RaceDayScore NASCAR: Axalta 400

RaceDayScore NASCAR: Axalta 400

This article is part of our RaceDayScore NASCAR series.

Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400

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

Race Preview

Martin Truex Jr. thoroughly dominated at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week, but can he do it again at Pocono? The Pennsylvania triangle is one of NASCAR's more challenging tracks. It features long straights that test horsepower and strain engines, while each turn is unique in terms of radius, length and banking. Joe Gibbs Racing has been the organization to beat in the early season, but it was two Chevrolets that followed Truex home last Sunday. Jimmie Johnson appears to be past his slump, while Kevin Harvick returned to his familiar position of runner-up. The competition between manufacturers is sure to be tight again as the Ford contingent will be anxious to learn if the gains they made in Charlotte will carry through Pocono as well. Pennsylvania's "Tricky Triangle" will challenge teams and drivers alike as they work to overcome its challenges as well as the competition this Sunday.

Key Stats at Pocono Raceway

Number of previous races: 76
Winners from pole: 15
Winners from top-5 starters: 45
Winners from top-10 starters: 54
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 5
Fastest race: 145.384 mph

Last 10 Pocono Winners

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
2011 fall - Brad Keselowski
2011 spring - Kevin Harvick

Pocono's unique layout makes for a somewhat unique race. The teams will have to compromise setups in some corners to ensure they have ideal handling through the final turn and onto the long front straight. High revs and long full-throttle periods can strain motors, while gearboxes can also become a worry, as drivers tend to shift throughout a lap. The long track enables a slightly greater opportunity to get on and off of pit road without losing a lap, which can open the door for more creative fuel strategies. The race has been won more than once on fuel economy. The Toyota powered machines have held the advantage so far this season, and the garage will be looking to close the gap to Furniture Row Racing.

RACE DAY SCORE VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $60K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Brad Keselowski - $11,600
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $11,500
Martin Truex Jr. - $11,300

Tier 2 Values

Denny Hamlin - $10,700
Kyle Larson - $10,600
Austin Dillon - $10,600
Matt Kenseth - $10,400

Tier 3 Values

Paul Menard - $9,700
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $9,200
Casey Mears - $8,800
David Ragan - $8,700

Long-Shot Values

Danica Patrick - $8,600
Clint Bowyer - $8,600
Michael Annett - $8,000

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Cash Game Lineup ($60K Salary Cap)

Jimmie Johnson - $11,500
Carl Edwards - $11,200
Denny Hamlin - $10,700
Tony Stewart - $10,000
Clint Bowyer - $8,600
Michael Annett - $8,000

Johnson finished third last week in Charlotte to end his early-season slump. It was his first top-10 since Richmond, and indicates that he should be competitive again in Pocono where he has three victories plus top-10s in both races last season. Edwards is a two-time Pocono winner and finished inside the top 15 in his two races there with Joe Gibbs Racing. His teammate Denny Hamlin is arguably the best value of the bunch. He has four Pocono wins, finished fourth last week, and has three top-10s from his last four Pocono starts. While Charlotte wasn't the greatest week for Stewart, he's more competitive than the past few seasons. He races really well at Pocono, and this year's rules package should suit his style at the track perfectly. While Bowyer is always an iffy play with his current team, he's scoring top-15 finishes more frequently. Fantasy players shouldn't overlook Annett this week. Annett would rank inside the top 20 drivers at Pocono under the Race Day Score points scheme. He has an outstanding finish differential at the track, which could help push some rosters over the top at a basement price.

Higher-Risk Tournament Lineup
($60K Salary Cap)

Brad Keselowski - $11,600
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $11,500
Kyle Larson - $10,600
Greg Biffle - $10,100
Danica Patrick - $8,600
Michael McDowell - $7,600

Brad Keselowski has been a factor in a few recent Pocono finishes, winning in 2011 and finishing as runner up in last year's fall event. His average finish at the track is 12.8, and he was the highest-placed Ford last week in Charlotte. Earnhardt swept victories at the track in 2014 and has finished inside the top five in five of his last six tries there. While Charlotte didn't unfold as Larson would have liked, he still presents an outside challenge for top finishes. He has been good at Pocono with no finish lower than 12th in his four starts. With Roush Fenway Racing's step forward in performance it could be wise to consider Biffle at Pocono. He finished 11th in Charlotte and has a pair of fifth-place finishes in Pennsylvania from the last three races. He should be a confident fantasy selection this week. Patrick had a forgettable Charlotte race, but scored a top-15 in Dover. She scored her first top-20 at Pocono last fall and should better her finishing average of 30.7 at the track this week. McDowell rounds out this roster due to his price. He recorded DNFs in the last six Pocono races, but is a regular face in the top 30 this season with two top-20s.

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 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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