As one of NASCAR’s most unique tracks, Pocono Raceway is a course that needs to be handicapped in a virtual vacuum. Recent momentum plays a part, but once the cars get on the Tricky Triangle the setups are so radically different here than elsewhere that drivers make the difference instead of mechanical grip or raw horsepower.
Because of its size, Pocono can be even more complex to handicap than other tracks. While Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are as long or longer, the lap times are much shorter.
It takes a while to get around the flat corners of Pocono and as a result, drivers who lose a circuit to the leaders early can often get back on the lead lap.
Group A: 5 Most Expensive (>=$10,100)
Chase Elliott ($10,300)
Group A this week really is a Pick ‘Em. All five of the most expensive drivers have ample stats to recommend them and it would not be inconceivable to see them sweep the top five. For that reason, players will want to make their selection based on Saturday’s qualification effort to maximize place-differential points and to some degree the points-per-thousand earned. Elliott has only one top-five at Pocono, but he’s the hottest driver on the circuit at the moment and is the best value this week in terms of his current cap divided by the points he’s earned in the last 45 days.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100)
Keselowski gets a mention this week because of his traditional record at Pocono. Before getting swept up in an accident last summer, he had a six-race, top-five streak that included a fifth in last year’s edition of this race. His one and only victory on this track came in 2011 – and this is a course that has occasionally been extremely kind to Team Penske. Best of all, he is the cheapest driver at this level at a little more than $1k below Kyle Busch and that could be critical when selecting Group B and C drivers.
Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,700)
Erik Jones ($8,700)
The rumors are starting to get louder. Xfinity driver Christopher Bell is impatiently waiting in the wings and there are only four rides available with Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin might have been under fire if not for his early success with a pair of wins that locks him into the playoffs, so that leaves Jones as the possible odd man out. The best way to dispel those rumors is to go out and run well this week. Jones has two Pocono top-fives and an eighth in four starts, so this is a good place to strut his stuff.
Ryan Blaney ($9,000)
Blaney has been much stronger this year than his results indicate. Some of the problems he has experienced might have been avoidable; some weren't, but he has run well almost every week before experiencing hardship. The good news is that this is a track on which a driver controls his own fate to a greater degree than the 1.5-milers. Most of Blaney's results at Pocono have ended between sixth and 12th and that is where we expect him to land this week. Given a relatively modest cap, that makes him a good value.
Group C: (Between $8,500 and $7,400)
Daniel Suarez ($8,000)
Suarez has been stronger with Stewart-Haas than he was with Joe Gibbs. Sometimes change is good for everyone involved. Last summer, Suarez finished second to then-teammate Kyle Busch and given the strength of that driver in 2018, he can be proud of the accomplishment. It is unlikely that SHR will have their breakthrough win of 2019 with their new driver, but Suarez should easily contend for a finish in the low teens and challenge for a top-10.
Alex Bowman ($8,100)
During their heyday, Hendrick Motorsports won with almost every one of their drivers at Pocono. The cars somehow have this track in their DNA and with the resurgent efforts of Jimmie Johnson and William Byron, the tide is rising in their harbor. It is not inconceivable that Bowman could win this week if he gets track position late in the race.
Group D: (Between $7,200 and $6,200)
Chris Buescher ($7,100)
No, Buescher is not likely to win this week. His first and so far only win came in a weather-aided event on this track and the remainder of his results at Pocono have been outside the top 15. But - and this is a big but - Buescher has confidence on his side. His win is in the back of his mind. So are the back-to-back top-10s he recorded on the last two 1.5-milers. He will need some luck to score a third straight top-10, but he probably won't miss by much. Buescher should be on a majority of rosters.
Paul Menard ($6,900)
Often we lean toward overall strength when we get down to Group D. There is no reason for the Wood Bros. to struggle on this type of track and Menard has shown his ability on the similarly-flat, two-mile track of Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a victory. Pocono has been kind to Team Penske in the past and the affiliation is going to pay dividends this week. Menard may not challenge for a top-10, but we will be shocked if he fails to score a top-20.
Group E: (Less than or equal to $6,000)
Daniel Hemric ($5,900)
Hemric has been the top rookie on two of the three flat tracks this year with top-20 finishes at Richmond Raceway and ISM Raceway. Pocono is different from those tracks largely by scale and the skills needed to navigate a flat track translate. Hemric is capable of scoring a top-20 again; if he misses, it will most likely result in the mid-20s. If you start to build your roster from the bottom up, anchoring Hemric is going to open up a lot of options above.
Draft Kings points earned, last 45 days
|Driver||Avg. Rank||Total Points Earned||Avg. Points||This Week's Cap||Points Per K||Group|
|Martin Truex Jr.||9.00||327.25||81.81||$10,600||7.72||A|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||24.25||90.25||22.56||$7,200||3.13||D|