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DraftKings NASCAR: Pocono 400

C.J. Radune

Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the 2015 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Pocono 400

Location: Long Pond, Pa.
Course: Pocono Raceway
Format: 2.5-mile tri-oval
Laps: 160

Race Preview

Jimmie Johnson became this season's first three-time winner when he snuck ahead of Kyle Larson in an overtime finish before one final crash called the end of the race. The victory was his 11th at the track and reinforces the fact that the team is fighting tenaciously to defend their championship. The long-running saga of Toyota's woes continued, too. Just one non-Chevrolet machine made it into the top five at Dover, and it was Martin Truex Jr. who remains the only Toyota-powered driver to win a points race this season. While the manufacturer appears to have closed the gap in performance to Chevrolet and Ford, this week’s race will be a telltale sign as to whether they actually have. Pocono Raceway’s long straights and unique layout favor an engine that can power off of the corner and reach maximum revs at corner entry. Any power differences will be laid bare, but it still seems to be just a matter of time before another Toyota driver joins Truex in the victory column. Chevrolet has been the one to beat at Pocono, though. The bow-tie brigade has won seven of the last nine races at the circuit.

Key Stats at Pocono Raceway

Number of previous races: 78
Winners from pole: 15
Winners from top-5 starters: 45
Winners from top-10 starters: 55
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
Fastest race: 145.384 mph

Last 10 Pocono Winners

2016 fall - Chris Buescher
2016 spring - Kurt Busch
2015 fall - Matt Kenseth
2015 spring - Martin Truex Jr.
2014 fall - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2014 spring - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2013 fall - Kasey Kahne
2013 spring - Jimmie Johnson
2012 fall - Jeff Gordon
2012 spring - Joey Logano

Pocono Raceway is a triangle-shaped circuit that features three distinctly different corners and very long straightaways. Engines reach their maximum revs at the end of the long straights, which can cause some concerns about longevity. The teams will focus on setting up a well-handling car that emphasizes performance in one particular corner versus optimizing the machine for all three unique turns. Everyone will work to hone in on speed through the center of the turns with maximum launch off to maximize speed on the straights, though. The long circuit produces high top speed, but also enables unique pit strategy. The length of the course means drivers can pit under green without losing a lap, but also means trouble early in a lap is severely punished as a slow or damaged machine has significant distance to cover before coming back to pit entrance. Fuel mileage has often become a factor at the track, and some strategy could see drivers pushing mileage to the maximum in order to stop one less time than the rest of the field.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Martin Truex Jr. - $10,300
Brad Keselowski - $10,100
Jimmie Johnson - $10,000

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Kyle Larson - $9,900
Kyle Busch - $9,700
Chase Elliott - $9,300
Denny Hamlin - $8,900

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Clint Bowyer - $8,600
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $8,500
Kurt Busch - $8,200
Jamie McMurray - $8,100

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Kasey Kahne - $7,700
Trevor Bayne - $7,000
Ty Dillon - $6,800
Danica Patrick - $6,100

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Kyle Larson - $9,900
Kyle Busch - $9,700
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $8,500
Jamie McMurray - $8,100
Kasey Kahne - $7,700
Danica Patrick - $6,10

Larson and Kyle Busch head the lower-risk lineup option at Pocono due to their consistent competitiveness throughout the season. There should be more than just one win between the pair by now, but both remain a threat each and every week. Neither has ever won at Pocono, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of them in Victory Lane on Sunday. Earnhardt has won at this track, however. He swept the races in 2014 and finished in the top five in both visits last season. He hasn’t finished worse than 11th here since 2012, and this week’s trip to the Pennsylvania mountains could be what he needs to turn his recent struggles around despite starting at the back due to engine trouble. McMurray is another driver who has been impressive throughout the season. He sits behind only Harvick and Kyle Busch in the standings of drivers without a win. He has only finished outside of the top 15 twice so far this season, and Pocono should suit the team’s power and race setup. Kahne is a two-time Pocono winner, and his price this week is a bit of a bargain especially considering where he is starting. He has quietly been improving after a brief early slump, and he finished sixth here last year after a similar start to the season. He should be primed to add to the scoring with his finish differential. Finally, we’ll give Patrick another shot. She had her best result of the season last week, which could give her a boost ahead of the weekend. She finished 16th at the track in the fall of 2015 but should be capable of delivering a top-15 this time.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Jimmie Johnson - $10,000
Chase Elliott - $9,300
Denny Hamlin - $8,900
Kurt Busch - $8,200
Ty Dillon - $6,800
Chris Buescher - $6,600

There are a number of factors making the choices for Pocono’s higher-risk lineup a riskier proposition. First, Johnson may find it difficult to win back-to-back races for the second time this season. His latest of three Pocono victories was this race in 2013. Elliott has yet to win in the Cup series and only has one top-10 in the last five races. He finished fourth in this race last season leading 51 laps, however. He is another driver who should add positive points for finish differential. Pocono has consistently been a good track for Hamlin. He has four wins here, finished seventh last fall and comes into this week’s race with consecutive top-10 finishes at his back. Kurt Busch is a three-time Pocono winner, the defending champion of this week’s event and may be exiting an early-season slump with two top-10s in the last four races. Last week’s performance in Dover was a legitimate statement from Dillon that he and his team can compete at the front of the field. He led 27 laps in Dover and should be in store for his best Cup series finish at this track this week. While it would be a big stretch to expect Buescher to repeat his shock victory from last season at Pocono he has learned from that triumph. It would be a tall order to even expect a top-10, but a top-20 result should be well within his capability on Sunday.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.