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Pocono Organics 325 & Pocono 350 Picks, Predictions

 


NASCAR Cup Series
Pocono Picks

  • Date: Saturday, June 27, 2020
  • TV-Time: FOX, 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Pocono Raceway
  • Location: Long Pond, Pennsylvania

Let’s play two.

For the first time in NASCAR Cup Series history, they will have two races at a single track over one weekend. Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile tricky triangle gets the honor to debut what could be a common occurrence in future schedules for years to come.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved. The fans (TV only) get Cup racing two straight days and the drivers get a chance to mix up their schedule and perhaps shave off one or more weekends during a hectic year that begins in early February and runs almost to Thanksgiving with few weekends off.

“It’s very intriguing, I think, as you look at the weekend and you look at the shorter races, which means shorter stages, and you have the inversion,” said Saturday’s 9/2 race favorite Kevin Harvick. “The car itself having to be raced twice and the things that you’ll need to try to do to the car. And there are a lot of things to digest in order to keep yourself competitive from one day to the next. So it will be interesting to see how we all manage that.”

NASCAR Cup Odds
Pocono Organics 325 Odds
Saturday June 27, 2020

  • Kyle Busch +450
  • Kevin Harvick +700
  • Martin Truex Jr. +700
  • Chase Elliott +800
  • Denny Hamlin +800
  • Brad Keselowski +800
  • Ryan Blaney +1000
  • Joey Logano +1100
  • Erik Jones +1600
  • Kurt Busch +2000
  • More NASCAR Futures
  • (Odds Subject to Change)
Pocono Raceway Picks
Pocono Raceway aka "The Tricky Triangle" will host not one but two NASCAR Cup Series races this weekend. (AP)

Handicapping Busch vs. Harvick

The changes immediately infuse some excitement to a track that doesn't have much passing. Saturday’s Organics 325 is 75 miles shorter than a normal Pocono race so the sense of urgency to make something happen quickly will be on every driver’s mind.

But the real fun is going to be Sunday’s Pocono 350 because the order of finish for lead lap cars on Saturday will be inverted for Sunday so the best cars will be having to do some major passing to move up, and I’m sure they will. That scenario sets up all kinds of differing strategies for teams.

“Kind of depends on what’s going on and what’s happening,” Kyle Busch said. “If you’re struggling along, or pit strategy throws you off and there’s three to go and you’re back in 15th, maybe you want the pole for the next day. We’ll see what happens with that. Obviously, you want as many points as you can possibly get.

“We’ve run real well there the last few years,” Busch continued. “We definitely want to keep that going and try to get a win. If you’re up in the front, or up in the top-five or whatever, you’re going to try to get as much as you can get there and not worry about the next day. You’ll just refocus the next day.”

Oddsmakers favor the No. 4

The Westgate SuperBook listed Harvick as the favorite even though he’s never won at Pocono in 38 Cup starts (12 top-fives, four runner-ups). It’s more about what he’s done using the race package featuring engines with 550 horsepower that includes two wins in eight races this season.

But Kyle Busch has had a much better recent history at Pocono that includes three wins in the last five Pocono races and leading laps in his last nine starts there. And then there’s the desperation of the defending Cup Champion not winning through 13 races so far. It burns him up internally.

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Handicapping the Double

Everything I write about here is geared towards Saturday’s race but can also be applied to Sunday as well. The SuperBbook opened odds only for Saturday’s race and when it’s over they’ll immediately post Sunday’s odds to win.

There are no practices for either race so the crew at the shops in Charlotte will have all the initial pressure placed on them to be fast right off the hauler. If they’re fast Saturday, they should be fast on Sunday. But the inversion on the lineup puts a little extra twist to Sunday.

Clear air will be golden, and starting position will still be key. Taking the best cars and starting them 20th through 25th, or wherever, will be fun watching them traverse through the field where they’ll face the dangers of being wrecked more.

The Best vs. the Rest

A Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has won the last five Pocono races, the last coming from Denny Hamlin in July. It was his fifth Pocono win, but first since 2010. His first two Cup wins came at Pocono in 2006, as a rookie.

This is a great track for him especially considering he’s been one of the best using this week’s race package that he’s captured two wins with (Darlington, Homestead). Throw in his Daytona 500 win and it makes three wins to lead the series. No driver has been more productive since the start of last season when he also won the Daytona 500 making it nine wins and 26 top-fives between the past 39 races.

Martin Truex Jr. has two wins at Pocono, but this week’s race package has been inconsistent for him with only one top-five (Atlanta) using it. His win this season at Martinsville was using the 750 horsepower package.

The Gibbs driver I like to perform well on equal terms with Busch and Hamlin is Erik Jones who leads all active drivers with an eighth-place average finish at Pocono. Six Cup starts and four top-fives, including runner-up behind Hamlin in July. The bonus with Jones is that as a bettor or fantasy player you get Busch and Hamlin quality with the car while getting 25/1 betting odds. I like him to finish in the top-five of both races and get back into the standings top-16.

Team Penske have combined for five wins so far this season, JGR cars have four wins, Stewart-Haas Racing has two with Harvick, and Hendrick Motorsports has two. Of all the drivers using this week’s race package, I’ve been most impressed with Chase Elliott who has been consistently good everywhere.

Elliott only has one win and has just two top-fives in eight Pocono starts, but his team has given him eight cars capable of winning in all eight races using this week’s race package. He’s finished eighth or better in six of the eights starts (5 top-fives), but the two races that he didn’t finish well he could have won due to arguably having the best car.

Kyle Busch punted him at Darlington when he had fresher tires and was about to make the late pass on eventual winner Hamlin. At Las Vegas, he won the first two stages and led 70 laps before a tire went down at the start of the final stage and put him a lap down.

Ryan Blaney won his first career Cup race at Pocono, the last Ford to win at Pocono back in 2017, and he also won a Truck Series race there in 2013 showing that he knows how to win which makes 14-to-1 odds somewhat attractive considering he’s tied for the series lead with seven top-fives. Joey Logano’s two wins came before the pandemic shutdown but does have a 2012 Pocono win to his credit. Brad Keselowski’s only Pocono win was in 2011, but in 20 of his career Cup starts there he has 10 top-fives.

One of the main storylines this weekend has appeared at almost every race since re-starting the season. The rain has been a dastardly villain. Last week, it shut down Talladega until Monday. It’s as if the haulers have some magnetic pull that draws the clouds to each race track with them.

The Pocono mountains always have clouds floating and if I had to pick one track in my last 40 years of regularly watching NASCAR, Pocono Raceway would be my top pick to have the most rain delays or race day moves to Monday. And guess what, there’s an 80 percent chance of rain Saturday and a 20 percent chance on Sunday. But Monday is sunny with only a 10 percent chance of rain.

The largest NASCAR payout in Las Vegas sportsbook history happened due to a Pocono race being called because of rain in 2016. When the last rain delay hit, all the best cars pitted while Chris Buescher stayed out and ran the last 12 laps under caution as the leader. And then the fog hit and the race was called with 22 laps remaining. Chris Buescher was 1000/1 to win at the Superbook with a few small bets taking a shot on him.

It’s because of the weather possibilities that make taking a long shot a better bet at Pocono than most places. Buescher is 500/1 this week and someone like Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has had great cars using this week’s race package is 300/1.

SHR driver Aric Almirola's team has been dialed in the last two weeks getting their first two top-fives of the season and he's listed at 100/1 to win Saturday.

Enjoy the doubleheader!


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Pocono Raceway
Top-5 Finish Prediction

Saturday - June 27, 2020

1) #9 Chase Elliott (7/1)
2) #11 Denny Hamlin (7/1)
3) #20 Erik Jones (25/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
5) #4 Kevin Harvick (9/2)

Sunday - June 28, 2020

1) #18 Kyle Busch (5/1)
2) #20 Erik Jones (25/1)
3) #2 Brad Keselowski (12/1)
4) #11 Denny Hamlin (7/1)
5) #12 Ryan Blaney (14/1)

NASCAR Cup Series
Weekly Predictions

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