Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM
Best Bets - Pocono
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS shifts to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 400, the first of two stops at the 'Tricky Triangle' this season. They'll also be back at the track for the Gander Outdoors 400 on July 29. This weekend's race goes off at 2:00 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
His detractors likely do not want to see it, but Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (3/1) is a serious threat to continue his assault on the rest of the field and win this weekend. According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Busch is No. 1 over the past five races at Pocono with a 111.7 Driver Rating, leading a circuit-best 197 laps during the span. He has 114 fastest laps during the stretch, too, making DFS players quite happy in that category. Rowdy has run 88.5 percent of his Pocono laps in the Top 15 over the past five starts, posting a 14.2 Average-Finish Position (AFP). Those numbers are actually slightly skewed, however, as that factors in a 37th-place anomaly in the fall race in 2015. If you take that out, Busch is averaging a 7.0 AFP over his past four Pocono starts. He was impressive in practice, sweeping both sessions, including a speed of 174.588 mph. Busch also won the Xfinity Series race in Pocono on Saturday afternoon for his 92nd career victory in that series. He is set to start fifth on Sunday.
Right on his heels, and stop me if you've heard this before, is Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (5/2). He is actually installed as the slight favorite by Vegas this weekend, and he has rattled off five consecutive Top 5 finishes at the Triangle, although he hasn't yet tasted victory. Loop Data shows him with a 101.0 Driver Rating over the past five races, knocked down by the fact he has managed just 19 laps led. Still, he is always right there, and he has posted four runner-up finishes across the past seven Pocono starts. Over his career he has no checkered flags at the track in 34 starts, but an impressive 13.0 AFP with 10 Top 5s, 15 Top 10s and 29 Top 20s, posting just three DNFs. He turned in a speed of 174.115 mph in practice, and he'll be on the outside of Row 1 next to the pole sitter.
JGR's Erik Jones (25/1) doesn't have the history of the veterans, but he has dominated in his brief encounters at the track. In two starts last season he was third in the spring and eighth in the summer, posting a Driver Rating of 106.5. He dominated with 24 laps led, including 22 fastest laps, while running 90.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. As such, he represents a tremendous value at the betting window if you want to stray from the favorites. Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott (28/1) is another young driver who has been a quick study, posting a 13.8 AFP in four Cup starts at the track, including three Top 10s. In fact, his 51 laps led is fourth-best among any driver on the circuit since the Fall 2015 race. Jones will go off 25th, with plenty of opportunity to pick up Place-Different Points, while Elliott starts out 11th.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (6/1) is not listed among the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five starts at Pocono, and could be a big-time bust candidate. The New Jersey native has had his troubles at the track over the years, although he certainly showed well in 2017 with a sixth-place run in the spring, and a third-place finish in the second run. Many DFS players might shy away from him since he has just four Top 5s in 24 career starts with an underwhelming 15.5 AFP. However, that 4.5 AFP in his championship season of 2017 in two Pocono starts is mighty impressive. MTJ had no trouble in qualifying, either, as he'll start on the outside of Row 2.
Penske Racing's Joey Logano (18/1) has had mixed results at Pocono over the years. He is barely in the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five runs at the track, according to NASCAR's Loop Data. However, he is second on the circuit during the stretch with 152 laps led, including 44 fastest laps. Something always seems to go awry for the No. 22 at the track, as he has good numbers, but just one Top 5 over the past five starts while finishing 23rd or lower in three of the past four races at the Triangle. In 18 career starts, he has a win, but he also has just four Top 5s and a dismal 17.5 AFP in his career. Teammate Brad Keselowski (15/1) has been much less erratic than Logano. He has a win, eight Top 5s and 168 laps led in 16 career starts, while posting a 10.5 AFP. That's the best Average-Finish Position of any current driver with at least three career starts at the track.
The Penske driver who remains third as far as attention is concerned, Ryan Blaney (7/1), is getting attention at the betting window. He picked up his first-career Monster Energy Cup Series win last spring at Pocono. Unfortunately for bettors in the fall, he followed that up with a 30th-place stinker. Still, in four-career MENCS starts at Long Pond he has finished 11th or better while leading 10 laps. He is on the pole for Sunday's race after posting a best speed of 176.897 mph.
Roush-Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (125/1) spun out in practice, but he was able to keep his car off the wall and will not have to go to a backup machine. He is set to start 23rd this weekend. The driver of the No. 17 machine had a brutal 2015 season at Pocono, averaging a 41.5 AFP. However, he has been 18th or better over his past four starts at the track, posting a 15.0 AFP. While bettors won't be flocking to the window to bet him to win, DFS players have to like those numbers when filling out one of their final two roster spots since he comes on the cheap.
SHR's Kurt Busch (15/1) certainly doesn't get the attention that his younger brother does, although hey, the Las Vegas native did get to run the siren in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Capitals and his hometown Golden Knights. The elder Busch checks in seventh in Driver Rating over the past five starts at Long Pond, posting a 97.3 Driver Rating. That number might even be better if not for a 37th-place run in the Fall 2015 race, as he has a 7.0 AFP over the past four starts at the track, including a first-place showing in the Spring 2016 run. It was one of three career wins for Busch at the track.
Don't foget about JGR's Denny Hamlin (12/1) and Hendrick's Jimmie Johnson (50/1), either. Hamlin leads all active drivers with four career wins at the track, while the seven-time series champ Johnson has won three times at Pocono. The No. 11 has an 11.8 AFP in 24 career starts, including 10 Top 10s, and the No. 48 has rattled off 19 finishes inside the Top 10 in his 32 career starts while leading a circuit-best 738 laps.