Filling out your daily fantasy NASCAR FanDuel roster could be a little trickier this week as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to its Tricky Triangle: Pocono Raceway.
Pocono is one of the most unique tracks on the NASCAR circuit, as the two-and-a-half mile track consists of only three turns that are all vastly different from each other. This shape makes it challenging for drivers to get their cars dialed in and favors those with the best driver-crew chief relationship. The track’s uniqueness also means you can’t rely fully on how drivers have performed in all other races this season.
Given the abuse the brakes take, differing pit strategies and the likelihood of rain to impact this race, predicting the Pocono 400 can be a challenge. While the past three races at the Long Pond, Pa., track have been won by Cup champions Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., the two races before that produced first-time winners in Chris Buescher and Ryan Blaney.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, they allow you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 160-lap race will only have a total of 16.0 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on midpack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for Sunday afternoon’s race (June 2).
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Martin Truex Jr. ($14,000)
Career at Pocono: 26 starts, 2 wins, 5 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average Finish at Pocono: 14.9
Sometimes, you’ve got to ride the hot hand. Truex has been the best driver in NASCAR since April, winning three of the past five races in his new No. 19 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s also pretty good at Pocono, winning twice, including this race one year ago.
Truex has now led 197 career laps at the track; almost all of those have come since pairing up with crew chief Cole Pearn in 2015. Their total of 186 together is the second-most laps led at Pocono during that span.
Despite his hot streak, Truex is still a little bit of a steal in daily fantasy. He’s still cheaper than Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, leaving you more money to fill out the rest of your lineup. Picking Truex to make it four out of the past six races is certainly not a bad call.
Kurt Busch ($11,500)
Career at Pocono: 35 starts, 3 wins, 14 top fives, 20 top 10s
Average Finish at Pocono: 14.1
Kurt Busch isn’t going to go out and lap the field this weekend, but he does have one of the best track records among active drivers at Pocono. He has the most top-five finishes, is tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most top 10s and has led the third most amount of laps at the track (549). Busch also has five runner-up performances to go along with three Pocono wins.
Chip Ganassi Racing has a ways to go to catch the top programs and Busch seems to still be working out the kinks with his new team. But Sunday provides a good opportunity for them to sneak to the front at a track where its unique layout caters to a more veteran skill set.
In an interesting quirk, Busch’s three Pocono victories happened with three different race teams. He could continue that mark and make it four for four with CGR’s No. 1 Chevrolet.
Ryan Blaney ($10,500)
Career at Pocono: 6 starts, 1 wins, 1 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average Finish at Pocono: 11.7
Blaney scored his first career win at Pocono in 2017 and is due for another one soon. Among drivers without a win in 2019, Blaney has led the most laps with 359 — putting him on pace for a career high in that category. He has four top-five runs this year with Team Penske, a total that could easily be higher if not for bad luck. Blaney likely would’ve finished third last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway without a mechanical failure that surfaced with 10 laps to go.
The fourth-year talent’s win at Pocono wasn’t a fluke. He has the second best average finish among active drivers at the Tricky Triangle, trailing only Erik Jones, a fellow twenty-something who has competed at Pocono just four times. In six races, Blaney has only finished outside the top 12 once — a 30th in the July 2017 race. That finish was due to bad fortune, too, as he was fast enough to score stage points early on in that event.
Past history means you can’t fill out a Pocono lineup without considering Blaney. He just needs to get Lady Luck back on his side.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Daniel Suarez ($9,200)
Career at Pocono: 4 starts, 0 wins, 1 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average Finish at Pocono: 12.0
Suarez nearly beat out Kyle Busch for the win at the sport’s most recent visit to the Tricky Triangle. Instead, he settled for a career-best second-place result, leading 29 laps but ultimately missing out on a postseason bid.
The third-year driver has some pretty good races now to put on his resume. He has the fifth best average finish at Pocono among active drivers, finishing inside the top 15 in three of his four starts. He’s been ultra consistent this year as well, posting nine straight finishes of 18th or higher and just one DNF thus far. Suarez is fairly safe bet for Sunday with a huge upside.
With luck, Suarez could finish one position higher than last summer and finally get his first win. It would also be Stewart-Haas Racing’s first victory of the season after the four-car Ford team has fallen a step behind.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,100)
Career at Pocono: 12 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average Finish at Pocono: 22.7
Don’t be fooled by Stenhouse’s tough track record at Pocono. Frankly, his No. 17 Ford has been flashing some speed everywhere as of late. He’s coming off a fifth-place finish at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 and is showing flashes of competitiveness at every type of track. He’s also become one of the most aggressive and exciting drivers, willing to stick his nose in risky situations. That could play to Stenhouse’s advantage at a track where cars can go five- to six-wide on restarts.
Stenhouse’s worst finish in the past six Pocono races is 22nd. Add that recent speed over at Roush Fenway Racing and that equals a solid dark horse to put on your roster.