The MENCS competes at Pocono Raceway in the Gander Outdoors 400. My picks fell out of the top 100 overall rankings for the first time since the race at Kansas. The picks are ranked 106th out of nearly 400,000 and it is time to climb back inside the top 100. My picks scored 237 points in the last race at the Pocono and I will need another good race to place in the top 100 overall again.
You do not need me to tell you Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are the top picks this week. Here is how I would play the “Big Three” at Pocono… If you have 2 or more allocations with Harvick or Truex Jr., they need to be in your lineup this week. If you have 3 or more allocations with Busch, I would play the No. 18 car. I would not worry about their starting positions. They will make it through the field before the end of Stage 1.
Qualifying was a mess. 13 cars failed post-qualifying inspection and they will start from the back and be scored from the back: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, Aric Almirola, William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Kasey Kahne.
Having these driver start the race from the back really opens the door for some other drivers and I plan to take advantage of it. I am using many of the drivers who passed inspection and start up front Sunday. They should score Stage Points in and have a better opportunity to finish in the top 15.
Denny Hamlin (2): Hamlin starts on the front row because of the drivers in front of him failed inspection. His car looked fast in practice and I expect Hamlin to take the lead from Suarez early in the race. Hamlin leads the series in wins at Pocono and he should be able to keep his car up front. Hamlin just needs to stop making mistakes in the race and he will be fine.
Brad Keselowski (3): Keselowski killed me last week with his brake issues. Brakes will not be as big of an issue this week so I expect Keselowski to be fine Sunday. Keselowski qualified 17th and finished 5th in the first race at Pocono. He was also able to lead 10 laps and score 17 Stage Points. I expect Keselowski starts 4th and no driver in the field has been better at finishing in the top 5 at Pocono in the last 6 races than Keselowski. I will use another allocation with him this week.
Kurt Busch (1): I hate using my last allocation with Busch this week but he is too good to pass up. Busch starts 7th and he has a nice buffer between him and the really good cars. He should score very well in the first two Stages and should finish in the top 10. This team has really been on a roll in the last two races. I would not be surprised to see Busch leads some of the race Sunday.
Chase Elliott (6): The No. 9 team is starting to show some improvement and it may be time to start using Elliott in our starting lineups. Elliott has run well at Pocono in his career. He has finished 4 of his 5 career starts at the track in the top 10. That includes a 10th place finish at the track in June. Elliott had the 7th-best average running position in the last race at Pocono so his car was pretty good. He will start 6th and had a fast car in practice. I feel comfortable using an allocation with Elliott this week.
Erik Jones (5): I was not planning on using Jones at Pocono but everything is lining up for him this week. First he got some extra seat time when Noah Graggson got sick and Jones drove his truck to a 2nd place finish. The extra track time should help him understand how the tires will fall off during the race. Next Jones was handed a top starting spot in the race when many of the cars in front of him failed inspection. Jones starts 3rd and his car is fast enough to stay up front this week.
My Garage pick will be Kyle Larson (4). He starts in the back but that is great news if you are a Larson fan. He gets extra motivated when he starts from the back and usually makes his way to the front quickly. I expect the same to happen Sunday. I have 4 allocations left with Larson and there are only 6 races left. I am not ending the season with any allocations left with the No. 42 car.
* Garage Driver: Fantasy players can put a driver (Garage Driver) into their lineup at any time before the end of Stage 2. You will lose the Stage points from the driver you take out of your lineup though. I only plan to make a change if one of my driver crashes and that is likely to happen this week. If I make a change I will post a message on my Twitter account: @MrFantasyNASCAR
Here are my picks for the Pocono…
Driver 1: Denny Hamlin (2)
Driver 2: Brade Keselowski (3)
Driver 3: Kurt Busch (1)
Driver 4: Chase Elliott (6)
Driver 5: Erik Jones (5)
Garage Driver: Kyle Larson (4)
Stage 1 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Stage 2 Winner: Kevin Harvick
Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
Winning Manufacturer: Toyota
* I am hedging my bet this week. I am selecting Kevin Harvick for the win and Toyota as my manufacturer. I figure one of the “Big Three” is going to win this race. At least if they do I will be guaranteed bonus points.
Good luck this week!
Follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR