DraftKings NASCAR: Pocono 400
DraftKings NASCAR: Pocono 400

This article is part of our DraftKings NASCAR series.

Pocono 400

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

Race Preview

The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series season is shaping up to be one giant battle for dominance. Kevin Harvick had the crown heading into the Coca-Cola 600, but was forced to relinquish it to Kyle Busch. Busch and the Toyota contingent had a spectacular night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In fact, only one Ford finished in the top five last Sunday, and it wasn't one of the Stewart-Haas Racing machines. Brad Keselowski carried the banner for the manufacturer, while Kurt Busch was the highest-placed SHR driver in eighth. Chevrolet finally had a good showing with four cars finishing in the top 10, but Ford and Toyota still very much have the advantage. While Kyle Busch's dominance of the marathon race didn't match Martin Truex Jr's. from a few seasons ago, it was still comprehensive. Busch started from pole and led 377 of the 400 laps on his way to sweeping all of the stage wins along with the overall victory. It was nothing short of impressive from the former champion, who has now scored victories on every circuit the Cup series visits. He's also the latest winner at this week's venue, Pocono Raceway.

Key Stats at Pocono Raceway

Number of previous races: 80
Winners from pole: 16
Winners from top-5 starters: 47
Winners from top-10 starters: 57
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
Fastest race: 145.384 mph

Last 10 Pocono Winners

2017 fall - Kyle Busch
2017 spring - Ryan Blaney
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

Pocono Raceway is one of the more unique circuits the series visits each season. The 2.5-mile triangle poses many unique challenges for teams and drivers to overcome. First, is the size of the track. The long straights mean hard acceleration throughout the 400 miles, which will test engines as drivers keep the throttle wide open for extended lengths. The next challenge is the turns. No turn is alike on this layout. Teams and drivers will have to compromise on setup but will be aiming to maximize corner exit speed in order to make passes at the end of the long straights. Chassis setup can be mixed here, and there aren't many different grooves for drivers to use as the grip levels change. Making the right adjustments on pit road will be a necessity. Preserving grip throughout a fuel run means drivers will need to avoid abusing their tires on a usually hot a slippery surface. Fuel strategy is also an important factor at this track, as the long laps allow for plenty of options to pit short or long in order to play off of caution periods. Similarly, pit road penalties will carry a heavy impact due to the long pit road. With just 160 laps scheduled, fantasy owners will look to pick the fastest drivers from practice and qualifying who have compromised starting positions with the potential to add finish differential points. The most laps led by any winner at the track in the last two years is 74 last spring by Kyle Busch. Two winners led less than 20.

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

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Kevin Harvick - $11,600
Kyle Busch - $11,300
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,900

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Kyle Larson - $10,400
Brad Keselowski - $9,800
Clint Bowyer - $8,500
Ryan Blaney - $8,700

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Erik jones - $8,400
Ryan Newman - $7,500
Daniel Suarez - $7,300
Matt Kenseth - $7,100

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Kasey Kahne - $6,700
Paul Menard - $6,600
Darrell Wallace Jr. - $6,100
Chris Buescher - $5,900

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Kyle Busch - $11,300
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,900
Erik Jones - $8,400
Jamie McMurray - $7,400
Darrell Wallace Jr. - $6,100
Chris Buescher - $5,900

The dominance Busch had at Charlotte coupled with his Pocono win last fall make him an easy option to lead the lower-risk lineup. Leading laps, like he did here in both races last season, will be an added bonus to the points he earns from likely finishing at the front. Truex also poses a confident selection this week. His results recently have been trending up, and he finished sixth and third in the two Pocono races last season. Pocono has also been a good venue for Jones. He scored a top-five in his first race at the track in the Cup series and then backed it up with an eighth-place finish in the fall leading laps in both outings. McMurray is another driver who has started to show some progress with the new Chevrolet. He started in the top 10 here both times last season and scored his best finish since Texas last week at Charlotte. Pocono is one place Wallace has Cup experience, and he should be in a position to outperform his 26th-place finish in this race last season. He is 23rd in points and is coming off of a nice 16th-place run last week. Rounding out the lineup option is Buescher. Repeating his rain-shortened victory from 2016 isn't likely, but a top-20 finish should be well within his grasp after finishing 19th in this race last season.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Joey Logano - $10,100
Brad Keselowski - $9,800
Denny Hamlin - $9,100
Kurt Busch - $8,500
Matt Kenseth - $7,100
Ty Dillon - $5,300

The higher-risk lineup for Pocono features four drivers on the cusp of visiting Victory Lane recently and two who have the chance to outperform recent expectations. Logano is the only 2018 winner in this lineup, but after a disappointing Charlotte finish he should be poised to make a return to the top-five at a track where he won in 2012. He's a risky play due to his terrible races at the track last season but should be on course to leave those disappointments behind. Teammate Keselowski will have some confidence after a fourth-place finish last week, and there aren't many crew chiefs who can play the strategy game as well as Paul Wolfe. A logical swap for Keselowski could also be teammate Blaney, who will be starting from pole. Hamlin has been quietly taking steps forward in recent weeks and is now on the verge of scoring his first 2018 win. He has four Pocono victories to his credit, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see that number become five this weekend. If fantasy players think Kurt Busch has a chance at winning a race this year, this week would probably be a good time to choose him. He has three prior Pocono wins and four top-10s in the most recent points races heading into this weekend. Kenseth and Dillon are similarly poised to have better-than-average results this week. Kenseth has another week under his belt and had two top-10s here last year. His return is an undeniable challenge, but 17th last week shows some progress. Similarly, Dillon has largely floundered so far this season but has started to show top-15 potential. He finished 18th and 17th at Pocono last year from the 27th and 30th starting positions.

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.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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