On the heels of a wild finish at Talladega, the Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for a unique weekend at one of the unique tracks on the schedule. The “Tricky Triangle” is set to host a doubleheader, beginning with the Pocono Organics 325 on Saturday and wrapping up with the Pocono 350 the next day.
Of course, the concept of a doubleheader is a little less foreign considering the revised schedule following the coronavirus shutdown has already featured back-to-back races at Darlington and Charlotte. However, this will be the first time that races will be held at the same track on consecutive days.
As it has done since its return, NASCAR will set the field for Saturday’s race using a combination of owner points and a random draw. For Sunday’s race, the Top 20 finishers from Saturday will be inverted, and the rest of the drivers will start the second leg of the doubleheader where they finished the opener.
Track position means everything at Pocono, and it isn’t uncommon to see pit strategy or fuel mileage decide the outcome here. Depending on how the lineups shake out for both races, we could have some opportunities to utilize some sleeper picks in some of the season-long contests, especially in Sunday’s race.
1. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has been the model of consistency at Pocono. He has eight Top 10s in the last 10 races, including six finishes of sixth or better in the last seven races alone. Harvick was in the mix for the win in both races here last year, and he led a race-high 62 laps in the July race.
2. Kyle Busch
Nobody has been better at Pocono the last couple of years than Busch. He has reeled off seven straight Top 10s, winning three times during that stretch and leading 50-plus laps five times. He also leads all drivers in points scored over the last 10 Pocono races. Busch should be a force in all formats all weekend.
3. Chase Elliott
Elliott is still looking for a Pocono win, but he is no stranger to strong runs at the track. He has six Top 10s in eight starts here, notching a fourth-place finish here last June. Throw in the speed the No. 9 team has had all season, and I expect Elliott to be a Top 5 contender in both races this weekend.
4. Denny Hamlin
Flat tracks have always been kind to him, and Pocono is no exception. He is a five-time winner here, taking the checkered flag last July after finishing sixth in the June race. There is a good chance Hamlin is on my Fantasy Live roster in both races this weekend.
5. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex is a two-time Pocono winner, and he has four finishes of sixth or better in his last six starts here, including three Top 3 finishes in the last five races. Truex has as much upside as any driver this weekend.
6. Brad Keselowski
He has been one of the safest options at Pocono for a while, and over the last 10 races, his seven Top 5 fives are the most of any driver. His eight Top 10s are tied for the most, and Keselowski also ranks third in points scored and second in average finish.
7. Erik Jones
Pocono has been one of his best tracks on the schedule, and Jones leads all drivers with an 8.3 average finish here. He has five Top 10s and four Top 5s in six starts, leading double-digit laps three times. Last year, Jones finished third and second in the two Pocono races. This a great track to target Jones in both Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
8. Ryan Blaney
Blaney is a former winner at Pocono, and he has finished 12th or better in all four starts at the track since joining Team Penske. He should at least challenge for a Top 10 in both races, and given how fast he has been in 2020, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Blaney in the Top 5.
9. Joey Logano
While he hasn’t been terrible at Pocono, the track doesn’t rank among his best either. Logano’s last Top 5 here came in 2016, and he has gone six straight races without leading a lap. He should be in the mix for Top 10s this weekend, but you may want to save him for another week in the season-long contests, at least in the first race.
10. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer has been coming on strong at Pocono since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, finishing 11th or better in four of his six starts. He has finished sixth or better in two of those starts, notching a Top 5 here last June. Bowyer should be a solid Group B option in the DGG, and he could even be a sleeper at Fantasy Live.
11. William Byron
He finished 18th in his Pocono debut, and Byron has cracked the Top 10 in all three of his starts at the track since. He has led double-digit laps in two of those races, finishing sixth or better twice. I love Byron as a Group B option in the Driver Group Game this weekend.
12. Kurt Busch
His overall record at Pocono is excellent, but Busch’s numbers at the track have slipped just a bit the last couple of years. He has managed just a single Top 10 in the last five races, and he has finished outside the Top 15 twice in that span. The upside is still there, but I will probably wait and see how Busch performs in the first race before committing to him.
13. Aric Almirola
Stewart-Haas Racing has been bringing some strong cars to Pocono, and Almirola has delivered three finishes of 12th or better in four starts at the track in the No. 10 Ford. He doesn’t have Top 5 upside, but his Top 15 floor gives him plenty of fantasy value, especially as a Group B option in the DGG.
14. Alex Bowman
Bowman has had some strong runs at flat tracks, and he has finished as high as third at Pocono. He has been a little boom-or-bust this year, but Bowman has shown Top 5 speed on a routine basis. He could be a real X-factor for fantasy owners, especially in DFS contests.
15. Ryan Newman
Newman doesn’t have the upside of some of the other midrange options, but his otherworldly ability to protect track position gives him one of the safest floors. He has finished 16th or better in seven of his last eight Pocono starts, and he should finish in or around the Top 15 in both races this weekend.
16. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson has been struggling just a bit at Pocono the last few years. He has just two Top 15s in his last eight starts here, and he has gone nine straight races without a Top 5 at the track. He has enjoyed a resurgence in 2020, and while I won’t be surprised if he has Top 10 speed, I probably won’t have a ton of exposure to him in the first race.
17. Matt DiBenedetto
His overall numbers at Pocono aren’t great, but DiBenedetto didn’t have decent equipment until last year, and he finished 17th in both races at the track. He is in even better equipment this season, which could translate to a career-best performance. I will be watching him closely in the first race.
18. Austin Dillon
Although Dillon does have five Top 15s in the last 10 races at Pocono, he has never cracked the Top 10 in 12 career starts at the track. I probably won’t have a ton of exposure to Dillon in season-long contests, but he could be a useful option at the DFS sites if he starts outside the Top 20 in either race.
19. Chris Buescher
I doubt he will ever top his win at Pocono in a fog-shortened race in 2016, Buescher finished 14th and 16th in the two races here last season, gaining double-digit spots in both starts. If he ends up starting outside the Top 20, he could be a solid, low-priced option for DFS contests.
20. Tyler Reddick
Reddick flexed his muscle again last weekend at Talladega, and he continues to show the most upside among a strong rookie class. Granted, he will be making his first Cup laps at Pocono this weekend, but he was the runner-up in the XFINITY Series event here last year. I expect Reddick to have Top 15 speed.
21. Bubba Wallace
Wallace is dealing with a level of hate that I can’t even pretend to understand, and he’s doing it while having a career year behind the wheel. He has finished in the Top 15 in four of the five races leading up to the Pocono doubleheader, and he finished 21st and 22nd in the two races here in 2019. I wouldn’t rule out a Top 20 from Wallace in either race, and he’s become a valuable Group C option in the Driver Group Game.
22. Cole Custer
He actually made a Cup start at Pocono last year, finishing 26th for Rick Ware Racing, and he won the XFINITY race at the track. Having that Cup start under his belt at the track should help Custer this weekend, and it also won’t hurt that Stewart-Haas has been strong at Pocono as an organization. I still wouldn’t expect more than a Top 20 out of the rookie, but he should be a useful Group C play in the Driver Group Game.
23. John Hunter Nemechek
Nemechek continues to deliver solid results, especially for a rookie with a smaller team. He has an 18.9 average finish overall, and he has finished inside the Top 25 in 12 of the 13 races. He will make his first Cup starts at Pocono this weekend, but Nemechek should be on your radar as a potential Group C option for the DGG in both races.
24. Christopher Bell
Consistency remains an issue for Bell, and he will run in the Top 10 one week and finish outside the Top 25 the next. I don’t see the pattern changing any time soon, especially this weekend when he makes his first Cup starts at Pocono. The boom-or-bust results make him better suited for DFS contests than season-long formats.
25. Matt Kenseth
This ranking is probably a little low, but Kenseth just isn’t getting it done behind the wheel of the No. 42 machine. Since logging a Top 10 in his return to the Cup Series, he has just a single Top 15 in the eight races since, and he has a 23.1 average finish overall. No, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him run in the Top 20 this weekend, but at this point, I am taking a chance on one of the rookies before I roll the dice on Kenseth.
26. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
He came within inches of winning at Talladega, but Stenhouse should go back to battling in the middle of the pack this weekend. He has a 23.2 average finish in 14 career starts at Pocono, and he has never finished in the Top 10. Last year, Stenhouse finished 21st and 32nd in the two races here. Stenhouse will be a total roll of the dice this weekend.
27. Ty Dillon
After having slight success at Pocono to start his career, Dillon has finished 23rd or worse in his last four starts here, finishing outside the Top 25 in both races last year. He will need a lot of place differential upside to even be worth considering this weekend.
28. Ryan Preece
Preece didn’t have much success at Pocono as a rookie, finishing 23rd in his track debut and crashing and finishing 37th in his second start. Sure, he could improve on those results during this weekend’s doubleheader, but a Top 20 finish is the absolute best-case scenario. Preece is a qualifying-dependent DFS lottery ticket.
29. Michael McDowell
While he doesn’t have a lot of upside, McDowell has been a steady performer at Pocono. He has finished inside the Top 25 in all seven of his starts here, posting a 21.0 average finish, and finishing inside the Top 20 in three of the last five races. If McDowell starts outside the Top 30 in either race, he will have some value as a DFS punt play.
30. Daniel Suarez
Suarez has some solid numbers at Pocono, and in six starts, he has three Top 10s to go along with a 13.3 average finish. Unfortunately, he no longer has anything close to the caliber of equipment that he had in previous years, and most weeks, Suarez struggles to run in the Top 25. I’m not expecting him to have much of a fantasy impact this weekend.