Pocono Raceway is a huge 2.5-mile track, and because of that we have a relatively short race coming up on Sunday–at least from a laps perspective. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams are still going to run 400 miles this weekend, but that only equates to 160 laps at “The Tricky Triangle.” So taking that into account when it comes to DraftKings, that severely limits the dominator points up for grabs. We’ll get 40 total FPTS for laps led on Sunday (assuming the race goes full distance) and probably around 60 FPTS available for fastest laps, depending on cautions. One thing to remember here at Pocono when it comes to fastest laps, though: it’s not very common for one driver to have a significant amount more than others. For example, in this race last year, Kyle Busch led with 34 fastest laps, followed by Martin Truex, Jr. with 20, Jones and Ellitot with 14, and Harvick with 11. Kyle Busch led 100 laps in that race but only had 34 fastest laps. These cars get so spread out on this 2.5-mile track that it’s quite easy for drivers outside of the lead to rack up those fastest laps during the race.
GPP Drivers I Love For The Pocono 400
Kevin Harvick ($11,600) – When you hear things like “in a league of his own” and “definitely the car to beat,” you have to worry about another race where one guy absolutely dominates. That’s the case this weekend. All other drivers are pointing to Harvick as the sure #1 heading into Sunday’s Pocono 400, and Harvick himself said that they have the car to beat as long as they can stay away from mistakes. And with the way this season has been going, is it really all that surprising? Harvick has never won here at Pocono Raceway (somehow), but he ended up 2nd in both races at “The Tricky Triangle” last season, and has four total 2nd-place finishes in the last seven races here. He also has a 4th-place finish to his credit over that span. The only way that I don’t see the #4 Ford leading the most laps here on Sunday is if Harvick would hit the wall or something (like last week) once we go green. That type of thing doesn’t happen to Harvick two weeks in a row, though. He’s definitely the play this weekend (and pretty much every weekend).
Kyle Larson ($10,400) – One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that Kyle Larson is incredibly honest. If he doesn’t have a good car, he’ll tell you. And if he does have a good car, he’ll let that be known, too. That’s the case this weekend. Larson came out after Happy Hour and flat-out said that Harvick is in “a league of his own” and that he felt his car was 2nd-best to that #4 Ford. And who am I to disagree with that? One could definitely make a case for Kyle Busch ($11,300) to be P2 to Harvick’s P1, but Larson is right there as well. In eight career starts here at “The Tricky Triangle,” the driver of the #42 Chevrolet has finished 8th or better four times (50%) and has had just one result worse than 12th. Recently in Cup Series action, Larson has been knocking on the door of a win, but hasn’t quite knocked that door down yet. I don’t see him being in victory lane here on Sunday, but a top 5 effort with a handful of fastest laps is a pretty good bet. Larson also qualified 13th for Sunday’s Pocono 400, so he should pick up some good place differential FPTS as well.
Brad Keselowski ($9,800) – If you want to save some cap space and pivot off of Kyle Larson, here’s your guy. Brad Keselowski’s 2018 season has been lackluster thus far–to say the least. He has just three top 5 finishes in the first 13 races, and has really only looked like an actual win contender at Dover last month. So while I’m a little cautious with leaning heavily on him here at Pocono on Sunday, there’s a lot of reasons why it should work out. First, Pocono is a great track for Keselowski, and he’s currently riding a five-race streak of top 5 finishes here. Overall, he’s finished 6th or better in nine of his 16 career starts here (56.3%), and has been as close to a fantasy lock as possible since Pocono was repaved in 2012. This weekend, the #2 Ford will roll off the grid from 17th when we go green on Sunday, and if we get one main dominator–as is somewhat typical at “The Tricky Triangle”–then those place differential points are going to be huge for your lineup. It also doesn’t hurt that Keselowski’s teammate, Ryan Blaney, is sitting on the pole for the Pocono 400, so it’s pretty safe to assume that all of the Penske cars have strong cars this weekend.
Paul Menard ($6,600) – Three high-dollar guys in a row for my “Drivers I Love” on Sunday might seem a little weird, but the fact of the matter is that the cream rises to the top at a track like Pocono. Also, we have some pretty good low-dollar guys that we can use this weekend, so making a top-heavy lineup isn’t the worst move in the world for this race. One of the mid-range talents I do like on Sunday, though, is Paul Menard. Not only is he driving the car that went to victory lane in this event last year, but he also ended up top 20 in both 2017 Pocono races while driving for Richard Childress Racing. And with horsepower playing such a key role in the races here at “The Tricky Triangle,” it’s safe to say that Menard should have a top 15 car here on Sunday solely based on better equipment. This #21 team has two top 15 finishes in a row in Cup Series action heading into this weekend and will be looking to build on that momentum Sunday. Menard is nowhere near a guarantee but definitely worth a shot in GPPs.
ADDED AFTER THIS WAS PUBLISHED: As far as sneaky plays go, I really like Alex Bowman ($7,900) on Sunday. He rolls off the grid from 14th on Sunday and is right in that price range of Erik Jones and Aric Almirola, so Bowman’s ownership percentage should be incredibly low. However, the #88 Chevrolet has speed this weekend, as Bowman was 2nd-fastest in the opening practice session on Friday, and then wound up 4th-fastest in Happy Hour with the 10th-best ten-lap average. If he can sneak in a top 8 finish or so this weekend, he makes an excellent pivot off of Jones/Almirola, and will save you some cap room, too.
Salary Cap Relief at Pocono
A low-dollar guy I like but not love is Ty Dillon ($5,300). DraftKings is basically begging you to take him at that low price, and he’s going to be on a lot of lineups on Sunday. One good thing about Ty Dillon at Pocono is that his record here is actually pretty good: in four career Cup Series starts, his average finish is 18.5, and his average starting position is 28.5. Anytime you can get +10 place differential from a driver priced at $5,300 is a great day. My concern with Ty Dillon, though, is how much this #13 team has regressed in 2018; currently they’re averaging a finish of 25.2, while that number last season was 20.7. Still, Ty has ended up 24th or better in four of the last five Cup Series races, and with how these Pocono races can hinge on fuel mileage and strategy plays, it’s very possible the younger Dillon brother finishes a lot better than I expect on Sunday.
One again we’re looking at Michael McDowell ($5,800) as a low-dollar option at Pocono. Thankfully DraftKings bumped his salary up a little bit from last week, but it’s probably still low enough that McDowell is going to be one of the highest-owned low-priced drivers in the field. Last week at Charlotte he was 23% owned in the big contest and I’d expect similar this weekend at Pocono–although predicting ownership percentages isn’t my strong suit. Anyway, McDowell has finished 18th, 24th, and 23rd in the last three Pocono races, and I see no reason why he can’t challenge for a top 20 in his #34 Ford this weekend. McDowell has ended up 22nd or better in each of the last three Cup Series races, as this #34 team seems to finally be hitting a pretty good stride. We all saw last season what this guy can do with a decent car.
What About The Pole Sitter?
Ryan Blaney ($8,700) is worth exposure this weekend, but let’s look at this from a strategy perspective. We have the defending winner of this race sitting on the pole, and he’s also led the most laps of any drivers without a win this season. He’s also priced at $8,700 in DraftKings, which saves a bunch of cap space as opposed to going with a guy like Kevin Harvick ($11,600). That screams over-owned to me–kind of like how my position was with Blaney at Charlotte last weekend. So the real question here is: will Ryan Blaney get the dominator points necessary to make it worth taking the pole sitter in DraftKings? There were a lot more people surprised with his pole run on Friday than those that expected it, and the #12 Ford was strong but not overly strong in Happy Hour on Saturday. With that being said, if Blaney has shown anything in his young Cup Series career thus far, it’s the ability to surprise, and more often than not when he qualifies inside the top 5, he has a car that can lead a bunch of laps. I do like Blaney in Fantasy NASCAR this weekend, but I caution you to not get too over-excited about his pole run: his other three starts here at Pocono have ended with 30th-, 11th-, and 10th-place finishes.
Driver Point Projections for the Pocono 400
The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Starting Position||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10,900||50.1||4||03.4||11||11||$218|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$6,900||30.6||23||18.2||0||0||$225|
|Bubba Wallace Jr||$6,100||20.2||19||21.4||0||0||$302|