in the Top 15 in 82.5 percent of the races at the track. Still, DFS owners will find better value with Earnhardt’s teammate, Jeff Gordon ($11,300), as well as Ryan Newman ($9,500), who is an absolute steal at his price level.
Gordon sits atop the charts in Average Finish Position (AFP) among drivers with at least three career starts at Pocono. He has won this event six times, most among all drivers, and he has 19 Top 5s and 38 finishes inside the Top 38 in 44 career starts. Five of the times he finished outside of the Top 20 was due to a DNF, which may or may not have been his fault. He is the career leader in laps led at 1,037, and a solid overall pick to build a team around in his second-to-last run in Long Pond. Gordon will start on the second row.
As mention, Newman is also a very good deal. He has one win and nine Top 5s in 26 career starts at the track, turning in an impressive 11.38 AFP. While he has run inside the Top 15 just 70.1 percent of the time over the past five runs, he is second among all drivers during the span with a 6.0 AFP, behind only Gordon. If you’re looking for a mid-level value to carry your team you certainly want Newman in your plans. Newman kicks off the spring run at Pocono running in unlucky spot No. 13 on the starting grid.
DFS owners will also like the value from Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon ($8,900) in the No. 3 machine. His strong qualifying effort has him going off in the sixth spot and he negotiated the place fairly well last season with finishes of 15th and 17th. For a No. 4 or 5 driver on your roster, you can certainly do much worse.
You will want to shy away from Roush-Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,900), as he just hasn’t seemed to be very comfortable in his previous stops at the Tricky Triangle. He has yet to finish inside the Top 10 in four career starts, with his best finish at 15th place. He hasn’t even led a lap while plodding to a subpar 23.25 AFP. Toss in the fact he has back-to-back 37th place finishes at Charlotte and Dover, and his salary says yes, but the results say no.
It will also be a good idea to avoid Jamie McMurray ($9,700) and his rather high salary. In 24 career runs at Pocono he has yet to turn in a Top 5, while finding his way into the Top 10 on just six occasions. An AFP of 19.79 is certainly nothing to write home about, and he has crashed out three times, or 12.5 percent of his starts. He does start 14th, which isn’t terrible, but take a pass on him this week.
Lastly, the one-man Furniture Row Racing team featuring Martin Truex Jr. continues to sizzle. He qualified third for Pocono, and he continues to be a strong value at just $11,100. For whatever reason his salary has yet to match up to his amazing results. In 14 starts this season he has marched into the Top 10 in 13 races, the exception being the GEICO 500 at Talladega. He led a total of 131 laps in each of his past two races and he will pile up big points again if he can improve slightly upon his career numbers. He has never won at Pocono, but he is 12th among all active drivers with at least three starts at the track, posting six Top 10s and a 15.89 AFP.