DraftKings NASCAR: Gander Outdoors 400
DraftKings NASCAR: Gander Outdoors 400

This article is part of our DraftKings NASCAR series.

Gander Outdoors 400

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

Race Preview

Kevin Harvick outdueled Kyle Busch last week in New Hampshire to become the first driver to score six victories in 2018. The race was another battle among the top three championship contenders, but names like Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola were mixing it up at the front of the field as well. Harvick was the first Ford to win at the Northeastern oval since Penske Racing drivers swept the two visits in 2014. The top three championship leaders continue to separate themselves from the field, and it still appears as though everyone else is battling for the fourth spot in Homestead this November. The battle for playoff positions continues to heat up as Alex Bowman holds a 28-point gap over Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who sits one position outside of the top 16. Paul Menard also gained some ground and now sits just one point adrift of Stenhouse. Watch this space closely over the next several weeks as teams take more risks to ensure their names are entered in the championship battle. This week, we return to Pocono Raceway where Martin Truex Jr. picked up his second of four 2018 wins so far. In this race last year the top three finishers were Busch, Harvick and Truex. Fantasy players should expect those same names to do battle out front again.

Key Stats at Pocono Raceway

Number of previous races: 81
Winners from pole: 16
Winners from top-5 starters: 48
Winners from top-10 starters: 58
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
Fastest race: 145.384 mph

Last 10 Pocono Winners

2018 spring - Martin Truex Jr.
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

Pocono Raceway's long straights and three unique turns are a challenge to teams and drivers alike. Truex led just 31 laps there in June but managed to come out on top. Harvick led the most laps at 89, but only finished fourth. The long lap enables teams some more flexibility on pit strategy, and track position always is a factor. A lower lap count this week means fantasy players should also be looking for drivers who can make up significant spots from their qualifying position. While most winners at the track start inside the top 10 there are usually a handful that race significantly better than they qualify. All teams, for qualifying or the race, will be looking to maximize speed off of the long turn 3 to have as much on-throttle time as possible down the long front straight. A nice exit off of turn 1 can also set up passes into the tricky turn 2. Some drivers will elect to shift in that turn to maximize engine power off of the turn, which can create strain on the transmission that the cars don't normally experience. Mechanical failures are common at Pocono, and drivers will need to manage their equipment effectively to be able to race at the end.

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

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Kyle Busch - $11,800
Martin Truex Jr. - $11,500
Kevin Harvick - $11,200

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Kyle Larson - $10,400
Brad Keselowski - $9,400
Clint Bowyer - $9,100
Ryan Blaney - $8,500
Chase Elliott - $8,400

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Ryan Newman - $7,300
Paul Menard - $6,700
William Byron - $6,600
Darrell Wallace Jr. - $6,100

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

David Ragan - $5,700
Michael McDowell - $5,600
Ty Dillon - $5,500
Matt DiBenedetto - $5,300

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Kyle Busch - $11,800
Kevin Harvick - $11,200
Aric Almirola - $8,200
Ryan Newman - $7,300
Chris Buescher - $5,900
Michael McDowell - $5,600

The lower-risk lineup option for Pocono gives fantasy rosters two of the three most likely candidates to win on Sunday. However, both drivers failed qualifying inspection and will have their times revoked. Harvick has never won at Pocono but held provisional pole and tends to lead a lot of laps at the track. He's arguably due for a victory and should provide a plethora of finish differential points. Kyle Busch remains extremely quick every week. He won this race last season and has four consecutive top-10s at the track heading into this weekend. Fantasy owners may be tempted to pass by Almirola based on his lack of success at this track, but he drove from 34th on the grid to his first top-10 at the track earlier this year. That performance is likely more indicative of what he's capable of here versus any of his other prior experiences at the track. Don't forget that he could have been in the mix for the win last week were it not for a late slow pit stop. Newman is another driver who could be easily overlooked this week but shouldn't be. He has two top-10s in the last three races and started eighth in his last Pocono visit. That finish didn't pan out for him, but he's entirely capable of delivering a top-10 this week. Buescher and McDowell round out this lineup. Both have been punching above their weight mid-race in recent weeks and are arguably more reliable at this point than some other options that have been hit or miss. Both should deliver finish differential points at a minimum but could also turn in top-20 finishes Sunday.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Denny Hamlin - $10,000
Clint Bowyer - $9,100
Kurt Busch - $8,700
Chase Elliott - $8,400
Erik Jones - $8,100
Ty Dillon - $5,500

Fantasy owners looking to spread their salary dollars among the top 10 drivers instead of the top three may find the higher-risk lineup more attractive this week. While none of the top three contenders are represented the lineup has plenty of value. Hamlin went missing last week but could get back on the horse this week. He crashed out after starting in the top 10 at Pocono earlier this year. Bowyer and Kurt Busch both have been making their names known at the front of the field this season. Busch is developing a great season, and Bowyer has two 2018 wins. Neither lived up to expectations here earlier this season, which is why they're coming at a bigger discount compared to their current form. Is the real Elliott back? He had a great New Hampshire race and could be a factor again this week if the team has rounded the corner. He finished 10th at Pocono last time out. Jones is another potential bargain. His two Pocono finishes last year averaged 5.5 but spun late in this season's visit and finished 29th. Assuming he has no bad luck this weekend, he could be a confident top-10 contender. Top-20s have been less frequent for Dillon this season, but he's one of the more reliable options left at this price point. He's likely to deliver positive finish differential points, and a top-20 finish would be icing on the cake.

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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