DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Pocono
The Sprint Cup Series moves to the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania for the Axalta We Paint Winners 400 at Pocono Raceway, a.k.a. ‘The Tricky Triangle’.
Pocono Raceway is a unique track, in that there are just three turns, and they are much more sharp than your traditional track with four turns and more banking. Therefore the drivers need to brake and shift quite a bit more than normal, and the crew’s chassis adjustment is very important and a difference maker for the winning teams. Last season it was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth ($9,800) ending the six-race dominance of Chevrolet by taking his Toyota to Victory Lane in the August race. In the June race it was Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300), then in a Chevy, taking checkers. He was also last weekend’s winner in Charlotte, now in a Toyota.
Kenseth did a good job in practice and qualifying, posting a speed of 181.316 mph to secure a spot on the inside of Row 2. MTJ was in the middle of the pack in practice, and he will go off 17th in Sunday’s race. Based on his past performance that might not be a bad spot for DFS players, as he should gain plenty of Place Differential Points. He has the win, three Top 5s and seven Top 10s in 20 career starts at Pocono while posting an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 15.3, leading 114 laps.
Stewart-Haas Racing will have plenty of drivers as popular DFS picks this weekend. Kurt Busch ($9,400) leads all drivers over the past five starts at Pocono with a 111.9 Driver Rating, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data. He has 57 laps led with a 12.2 AFP during the span, running 79.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. While Busch hasn’t won at the track since the Pennsylvania 500 in Aug. 2007, he has been very consistent. He was strong in practice and qualifying, securing a 9th-place starting spot for Sunday’s run.
Busch’s teammate, Kevin Harvick ($10,400), is the highest-priced option on the board. While he has never actually won at the Triangle, he has a solid 14.2 AFP in 30 career starts with 11 Top 10s and just five finishes outside of the Top 20. He has a 97.5 Driver Rating over the past five starts at the track, and he will go off ninth in Sunday’s race after a strong qualifying effort. Teammate Tony Stewart ($7,500) is also a good low-priced option, as he will start a season-best sixth after turning a 180.563 mph lap in qualifying. Pocono has always been one of Smoke’s strongest tracks, posting a 12.0 AFP in 34 career starts, second-best behind only Jimmie Johnson ($10,100) among drivers with at least five starts at the track.
Speaking of Johnson, he will start alongside teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,300) on Row 4. Johnson last won at Pocono in June 2013, one of his three career wins at the track. He has 19 Top 10s in 28 career starts, so he and crew chief Chad Knaus have obviously made the correct adjustments and feel comfortable at this track. Dale Jr. was very comfortable at Pocono in 2014, sweeping both events for his only two career wins at the run. Over the past five races he has a 110.7 Driver Rating at Pocono, leading just 27 laps but posting a stellar 4.4 AFP during the span. He’ll be a popular pick, especially since you can save a little bit of salary.
Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski ($9,100) and Joey Logano ($10,000) were outstanding in practice and qualifying, and both comprise the starting row for Sunday’s race with the Blue Deuce on the pole. Logano leads all drivers over the past five Pocono races with 127 laps led and 81.3 percent of his laps run inside the Top 15, while Keselowski is on his heels with 112 laps led and a 10.0 AFP during the stretch. A Penske one-two DFS strategy would be a very smart move based on their starting spots, strong showing in practice and qualifying and their past histories at the Triangle.
JGR’s Kyle Busch ($10,200) was impressive in Saturday’s final practice session, as the field was chasing the No. 18 for the entire session. However, Pocono traditionally isn’t one of Busch’s best stops. While that hasn’t been a problem at Martinsville and Kansas, you can’t afford to gamble on Rowdy based on his poor career numbers at the Triangle. In 22 career starts he has no wins, just four Top 5s and eight Top 10s with a dismal 18.4 AFP, worst among the major contenders. Busch will start 12th Sunday.
If you’re looking to use a Toyota, Denny Hamlin ($9,200) might be your best bet. He had a strong practice session Friday and will go off 10th in Sunday’s race. Hamlin leads all active drivers with four wins at Pocono, although he hasn’t won since June 2010. Still, he has an AFP of 12.3 with just seven of his 20 starts results in a finish worse than 10th.
ON THE DOWN LOW
As far as the lower-priced options are concerned, there is plenty of good picks for a high-low DFS lineup strategy.
Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson ($8,700) continues to come close, and Pocono could be the place where he breaks through for his first-career Cup victory. In four career starts at Pocono he has never finished worse than 12th, posting a pair of Top 10s with an AFP of 9.0, best among all drivers with at least four career starts at the track. Larson posted a runner-up showing at Dover May 15, and a 13th-place at Charlotte May 29, so he has been very consistent and ticking off plenty of fastest laps. As a No. 3 or 4 driver you can certainly do much worse.
Ryan Newman ($7,100) did not have the best qualifying and practice sessions, but that’s not entirely a terrible thing. He will start 22nd in Sunday’s race, and there is plenty of opportunity to scoot up the leaderboard and tick off Place Differential Points. Newman ranks fifth among drivers with at least five career starts at Pocono, posting a 12.8 AFP with one win, nine Top 5s and half of his 28 starts resulting in a Top 10 finish.
Keep an eye on HScott Racing’s Clint Bowyer ($6,900), as he has slowly been piecing it together after a slow start. In 20 career starts at Pocono he has no wins, but he has manager nine Top 10s and 16 Top 20s with a stellar 14.3 AFP. He had a decent practice and qualifying session, working his way into a starting spot of 23rd. A Top 20 finish would more than exceed DFS salary expectations as your No. 6 driver.
Avoid the likes of Jeb Burton ($5,100), Landon Cassill ($5,900), Danica Patrick ($6,200) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,200) have each posted terrible numbers over the years at Pocono, and neither can be trusted for DFS purposes.
Burton starts 39th, and did not look comfortable in practice, mirroring his career numbers at the track. He has finished 33rd and 35th in two previous outings. Cassill has just one Top 20 in 11 career tries at Pocono, posting an abysmal 31.0 AFP. He limped to a 31st-place starting spot, so looks like nothing has changed for the No. 38. Danica has just one Top 20 in six Pocono trips, posting a poor 30.7 AFP, while her boyfriend Stenhouse has a 29.3 AFP in six career starts, making him way too risky of a DFS play at this price level. Stenhouse goes off 25th Sunday, while Patrick looked awful in practice and qualifying, struggling with a 33rd-place starting spot.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,500) wasn’t terrible in qualifying, running to a 27th-place starting spot. He has finishes of 29th and 32nd at Pocono, and if you’re looking for a low-priced No. 6 option, he might be your best bet of the lot.