Fantasy NASCAR preview: Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 presented by Target
Pocono Raceway is one of the few independently-owned tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. Known as the Tricky Triangle, Pocono's three turns are all banked differently and inspired by other race tracks: the defunct Trenton Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and The Milwaukee Mile. Finding a setup that will play well in all three turns can be a quite a challenge.
Location: Long Pond, Pa.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Dating back to 2006, Kenseth has compiled an average finish of 10.9 at Pocono. In that span of eight races, Kenseth has held an average running position no worse than 13th, including a career-best fifth in last year's spring race. Kenseth has a streak of five straight Pocono races in which he has led at least one lap. In three of those starts, Kenseth has spent 92 percent or more of his laps in the top 15. Over the last four races, Kenseth has three straight finishes of 13th or better. He has been sharper in his last two starts, with a third-place and a 10th-place finish. Kenseth could be peaking at just the right time to challenge for his first win of the season.
The last two spring races at Pocono have seen Burton finish with a top-five and top-10 result. The summer races have been a struggle, finishing 22nd in the last two, but a summer swoon hasn't always been the case for Burton. Back in 2006, Burton finished ninth in both events. In 2007, he finished 13th and 11th. Over the last four races this season, Burton has held an average running position no worse than ninth, spending no less than 83.8 percent of his laps in the top 15. This season, Burton hasn't always left with the finish he should have, but loop data shows he continues to be in a good position for a win. It may just be a matter for time.
Over the last two years at Pocono, Edwards has held an average running position no worse than eighth. In that span of four races, Edwards has spent at least 87.5 percent of the laps running in the top 15. Edwards owns a win, a runner-up finish and a top-10 result in that time. Other than two DNFs, Edwards has yet to finish worse than 16th this season. While he isn't challenging for wins, Edwards has been a solid and consistent driver. For those in allocation formats that have burned through starts of other top-tier drivers, Edwards should present a great value.
With only one top-10 finish in his first six starts at Pocono, Kahne broke through during the 2008 spring race in a big way with a win. In the three races since, Kahne added another top five as well as a top-10 finish. Over the last two yeas, he's spent 85.5 percent or more of his laps in the top 15 during three of four starts. Last week at Charlotte, Kahne ended a streak of four straight finishes of 20th or 21st with a 12th-place result. Over the last three races, Kahne has started 10th or better, including on the first or second row for the last two. Kahne isn't out of the woods yet, but another strong qualifying run should put him in position to keep turning it around.
In six career starts at Pocono, Reutimann has only one finish better than 19th. Why start him, you ask. That one such finish was a third-place result in last year's spring race where Reutimann held an average running position of 10th. In the summer race, Reutimann held an average running position of 15th and appeared to be headed for another top-10 finish before getting involved in two incidents that caused him to finish 29th. Reutimann comes into Pocono with two straight fifth-place finishes, five straight top-15s and has led laps in four of the last five races. Reutimann is running the best he has all season and is an underrated driver at Pocono.
Temper your expectations
In the past few years, Pocono has not been a place where the current points leader has run very well. Since 2007, Harvick owns just a single top-10 finish and average finish of 13.5 in six starts at the site. In particular, the last four races on the triangle have not been good runs. In that time, Harvick has held average running positions between 17th and 24th. In three of the last four races, Harvick has spent 20 percent or less of his laps in the top 15. While we won't be surprised if he outperforms these numbers, there are better places to use a start on Harvick in allocation formats.
Pocono has been a place of bad luck and misfortune for Busch. In 2008, he finished last in the spring race due to an early wreck. In the summer of that year, Busch was running in the fifth position when he ran out of gas and got stuck on pit road with only a few laps remaining. In last year's spring race, Busch held an average running position of 12th but made contact with the wall and would finish 22nd. Maybe "new Kyle" will have better success at Pocono, but we are willing to take a wait-and-see approach for now.
Last year at Pocono, Martin ran quite well. He held average running positions of eighth and ninth and left with finishes of 19th and seventh. The reason to be cautious with Martin is due to the extreme amount of good luck he has received over the last two months. In those seven races, Martin's average running position has ranged from 14th to 19th, yet he has four finishes of sixth or better. In that span, he's spent less than half his laps in the top 15 in six races. Maybe he's just running very conservative, but Martin looked much better in a Hendrick car last year. His luck may finally run out this week.
Both qualifying events were rained out at Pocono last year, so Stewart was given the pole each time as the points leader. However, each time, Stewart had to start from the rear of the field after switching to his backup car. Not a huge worry, right? Even on a track known to be difficult to pass on? Apparently not, Stewart won the spring race and finished 10th in the summer. His struggles this season are well-documented, but he is beginning to show signs of life. After finishing outside of the top 15 for six straight races, Stewart has finished ninth and 15th in the last two races. This might be a good time to gamble on Stewart, but we would like to see him run great, not just good, before trusting him with a top-tier start in allocation formats.
Last year at Pocono, a total of four drivers had top-10 finishes in both events. The biggest surprise on that list was Hornish. While those finishes will likely garner Hornish a lot of attention in leagues that start low-tier drivers, be cautious. Hornish's average running positions were only 20th and 18th in those races. In the summer race, his fourth-place finish was a stroke of luck. After getting new tires during a green-flag pit stop late in the race, a caution came out two laps later. With the rest of the lead-lap cars needing to pit, Hornish was able to stay and restarted third. Flat tracks seem to be Hornish's best tracks to on run on but asking for another top-10 is a stretch.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. Follow @EricMcClung
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