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Daily Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview & Picks for DraftKings - Gander Outdoors 400
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Gander Outdoors 400
Pocono Raceway - Long Pond, PA
Track - 2.5 Mile Tri-Oval
This week the Monster Energy Cup Series travels back to the Tricky Triangle for the Gander Outdoors 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 standpoint, this week is much more about track position than anything else. There has been only one driver to lead 50 or more laps in five of the last six races and no more than five to pick up double-digit place differential points in three straight races here at Pocono. On the flip side, there have been five or more drivers to start and finish inside the Top 10 in all six of those races(seven drivers three times) and just six total drivers to come from a starting position outside the Top 20 to finish inside the Top 10(10%). It will be key to pay clsoe attention to practice and qualifying but if you can't, be sure ot check my sheet on Saturday for updates following each session. My top targets will also be added following the qualifying session.
Let's now dig in and take a look at some track trends and pre-qualifying targets.
Last Six Winners at Pocono Raceway
- Martin Truex Jr.(started 4th, led 31 laps)
- 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)
Top 5 Current Track History at Pocono Raceway
Despite not winning here since back in 2011, Brad Keselowski has been the most consistent driver at the track with Top 5 finishes in each of the last five races with a 4.0 average finish. Kevin Harvick is still searching for his first win at Pocono in his career and if the last two years are a sign of things to come, that win is very close. He has finished Top 5 in four straight and Top 10 in all five races dating back to the start of the 2016 season. He led 89 laps in the race earlier this season which easily made him the top scorer on DraftKings despite finishing 4th. Brothers Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch fall in line next with one win apiece over the last two years but it is Kyle that gets the fantasy edge having led 191 laps. Matt Kenseth rounds out the Top 5 with three Top 10's and an 11.2 average finish over the last five races but it has become clear that equipment is everything as he has struggled in the #6 car with no Top 10's but his best finish was a 13th earlier this year here at Pocono.
Top 5 Career Track History at Pocono Raceway
Denny Hamlin has been very up and down here at the Tricky Triangle lately but dominated it early in his career. He leads all drivers with four wins and gathered them in his first nine races here with three other Top 10 finishes in that time. Jimmie Johnson has also struggled here lately with just one Top 10 and three finishes outside the Top 30 in his last five trips but sits in a tie for second with Kurt Busch with three career wins. Busch has the edge in Top 5's with 14 to Jimmie's 11 and also has been better lately with a win and three Top 10's in his last five trips. Martin Truex Jr. struggled here early in his career with just two Top 10's in his first nine trips to the Tricky Triangle but has been much better lately. He won the race earlier in June and has three straight finishes of 6th or better. Kasey Kahne is one of just five active drivers with multiple wins here at Pocono but has really struggled over the past four years with just two Top 10's in his last nine trips and is no longer driving a Hendrick car. Most likely a fade this week.
Top 5 Current Track Type History(2.5 Mile Intermediate)
This track type includes the two Pocono races and one Indianapolis race each year and Kevin Harvick leads all drivers with a Top 10 in each race since the start of the 2016 season with a 4.7 average finish. Brad Keselowski also joins the elite consistency ranks at the 2.5-mile(non-plate) tracks recently finishing Top 5 in six of the last seven races. Matt Kenseth picked up his best finish in the #6 here at Pocono earlier this season and while with Joe Gibbs Racing, has been consistent on the 2.5-mile tracks with five Top 10's in the last seven races. Up next is Kyle Busch who has a win at both tracks over the last two years with 427 laps led between them to lead the way in fantasy scoring.
Top 5 Current Form (Last Six Races)
Martin Truex Jr. remains at the top of the form ranks but Kevin Harvick closed in after his sixth win of the season last week. They are joined by Kyle Busch as the only three drivers with five Top 10's in the last six races and they aren't called the "Big 3" for nothing. After a 35th place finish, Clint Bowyer drops out of the Top 5 pushing Erik Jones to the four spot despite a 16th place finish last week. New to the Top 5 is Kurt Busch after his second straight and fourth Top 10 in his last six races.
Pre Qualifying/Practice Targets
My top driver of the "Big 3" this week is Kevin Harvick, not because he is coming off a win but more for his track history here. He has finished Top 5 here at the Tricky Triangle in four straight and Top 10 in seven of his last eight races with four runner-up finishes. Oh, and he has been dominant all season leading the series with eight wins with no stopping in site. I will have a piece of Harvick no matter the qualifying position this week.
We can't talk consistency here at Pocono with mentioning Brad Keselowski's name. He is the only driver to finish Top 5 in each of the last six races dating back to the summer of 2015. The price is very affordable and the only knock is that he has been inconsistent lately with two finishes outside the Top 30 in his last three but is overdue for a win and I would not be surprised if it came here. With his lack of dominator points, I will be more inclined to play him on FanDuel this week if he qualifies close to the front.
He will likely be a contrarian choice this week as the form is pretty garbage coming off two finishes outside the Top 25 but he does have some track history here. He hasn't qualified well here at Pocono, starting outside the Top 20 in three straight and five of the last six but finished 18th or better in five straight here. How much exposure will definitely depend on the starting position. Stay tuned.
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.