Daily Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview & Picks for DraftKings - Pocono 400
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Pocono Raceway - Long Pond, PA
Track - 2.5 Mile Intermediate
After looking at the practice data, I sure didn't see the domination that Kyle Busch laid down coming last weekend at Charlotte. He swept all three stages, led 377 of 400 laps and won his fourth race of the season and it was big for a couple reasons. First of all, it gives him 25 playoff points which will come in handy once the postseason begins and even bigger it gives Busch a win at every track he has raced on in the Cup series making him the only driver in history to do so. Kevin Harvick had to start from the back and with that was the highest owned driver and as anticipated made it inside the Top 10 within the first stage only to run over some debris, hit the wall, and exit the race at lap 83.
This week the Monster Energy Cup Series travels to the Tricky Triangle for the Pocono 400 this Sunday afternoon. Pocono Raceway is one of the most unique tracks in NASCAR with three turns, all different from one another with anywhere from six to 14 degrees of banking. What makes it the most difficult for crew chiefs and teams is the balanced setup that is needed for a driver to have a good car throughout all the turns which makes for some exciting racing.
From a fantasy perspective, with just 160 laps, there is much less emphasis on dominator points and the results prove that point. Over the last six races here, only once has a driver led 100 laps and it was Kyle Busch in this race last year and on top of that, there has only been one driver in five of the last six races to lead 50 or more laps. Place differential has been tough to come by as well as there have been seven or fewer drivers to pick up double-digit place differential in five of the last six races. What does this all mean? Track position is key and is even more emphasized since the inception of stage racing as only three drivers in each of last years races started outside the Top 10 and finished inside the Top 10. With all that said, let's look at some track stats and trends and then look at some pre-qualifying targets.
Last Six Winners at Pocono Raceway
- Kyle Busch(started 1st, led 74 laps)
- Ryan Blaney(started 4th, led 10 laps)
- Chris Buescher(started 22nd, led 12 laps)
- Kurt Busch(started 9th, led 32 laps)
- Matt Kenseth(started 7th, led 2 laps)
- Martin Truex Jr.(started 3rd, led 97 laps)
Top 5 Current Track History at Pocono Raceway
He hasn't picked up a win here since 2011, but Brad Keselowski has been very consistent at the Tricky Triangle lately and is the only driver over the past two years(four races) to finish Top 5 in each race. A close second in the average finish category(4.3) is Kevin Harvick who has three straight Top 5's and four straight Top 10's here at Pocono and is one of just four drivers to average over 50 DraftKings and FanDuel points per race in that time. It is a small sample size but Erik Jones has been very successful here early in his career as he finished Top 10 in both races last season and even led 24 laps while averaging over 53.5 DK/56 FD points per race. Brothers Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch each have a win and three Top 10's in the last four races at Pocono but it is Kyle who has been the fantasy play as he leads all drivers with 178 laps led and is averaging 75.8 DK/60.2 FD points per race.
Top 5 Career Track History at Pocono Raceway
This week I sorted the career track history by wins as no one driver has dominated here over their careers. Denny Hamlin leads all active driver with four career wins and also has 10 Top 5's, 15 Top 10's and an 11.8 average finish in 24 career races here at Pocono. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch are right behind Hamlin with three wins and also both have 19 Top 10's in 32 and 33 career races respectively. If you are looking for value, consider Kasey Kahne again this week as he has won here twice in his career(most recently in 2013) and has finished inside the Top 15 in three of his last four races. Outside of Erik Jones who has only raced here twice, it is Brad Keselowski leading all drivers in fantasy production over the past three eyras(six races) with an average of 44.3 DK/52.4 FD points per race.
Top 5 Current Track Type History(2.5-Mile Intermediate)
Kyle Busch was inconsistent at the2.5-mile intermediate tracks last year(14.7 average finish) but led all drivers in fantasy production onDraftKings thanks to leading 261 laps(74+ in each race). Because of the laps led and inconsistent performance, he was a much better play on DraftKings. From a consistency standpoint, Brad Keselowski was the play on both sites as he was the only driver to average more than 50 points per race in the three races as he was 5th at both Pocono races and runner-up at Indianapolis. Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth were right behind Brad in consistency as both drivers finished Top 10 in all three races last year and were solid plays on both sites. Daniel Suarez was also impressive in his rookie season as he finished 15th and 7th at Pocono and 7th at Indianapolis and made an excellent value play on both sites(if there was FanDuel).
Top 5 Current Form (Last Six Races)
It's been a back and forth game all season and this week, Kyle Busch takes over the top spot on the form ranks once again. He dominated the Coca-Cola 600 leading 377 of the 400 laps and over the last six races has three wins with 526 laps led for an average of 80.3 DK/74.8 FD points per race. Kevin Harvick most likely would have given Kyle a run for his money last week as he started from the back and made his way inside the Top 10 within the first stage but ran over some debris and ended up in the wall ending his day. He still sits second in fantasy scoring over the last six races, however, with two wins, 300 laps led, and a 9.7 average finish. Kyle Larson is a close third as he joins Harvick as the only other driver with five Top 10's in the last six races and he has also led 301 laps for an average of 60.6 DK/68.3 FD points per race. After a terrible start to the season, things are finally looking up for Jimmie Johnson who sneaks up into the form ranks this week with two Top 5's and four Top 10's in his last six races(9.0 average finish) and sits second in average FanDuel scoring(73 points per race).
Pre Qualifying/Practice Targets
Kevin Harvick(DK - $11,600 FD - $13,500)
Kyle Busch won the most recent here at Pocono and won the race last weekend but I am going back to Harvick as my top early pick here this week. He finished runner-up in both Pocono races last year and has finished Top 10 in four straight and six of the last seven here(engine failure in the other).
Brad Keselowski(DK - $9,800 FD - $11,000)
The biggest thing that stands out here is the salary remaining under $10K on DraftKings despite the tremendous track history. Brad hasn't won here since 2011 but comes in with five straight Top 5 finishes and is the only driver with five Top 5 finishes in his last six races on the 2.5-mile tracks.
Denny Hamlin(DK - $9,100 FD - $11,300)
Another one of my favorite early picks is Denny Hamlin who leads all active drivers with four career wins here at Pocono. He also appears to be heating up as he comes in with back to back Top 5 finishes and has four Top 10's in his last five races.
Chris Durell has been playing Daily Fantasy Sports for four years and fantasy in general for more than a decade. He is an active player in NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, and of course NASCAR. He lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with his wife and two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter at @jager_bombs9 for advice, strategy, answers to any NASCAR questions or how he copes with the winters up north.
- NASCAR Phoenix Auto Racing: (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)