The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at the Tricky Triangle this week in the Pocono 400. The track will be even more “Tricky” with the 550 HP engine and higher downforce aero package. The race will be one of the hardest to predict because even the crew chiefs do not know how the 2019 cars will perform on the track. It should be a fun race to watch. The Pocono 400 can be seen Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FS1.
* Last week was a disaster for the Driver Group Game picks. The blown tire for Erik Jones sank the lineup before the race even got going. The picks are still ranked in the top 97.8% so we are still on track for a great season.
The MENCS will have a unique schedule this week. There will be two practices Friday. The first practice will be at 2 p.m. ET (No TV) and final practice will be at 4 p.m. ET on FS2. Yes, FS2…not FS1, so set your DVRs properly. Qualifying will be Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET on FS1.
We get to watch two practices Friday before our lineups need to be set Saturday morning. Be sure to check back Friday night. I may need to change my picks following practice if I see some cars that look fast.
NASCAR will have a post qualifying inspection Sunday. Any car that fails will start in the back in the Pocono 400. These cars will be scored from the back in Fantasy NASCAR since their qualifying time will be disallowed.
Ryan Blaney won the pole for the Pocono 400 last year. The No. 12 car led 11, scored 15 Stage points and finished 6th. Kevin Harvick had the best car. He led a race-high 89 laps, finished 2nd in Stage 1, won Stage 2 and finished 4th. Martin Truex Jr. won Stage 1, finished 4th in Stage 2, led 31 laps and went on to Victory Lane. It was the 2nd win for Truex at the Tricky Triangle.
Race Rewind at Pocono: Pocono 400 (2018)
Here are my picks for Pocono…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are the 2 safest picks in Group A but we cannot use them in every race. I am giving the 2 drivers the week off and I am going to take my chances with Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott.
Martin Truex Jr. (7): The No. 19 team is on quite the hot streak right now. Truex has won 3 of the last 5 races. He is also the defending race winner of the Pocono 400. This team has a lot of speed right now and it would not surprise anyone if they won again Sunday. Pocono is one of Truex’s 4 home tracks so he is always extra motivated to run well at the Tricky Triangle. I will use an allocation with Truex Sunday.
Chase Elliott (8): Elliott is another driver who is on a hot streak. He has finished the last 4 races in the top 5. His average finishing position since early April is 3.5. I would gladly take a 3rd place finish from the No. 9 car this week. Elliott had one of the best cars in the last race at Pocono. He qualified 6th, won Stage 1, finished 2nd in Stage 2, led 14 laps and finished 7th. The No. 9 team is running better this season so I expect another top-5 finish from Elliott Sunday.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Busch 2) Chase Elliott 3) Martin Truex Jr. 4) Kevin Harvick 5) Brad Keselowski 6) Joey Logano 7) Kyle Larson
Driver Group Game B Picks
Denny Hamlin (5): Hamlin leads the series with 4 wins at Pocono but his last win was in 2010. The 2019 aero package will have downforce similar to what we saw the last time Hamlin was dominant at this track. Joe Gibbs Racing has won 8 of the 13 races this season so Hamlin should have a fast car. He will be one of the drivers I will be watching closely Friday in practice. If he is not at the top of the speed chart I will replace him with another driver, but I expect the No. 11 car to be fast.
Kurt Busch (6): Busch is 2nd in the series with 3 wins at Pocono. His last trip to Victory Lane at the Tricky Triangle was in 2016. Busch is having a pretty solid 2019 season. He has finished 7 of the 8 races using the 550 HP engine, higher-downforce aero package in the top 10. That is a series best. He was well on his way to making it 8 for 8 but he slid into his brother at Charlotte. Busch should be a safe pick Sunday.
Ryan Blaney (5): Blaney loves to race at fast tracks. The 2019 aero package should produce some high speeds since the drivers will hold it wide open through the 3 corners. That should play right into the hands of Blaney. He won at Pocono in 2017 and Blaney ran very well in the Pocono 400 last year. The No. 12 team has been in a slump but Blaney ran well enough at Charlotte to give me confidence that he will be up front Sunday.
Alex Bowman (8): Bowman is running too well right now to ignore. The No. 88 car has finished 2nd, 2nd, 2nd and 7th in his last 4 races. There is a good chance Bowman will finish in the top 10 again Sunday. He had a very fast car in the last race at Pocono. He qualified 10th, finished both Stages in the top 10 and finished 3rd in the race. I will have Bowman on my team again this week, but I just need the confidence to start him in the race.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Denny Hamlin 2) Kurt Busch 3) Ryan Blaney 4) Alex Bowman 5) Erik Jones 6) William Byron 7) Clint Bowyer 8) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 9) Aric Almirola 10) Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game C Picks
Chris Buescher (5): Buescher is the best pick in Group C Sunday. The No. 37 is on a hot streak right now. Buescher finished 10th at Kansas and 6th at Charlotte. There is a good chance he will finish inside the top 15 Sunday. He won a rain shortened race at Pocono in 2016, but hey… you take the wins any way you can get them. Buescher needs to be on every team this week.
David Ragan (5): I sure wish I had Ragan on my team last week. Ragan ran very well at Charlotte and I expect the same from the No. 38 team Sunday. Ragan finished 16th and 19th in the 2 races at Pocono last year. That was before Front Row Motorsports had an alliance with Roush-Fenway Racing. Now that the team is sharing information with the 2 RFR cars, their speed has increased. I will take a shot with Ragan at the Tricky Triangle.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Chris Buescher 2) David Ragan 3) Daniel Hemric 4) Ty Dillon 5) Matt DiBenedetto
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Martin Truex Jr. (7), Chase Elliott (8)
Group B: Denny Hamlin (5), Kurt Busch (6), Ryan Blaney (5), Alex Bowman (8)
Group C: Chris Buescher (5), David Ragan (8)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game Saturday evening.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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