The NASCAR Cup Series will travel to the “Tricky Triangle” this week and we need to keep the hot streak going. The picks were beating 95% of the entries a month ago. Now they are beating 97.7% of the entries and climbing fast. We have six races left to get to the top of our league standings and the picks are trending in the right direction. We are going to need a bit of luck this week since the race at Pocono is one of the most unpredictable on the schedule.
How do we pick our drivers for a track that the Gen-7 car has never competed on and there are no other tracks to compare the Tricky Triangle too? The races at Pocono usually are won or lost on fuel strategy so that just complicates the picks even more. So do we use our top drivers this week or save them for more predictable tracks? I never worry too much about saving drivers because each week we see a new group of drivers show up with speed. The Gen-7 car has evened the playing field so much that the top teams do not have the advantage they once had.
Here are the picks for the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400…
FANTASY LIVE LINEUP
DENNY HAMLIN (4): Hamlin posted the 11th -fastest speed in practice and then the team made some adjustments. Hamlin won the pole so his car has speed and he has a history of running up front at Pocono. Hamlin finished 14th, 4th, 1st, 2nd and 1st in his last five races at the Tricky Triangle. The problem with Hamlin is on pit road. If he can avoid penalties in the pits, he should be able to finish in the top-five. I will have a good driver as an insurance policy just in case Hamlin screws it up this week.
KYLE BUSCH (4): It is hard to trust Busch right now because he has been terrible since his contract problems with Joe Gibbs Racing have heated up. Rowdy “should” be good at the Tricky Triangle. He finished 1st, 2nd, 38th, 5th, 9th, 1st, 1st, 3rd and 1st in his last nine races at Pocono. Busch posted the seventh-fastest speed in practice with the sixth-fastest long-run speed. Busch qualified second for the race so he should run up front, score a lot of Stage Points and have a great chance to win the race Sunday.
CHRISTOPHER BELL (4): Bell has been the most consistent driver in the Cup Series on the non-Super Speedway and non-Road Course tracks. Bell finished 1st, 8th, 9th, 5th, 6th, 4th and 7th in his last seven non-Super Speedway and non-Road Course races. The No. 20 team brought another fast car to the track. Bell posted the 11th-fastest speed in practice with the second-fastest long run speed. Bell got loose in qualifying so he will start 11th. His car is fast enough to make it to the front and score a lot of points in your Fantasy Live lineup.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. (3): If you have not noticed yet, I am all in with Joe Gibbs Racing this week. They have a history of running well at Pocono and that seems to be the case again this weekend. Truex has two wins at Pocono and he needs another one to secure a spot in the playoffs. The No. 19 team will likely use an aggressive pit strategy to get Truex to the front at the end of the race.
RYAN BLANEY (3): Blaney is 15th in the Playoff Standings and he is the highest driver without a win. His points don’t mean anything if there are two more winners. Blaney won his first ever race at Pocono in 2017. The No. 12 team will likely gamble with pit strategy to get Blaney to the front. He may sacrifice some Stage Points in Stage 2, but Blaney should have a good chance to win the race.
GARAGE DRIVER: ROSS CHASTAIN (4): The most consistent driver in the Cup Series this year has been Chastain. I know he pissed off half of the field but drivers do not seek revenge at Pocono. The speeds are too fast at this track. Chastain posted the fastest fastest speed in practice but he got loose in qualifying so now the No. 1 car will start 21st Sunday. I am not worried about his starting position. His car is fast enough to make it to the front in Stage 1 and then stay there for the entire race.
*I only have two allocations left with Chase Elliott and I need to save them for the road courses. If you have three of more allocations left with Elliott, use the No. 9 car over Ryan Blaney.
Fantasy Live has a new Bonus Picks section this year. Instead of selecting the winning team or manufacturer, we will earn 10 bonus points for selecting the driver who finishes the best in a Head-to-Head matchup. Here are my picks for the matchups…
CHRISTOPHER BELL vs. KEVIN HARVICK (My Pick: CHRISTOPHER BELL)
ARIC ALMIROLA vs. ERIK JONES (My pick is ERIC JONES)
AUSTIN DILLON vs. BRAD KESELOWSKI (My pick is AUSTIN DILLON)
KYLE BUSCH vs. DENNY HAMLIN (My pick is KYLE BUSCH)
Good Luck this week!
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