Joe Gibbs Racing teams are on fire the last few weeks, a pattern that’s continued at Pocono. Led by Kyle Busch, who has won four out of the last five Cup races, they placed four cars in the top eight of Saturday’s Happy Hour practice and appear to have mastered the setup for Sunday. Busch, who recovered from a bout with the wall to post the fastest Happy Hour time, has also won the last three times he’s taken the pole. That could be bad news for the competition because Kyle took the top spot for this Sunday’s race in the Pocono Mountains, seeking to sneak inside the top 30 in Cup points five races early.
Unfortunately, with most fantasy games you can’t get all four JGR guys on your roster; they’re too expensive. So let’s talk about some drivers other than JGR to keep an eye on this week. At Pocono, I always like Ryan Newman; he seems to outperform his average on fast, low-banked tracks. Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans should also rejoice as the Tricky Triangle has been a strength for him since its repave. I would also keep a close eye on Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano; the Team Penske cars have been fast over the last few races and Keselowski had the fastest car in Friday’s first practice.
There are 160 laps to be run here at Pocono, a long distance so from a fantasy perspective you want to pick a few guys that have some room to move up through the field. Someone like Kyle Larson, whose career average at Pocono is strong or maybe even Ricky Stenhouse Jr., showing a few signs of raw speed with Roush Fenway Racing could be a good pickup. As for my team, I am pretty well locked in for a few races unless something drastic changes and it should work well for you. Let’s take a look at who I’ve selected and remember, the prices listed are those that you would have had for NASCAR.com’s Fantasy Live if you have been following along with me.
No. 4 Kevin Harvick $28.00
Harvick put his car on the outside pole for the race, continuing his recent run of strong drives at Pocono. Kevin has been fast here over the last few years but then again, that can be said about him almost anywhere these days. Kevin has led 44 laps here over the last three races, which granted doesn’t sound like a lot but is fourth most over that time. The fact is, the track is so large there just isn’t a ton of laps to be led. Harvick had the second-best car to Truex back in June and should be a force to be reckoned with again Sunday.
No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. $22.75
Truex had a dominating drive during the June race. He led 97 of the 160 laps and was clearly the fastest car for most of the event. Qualifying 13th for this week’s race, I kind of like that starting spot for him as the No. 78 appears to be shaking off its struggles from June and early July. I would expect Truex to move up through the field and score some nice place-differential points for your NASCAR.com team.
No. 41 Kurt Busch $22.50
Busch has shown good speed here at Pocono in the past, taking the pole for the June race and ultimately finishing fifth (although he never led a lap). Over the last five races, Busch has the second best average finishing position in Cup and has led 44 laps. I expect Kyle’s brother to run well and it sure doesn’t hurt having that Hendrick Motorsports horsepower down these long straightaways….
No. 19 Carl Edwards $20.50
Edwards is part of that JGR renaissance that has been going on the last few races. The No. 19 team has been running noticeably better, communication with crew chief Darian Grubb has improved and I expect that to continue this week. Carl qualified eighth and he expects to have a top-five car; the last three weeks, he’s earned two poles and hasn’t finished worse than 13th. I see more of the same this Sunday, as Edwards should be battling for the lead at some point.
No. 46 Michael Annett $5.75
If you are using Annett as a cheap, back-of-the-pack holdover like I am from last week, make sure you click that renegotiate button. Annett lost $.50 in value the last race and you never know when that could come in handy. 34th at Pocono in June, expectations are low, but he always has the capacity to surprise.
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
At this point in time, it’s just the safe bet. Kyle has been on a tear the last few weeks and I see no reason that would change now as he’s set to pick up his first career Cup win at Pocono.
Those JGR guys figured something out. Now, it’s up to the competition to catch up.
As always, if you have any questions about your lineup feel free to leave a comment in the comments section and I will be checking and responding to any questions. Thanks for reading!
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