We have an interesting situation this weekend with a double-header scheduled at Pocono on Saturday and Sunday. Now, we’ve had back-to-back races at the same track before this year (Darlington and Charlotte), but it hasn’t quite been like this one. You see, teams have to use the same car Saturday that they do on Sunday, or they’ll have to drop to the rear at the start on Sunday.
So that brings up the possibility of teams sandbagging a bit on Saturday–which we saw from Alex Bowman at Charlotte–to not only get a better starting spot on Sunday, but also possibly “save” their equipment. The top 20 finishers from Saturday’s race get inverted for Sunday’s starting lineup with 21st through 40th starting where they finish.
Now add in that we’re racing at Pocono Raceway and it gets very interesting, because this is probably the trickiest track on the schedule and teams are getting zero track time before the green flag. Setting up a race car for Pocono is hard enough with two or three practice sessions. One would think this would give an advantage to the teams that have had success here recently.
If you need the starting lineup for the Pocono Organics 325, click here to see it. The Fords of Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney are starting on the front row followed by the Toyotas of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in row two.
Speed Report in 2020 After Homestead
We ignored Green Flag Speed at Talladega last week because it really didn’t matter, so we’re going back two weeks to Homestead for a little recap. Michael McDowell and Matt DiBenedetto ranked 1-2 in Green Flag Speed in that race but I’m pretty sure they had an extra pit stop or something (fresh tires) for that to happen. So put some asterisks by their names. After that, it was Hamlin–Reddick–Blaney–Elliott which sounds right. Looking at the average rank this season now after eleven races (remember, we don’t count superspeedways):
- Chase Elliott (4.5 average rank)
- Kevin Harvick (6.9 average rank)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (7.4 average rank)
- Ryan Blaney (8.2 average rank)
- Brad Keselowski (8.4 average rank)
You can click here to check out the Cheat Sheet on Green Flag Speed and see how every driver ranks in that category plus more.
As far as Green Flag Speed goes for Pocono, the Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, and Denny Hamlin were 1-2-3 in that category in last year’s June race, while it was Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin ranking up there in the July race. Fun fact to note: Kevin Harvick has been inside the top 3 in terms of Green Flag Speed in five of the last six Pocono races.
DraftKings Strategy for Pocono Saturday
It’s probably a good thing that we’re coming off of the Talladega race because it keeps us DraftKings players in the mindset of not hyper-focusing on dominator points. Now, races at Pocono aren’t as bad as races at Talladega in terms of pretty much ignoring the domination factor, but this race on Saturday is only scheduled to be 130 laps. That equals just 32.5 FPTS for laps led and probably around 50-55 FPTS for fastest laps. So, what I’m saying here is, while it’s going to be important to have the dominator in your lineup, place differential and finishing position get a boost in importance this week compared to other races with 100+ more laps than this.
As far as fastest laps go at Pocono, history tells us that we’re basically looking at two or three main contenders to rack those up: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex, Jr. Looking at the last six races here at The Tricky Triangle, here are the averages:
- Kyle Busch (32.7 fastest laps per race)
- Kevin Harvick (22.5 fastest laps per race)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (13.3 fastest laps per race)
Nobody else has more than 7.7 fastest laps per race over that span. Additionally, only seven drivers other than Rowdy, Harvick, and Truex have scored 10+ fastest laps in a single race here at Pocono over those three years. Those guys are: Denny Hamlin (high of 22), Brad Keselowski (high of 19), Erik Jones (high of 14), Chase Elliott (high of 14), Kurt Busch (high of 14), Daniel Suarez (high of 12), and William Byron (high of 12).
As far as Pocono itself goes, this is a really unique track, and with all three corners being totally different, the crew chiefs have quite a tough task to come up with a good setup heading into Saturday. This is why I’m giving a bit of an advantage to the teams that have performed well here recently. In terms of comparable tracks, there really isn’t any, to be honest. You could throw Indianapolis in there but that’s about it. You could also make a case for looking at Fontana a little bit from earlier this year just because horsepower was so important there, but Pocono is really a beast by itself.
Drivers Most Likely to Dominate
I could see pole sitter Aric Almirola ($7,300) leading for the first 15-20 laps on Saturday but he’s probably going to fall back, at the latest, by the first pit stop. And he may not even lead one lap with Ryan Blaney ($9,000) on the outside pole. Blaney is my top ‘most likely’ dominator for Saturday, with Chase Elliott ($10,700) and Denny Hamlin ($8,800) deserving a look, too. Of course, you can never count out Kyle Busch ($9,300) and Kevin Harvick ($10,100) from dominating at Pocono either, as well as Martin Truex, Jr. ($9,700). My concern with the JGR Toyotas this week is a possible lack of horsepower, as they’ve been slow out of the gate this year.
GPP / Tournament Plays I Love for the Pocono Organics 325
My Chalk Plays: For me, the chalk plays this week are pretty straightforward: Kevin Harvick ($10,100), William Byron ($8,400), Erik Jones ($7,100), and Michael McDowell ($5,500). I expect these four drivers to all have significant exposure, and they’ll probably be my highest-owned guys on the slate. Of course, you can’t leave out Christopher Bell ($11,100), who has the worst qualifying draw luck of all time, since he starts so far back. With that being said, he’s priced super high and it’s hard to trust rookies at Pocono, so I think he won’t be as high-owned as you may think. For the most part, I’ll be starting with Byron, Jones, and McDowell and building from there. So let’s talk about some other drivers that I don’t mind being overweight on in big GPPs:
Chase Elliott ($10,700) – I don’t mind pivoting off of Harvick and taking Chase Elliott instead. Harvick’s track record here at Pocono is phenomenal, but that team has just been off for the last month or so. In fact, Harvick’s only finish better than 10th in the last six races was his win at Atlanta. Of course, he also had phenomenal stats at that track, so… Anyway, Chase Elliott is priced high enough that he should be relatively low-owned because there is so much value in that $9,000-$10,000 range. With that being said, Chase has a shot at dominating this race, and if he can lead for 60+ laps, he’s going to be worth that price tag. He posted a career-best 4th-place finish in this race last year and has finished top 10 in six of his eight Pocono starts.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,100) – As I mentioned before, Fontana is a tiny bit comparable to Pocono just because of the horsepower factor. And if you look back at that race earlier this year, Jimmie Johnson had one of the best cars. Now, because of his $9,100 price tag, as well as with all of the “top tier” drivers surrounding him on the price sheet, I expect Johnson to go quite low on the ownership chart Saturday. Add in the fact that he’s sucked at Pocono recently and that’ll drive that percentage even lower. However, Jimmie starts 12th and is worth going a bit overweight on in GPPs, in my opinion.
Tyler Reddick ($7,400) – It’s rare to see a rookie perform well at Pocono. I’m going to say it’ll be almost impossible for a rookie to do well at Pocono with zero track time before the green flag. But, hey, Tyler Reddick isn’t your typical rookie. Week after week this kid shows why he belongs in the Cup Series, and honestly I think he would be a contender for multiple wins this year if he was driving for a top organization and not Richard Childress Racing. One thing to note is that Daniel Hemric was in this #8 Chevrolet last season and he raced his way to 13th- and 7th-place finishes here at Pocono. For what it’s worth, Reddick has two Xfinity starts here and has finished 9th and 2nd.
PIVOT PLAY (ADDED SATURDAY MORNING): After spending some time building lineups, I really like pivoting to Chris Buescher ($6,500) off of Erik Jones ($7,100). This gives you an extra $600 in cap space to play with. Buescher doesn’t have the ceiling that Jones has, but this will be a good play if Jones has trouble yet again in this race. Buescher has finished between 14th and 17th in three of his last four starts at Pocono, and now he has that Ford power under the hood at a track where horsepower matters a little more.
Pocono Saturday DraftKings Projections
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. Also included are projected laps led and fastest laps for each driver. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||Starting Position||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||11||$9,700||47.0||07.0||6||9||$206|
|John H. Nemechek||20||$6,000||18.8||22.6||0||0||$319|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||14||$7,900||18.0||20.0||0||0||$439|