The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels back to Long Pond, Pennsylvania this week for the Overton’s 400. The race can be Sunday at 3pm ET on NBC Sports Network. Be sure to test your knowledge of NASCAR by competing in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing.
My picks for Fox Fantasy Auto Racing are currently 14th in the Overall Standings.
I never understood why NASCAR has to race at the Tricky Triangle twice in less than two months. The schedule this week is absurd! I have been dreading this weekend all season. There are two practices Saturday morning and qualifying will be three hours before the race Sunday. I must wait until after qualifying to make my picks and this does not give me a lot of time to analyze the data, make my picks and write my articles. I assure you I will do the best I can to get the picks posted in time for the race Sunday.
OK, now that I am finished ranting about NASCAR’s stupid schedule, let’s talk about Pocono. The drivers who ran well in the first race at the Tricky Triangle and the drivers who ran well last weekend should have the fast cars Sunday. You can also look at the results from New Hampshire. The Magic Mile is a flat track and there are some similarities in the tracks. I posted the useful stats for this race on the website Monday (Pocono Fantasy Stats).
Track position is important at Indianapolis but the scoring system for the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game rewards drivers who improve their position in the race more than the drivers who lead the most laps. Last week I selected mostly drivers who started in the top 25 (AJ Allmendinger had to be on the team since he started last) and my picks were scoring well until half of the field decided to crash. I plan to use the same strategy this week. I will not be going much further than the 25th starting position for my picks Sunday.
Pick to Win
Kyle Busch ($10,500) is cursed! I have picked him to win four times this summer and he continues to lead the most laps but find a way to lose the race. So let’s try this again… Kyle Busch will win Sunday! The No. 18 car led 195 of the 320 laps at Pocono and Indianapolis. Busch had by far the best car in both races. He also won the pole for both races. Sooner or later the No. 18 team will find a way to get to Victory Lane. I think the curse if lifted this week.
Kyle Larson ($13,400) has been the best pick in Fox Fantasy Auto Racing the last three weeks because the No. 42 team continues to find ways to mess up qualifying and start in the back. Larson is one of the best drivers with the 2017 aero-package and making his way to the front has not been a problem. Larson won Stage 2 and finished seventh in the first race at Pocono. His average finishing position in his seven races at the track is 8.5. Larson should easily finish in the top 10 Sunday.
Kevin Harvick ($12,300) has been one of the most consistent drivers at the Tricky Triangle. He has never won at the track but Harvick has finished four of the last six races at Pocono in the top four, including three finishes in second place. Harvick qualified 12th, had the second-best driver rating (113.7) and finished second in the first race at Pocono. The No. 4 car should finish in the top five Sunday.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100) ran up front in the first race at Pocono and he should do the same this week. It is no secret that Team Penske has lost some speed they had at the beginning of the season. The No. 2 team relies more on strategy than speed to get Keselowski to the front. Last week Keselowski said his car was junk during the red flag. At the end of the race he was one of the drivers battling for the lead. The same scenario played out in the first race at Pocono. I expect Paul Wolfe and Keselowski to come up with a plan to keep the No. 2 car in the top 10 Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,700) will be the driver who will give Kyle Busch the most competition Sunday. Truex qualified 2nd and finished 6th in the first race at Pocono. The No. 78 car has been fast at every track and there is no reason to believe they will not run up front this week. Truex should qualify in the top five and finish in the top five at the Tricky Triangle.
Kurt Busch ($9,300) has been hard to trust this season but this is the week fantasy players can hitch their wagon to the No. 41 car (trust me he will not crash it). Busch followed up his trip to Victory Lane at the Tricky Triangle in 2016 with a fourth place finish in the first race at Pocono. He qualified fifth, had the fifth best average running position (9.54) and the seventh best driver rating (103.5) in the race. This is one of the best tracks for Busch so it is a good idea to get him in your lineups this week.
Value Picks (Drivers under $8,500)
Kasey Kahne ($8,000) ended his 102-race winless streak with a trip to Victory Lane in the Brickyard 400. Could he make it back-to-back wins? Let’s not get carried away. Kahne should have a good finish this week. Pocono is a horsepower track. Outrunning the competition on the straightaway is the only way to the front. Hendrick Motorsports should give Kahne a car capable of running in the top 15 and he should be motivated after FINALLY getting the monkey off his back.
Erik Jones ($7,900) had his best race of the season in the first race at Pocono. He qualified 15th, led 20 laps and finished third. He also had a fast car last week at the Brickyard 400. This race is all about speed and Furniture Row Racing has it right now. The Tricky Triangle has a habit of producing first time winners (Chris Buescher last year and Ryan Blaney this year). I would not be surprised to see Jones win his first MENCS race at Pocono Sunday.
Ryan Blaney ($7,100) will be the defending race winner at Pocono. That has to have the young driver fired up for this race. The Wood Brothers know how to get speed out of their cars. Blaney qualified fourth in the first race at the track. I expect the No. 21 car to start up front, lead some laps and finish in the top 10 Sunday.
Aric Almirola ($7,000) has a ridiculous price this week. Almirola missed the first race at Pocono. Darrell Wallace Jr. drove the car and finished 26th. He ran most of the race inside the top 20. I expect better results from Almirola this week. He finished 13th in the Brickyard 400 last week. Almirola is the best choice if you need a cheap driver to save some salary cap with this week.
Here are my pre-qualifying picks for the Overton’s 400:
Driver 1: Kevin Harvick $12,300
Driver 2: Kyle Busch $10,500
Driver 3: Martin Truex Jr. $9,700
Driver 4: Kurt Busch $9,300
Driver 5: Ryan Blaney $8,100
I will have my picks updated on my website (Fantasy Racing Tips) after the last practice.
If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR).