After a three-hour snoozer at Indianapolis, the tricky triangle that is Pocono Raceway isn’t exactly the best follow-up venue; however, like it or not, we’re racing there Sunday and so is your fantasy team. The race for the Chase is heating up, and with the Cup Series returning to Pocono for the second time this year, look for some familiar faces… and some new ones who are now getting the hang of things at the front. Who will those faces be, and which of those darkhorses can you add to the roster to give them a much-needed second half jolt? Read on and save your fantasy lives with the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Pocono Raceway (since 2005, active drivers)
Marcos Ambrose, 1 start, 6.0
Jeff Gordon, 9 starts, 10.2
Tony Stewart, 9 starts. 10.6
Denny Hamlin, 7 starts, 10.7
Jimmie Johnson, 9 starts, 10.8
Gordon has had quite the career for himself at Pocono, with two poles and four wins to his credit on the triangular track. And with the “Drive For Five” truly alive and kicking this year after a disappointing 2008, there’s no reason to think the No. 24 team will suddenly lose their touch in Pennsylvania. Gordon hasn’t finished outside the top 15 at Pocono since 2006 and is currently riding a stretch of six top-10 finishes in seven races overall. Another one this weekend is all but a certainty. – Bryan
Johnson has a look about him like he is out to prove something, and that showed with last week’s surprising win at Indianapolis. Chad Knaus is irritated by the fact that they gave away several races earlier this season, stubbing their toes when they had cars capable of winning. But now’s their chance to make up for lost time. The Chase is only six races away, and the No. 48 team appears to be ramping things up a little earlier than usual as they prepare to peak in early fall. Add to that Johnson had a great chance to win the last time the series was in the Poconos until he ran out of fuel, and it gives him extra incentive as he attempts to atone for that mistake this weekend. You’d be crazy to think he won’t, as Johnson will be up front all day Sunday and probably win this thing. – Mike
Kasey Kahne and his No. 9 team aren’t back to 2006 form that saw them unstoppable on the Cup circuit’s longer tracks, but they’re riding a strong stretch of momentum towards cementing a Chase berth. Kahne hasn’t finished outside the top 15 since Michigan, and comes to Pocono with a streak of three consecutive top-15 runs on his resume. Kahne’s new Dodge motors are not short on horsepower, and while I don’t see them contending for a win this weekend, another top 10 and solid points day is definitely in the cards for RPM’s only Chase contender. – Bryan
Tony Stewart ran around Pocono like an old lady on the way to church during the last few laps when the series was here the first time this season. In order for him to be able to pull off that feat, he had to have a car good enough to maintain its track position at or near the front all day. Stewart has been making a living that way all season… and last weekend was just another example. He didn’t really have the car to win, but maximized the result and came home in third place at the Brickyard. Anticipate Stewart having another strong showing this weekend – with a top five if not a win most likely on the menu. – Mike
Marcos Ambrose will be heading back to Pocono for just his second career start there. In his first visit, he finished sixth, showing easy adaptability to a track that’s often referred to as a mini-road course. The flat corners and straight-line braking at Pocono are ideally suited for the driving style of former road racers. Ambrose also does very well most of the time when he goes back to a circuit. Indianapolis was rather disappointing for the No. 47 team (22nd), so Ambrose is probably extra determined this weekend to make up some ground at the tricky triangle. The Tasmanian is recommended a lot in this column, but it is because he is doing well this year with an outside shot to make the Chase. If you have races left for him off the bench, now would be a good time to use one. – Mike
This pick is a gamble, seeing as how he finished 23rd in his Cup debut here back in June, but I’m giving a start this weekend to one Joey Logano. Logano and crew chief Greg Zipadelli really seemed to hit a flat-track setup on the head this past Sunday at IMS, as Logano passed more cars than anyone in the field en route to a 12th-place finish in his first Brickyard 400. Logano has met every expectation set for him in 2009, and if that continues, he’ll improve on tracks the second time around. A top 15 for the No. 20 would hardly be surprising. – Bryan
The Last Word
Heading back to Pocono after a weekend in Indianapolis is like going to a tournament after finishing a week of practice. The setups on the cars are very similar, and the racing technique is also very close. Look for drivers who ran well at IMS to have another strong showing this weekend. There are also some lower-tier guys who run well at these types of tracks that might give fantasy owners a good bang for little bucks. Check their history at Pocono and if they’ve done decently, give them a shot – this is a type of track where the underdogs can squeeze out a top-15 finish.
Results of our Experts in the Frontstretch Fantasy games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 5452
Mike – 4967
Bryan – 4095
Mike – 3986
Bryan – 10153
Mike – 9203
To help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week for each expert, as well as their total for the season.
Bryan – 283 6976
Mike – 375 6688
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