The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Long Pond, Pennsylvania this week for the Axalta 400 at Pocono.
Pocono is not called “The Tricky Triangle” for nothing. Teams will find it to be difficult to get the perfect setup for their cars. The track has three turns and each is very different. Cars which are good in turns one and two may be horrible in turn three. Getting the car balanced in all three corners will be the key to winning the race.
Track position will not be very important this week. The average starting position of the last five winners at Pocono is 12.6. The track also has some of the largest pit stalls on the circuit, so getting on and off of pit road should not be a problem this week.
Here are my picks for the Axalta 400 at Pocono.
Yahoo Group A Picks
Many drivers in Group A of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing have had success at Pocono. While Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson have been the popular picks this season, this is the week to take a chance with another driver for your team. Harvick has never won a race at Pocono and Johnson seems to be more concerned with tracks that are part of the Chase.
My sleeper pick in Group A is Jeff Gordon. He has six wins at Pocono in his 44 starts. Gordon has finished four of the last five races at the track in the top 10. He needs a win to earn his spot in the Chase and it would not be a surprise to see him in Victory Lane on Sunday.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
This is the week to get Earnhardt Jr. into your lineups. He won both races at Pocono last year and he has a series-best driver rating and a series-best average finishing position in the last four races at the track. The last time Earnhardt did not finish in the top five at Pocono was in 2012. He will have a great chance to find Victory Lane this week.
Hamlin used to consider Pocono his personal playground. He won four of his first nine races at the track. Hamlin has not been as good lately, but this week he should find his old form. Hamlin has been running well and he won the pole for this race last season. Do not be surprised to see Hamlin starting first in the Axalta 400.
Other good choices: Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman
Yahoo Group B Picks
It will not be easy to select your drivers from Group B this week. There are some teams who have had success at Pocono, but no one from this group has dominated the races at the track.
Kyle Larson is an interesting pick this week. He won the pole at Pocono last year and finished in the top 11 in both races. Larson seemed to be in a sophomore slump, but he was able to finish up front at Dover. It would not be a bad idea to take a chance with the No. 42 team Sunday.
My sleeper pick for Group B is Carl Edwards. If you look at his stats at Pocono you will want to choose another driver. Edwards finished both races outside the top-25 last season. He should have more success with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B.
Busch is one of the best choices in the field this week. In the last four races at Pocono, Busch has the second-best driver rating and the third-best average finishing position. He knows how to navigate the Tricky Triangle. Busch has finished 10 races in the top three at the track and he is my pick to win Sunday.
Kahne has either been really good or really bad in his recent trips to Pocono. In the last five races he finished two in the top two and two races outside the top 35. Kahne is worth the gamble this week because the drivers in Group B are not very good at this track. Select Kahne for your team and see how he runs in practice. The risk is definitely worth the reward.
Biffle had been good, but not great at the Tricky Triangle. He has finished five consecutive races at the track in the top 15. The No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford has found some speed the last two weeks. Biffle may not qualify up front, but he should be able to drive his car into the top 15 Sunday.
There is little risk with using Bowyer for your team this week. Bowyer will not finish in the top five, but will easily keep his car inside the top 15. He has finished 12 of the last 13 races at Pocono inside the top 15. Bowyer has only finished one race in the last 11 years at the track outside the top 20. He is a good pick for Group B this week. .
Other Good Choices: Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard
Yahoo Group C Picks
Fantasy teams will need a little luck from their Group C driver this week. The choices from this group have not had very much success at Pocono. Fantasy teams will want to take a chance with a driver who you may not have used this season.
My sleeper pick in Group C is Justin Allgaier. Last year was his first trip to Pocono and he finished 27th in the spring race and 16th in the summer race. If he is able to improve in his second year of racing at the track, he will be an excellent choice for your team.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Dillon will be back in the No. 33 car for Richard Childress Racing. He has never raced at Pocono, so it is hard to know what to expect from him this week. Dillon will have a fast car, so it will be up to him to figure out how to drive it through the field. Expect a top-25 finish from Dillon Sunday.
Most teams will be using Ragan as their Group C driver this week, so it will be hard to gain points on your completion. Ragan has been average at Pocono in his career. Last season he finished both races in the top 20. He will have a better car this week than he did last season, so expect better results from the No. 55 team.
Other Good Choices: Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick
Fantasy Live Picks
The best strategy for Fantasy Live this week will be to select drivers who start towards the back of the field. There are only 160 laps in the race and 80 bonus points available for leading laps. Fantasy teams who find the drivers who can make their way to the front will score the most bonus points for finishing differential.
It took a while, but I finally figured out the key to scoring well in Fantasy Live. Teams who select four good drivers and one of the cheapest drivers are the teams who have been finishing up front. This strategy has involved using Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. because of their price. I plan to keep these three drivers for the rest of the season.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Pocono:
Driver 1: Denny Hamlin $26.00
Driver 2: Kurt Busch $25.00
Driver 3: Carl Edwards $21.25
Driver 4: Martin Truex Jr. $22.25
Driver 5: Matt Dibenedetto $5.50
Pick to Win: Denny Hamlin
* Driver prices based on prices at Dover
Fox Fantasy Racing
The strategy for Fox Fantasy Racing has been to select driver who started the race in the back with a chance to move to the front, but teams must also factor in the drivers price. Kyle Busch is a great bargain at $5,900. Carl Edwards is also under priced at only $8,300. Selecting these drivers will allow you to build a balanced team.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Pocono:
Driver 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. $12,100
Driver 2: Jimmie Johnson $13,200
Driver 3: Kyle Busch $5,900
Driver 4: Kurt Busch $9,000
Driver 5: Carl Edwards $8,300
* Driver prices based on prices at Dover