RaceDayScore Nascar: Pennsylvania 400

RaceDayScore Nascar: Pennsylvania 400

This article is part of our RaceDayScore NASCAR series.

Pennsylvania 400

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

Race Preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup teams have a week to heal the wounds ripped open by Joe Gibbs Racing's domination of the weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch trounced the field and made the prestigious event his own by claiming both pole positions and wins in the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series. He took home every trophy on offer, and will look to carry that dominance to Pennsylvania this week. The Chase for the Sprint Cup is rapidly approaching, and it's clear that the rest of the garage has work to do to close the gap before the playoffs get underway. Gibbs and affiliated Furniture Row Racing have combined to win half of the races run so far this season, and they look likely to continue building on that tally as the Chase draws near.

Key Stats at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Number of previous races: 77
Winners from pole: 15
Winners from top-5 starters: 45
Winners from top-10 starters: 55
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 5
Fastest race: 145.384 mph

Last 10 Pocono Winners

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
2011 fall - Brad Keselowski

Pocono Raceway is one of the more unique circuits on the Sprint Cup calendar, but the series does run on it twice per year. Kurt Busch took the win at the track earlier this year, but it was Chase Elliott who led the most laps in that race. The long circuit can be punishing on equipment with long straights straining engines and extra gear changes testing transmissions. Each of the three turns requires a different kind of car balance, and setups will be a compromise to find the optimal pace across the entire track. Pit strategy could become a defining factor since the length of the track can enable green-flag pit stops to be taken without losing a lap. Drivers will focus on maintaining speed throughout the turns to maximize top speed at the end of the long straights to make most passes, but the track does offer multiple grooves to encourage more passing than what we witnessed in Indianapolis.

(Based on Standard $60K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Brad Keselowski - $12,000
Kevin Harvick - $11,900
Joey Logano - $11,500
Martin Truex Jr. - $11,100

Tier 2 Values

Denny Hamlin - $10,700
Tony Stewart - $10,600
Ryan Blaney - $10,300
Austin Dillon - $10,300

Tier 3 Values

Trevor Bayne - $9,400
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $9,300
Paul Menard - $9,300

Long-Shot Values

Aric Almirola - $8,900
Casey Mears - $8,600
Danica Patrick - $8,500
Chris Buescher - $8,100


Lower-Risk Lineup ($60K Salary Cap)

Jimmie Johnson - $11,100
Kyle Larson - $11,000
Denny Hamlin - $10,700
Tony Stewart - $10,600
Aric Almirola - $8,900
Michael Annett - $7,500

Johnson's poor luck continued last week in Indianapolis, but he has begun showing more competitiveness in his car. He's a slight risk to put in the lower-risk lineup, but offers a lot of upside potential at Pocono for the price. Kyle Larson moved into a Chase for the Sprint Cup position last week with his fifth-place finish and also boasts no finish worse than 12th in his five Pocono starts. The Joe Gibbs Racing team was dominant at Indianapolis, and Hamlin was no exception. He's a four-time Pocono winner with three top-10s in his last five tries. Stewart has continued to impress in recent weeks, and looks like a serious threat for another series title. He has four finishes of 11th or better in the last five races heading into this week. Almirola has scored two top-20 finishes in his last two Pocono outings and has improved his finishing position in each of the last five races as well. These two drivers, though not the obvious choices, could offer valuable fantasy benefits for their price at Pocono.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($60K Salary Cap)

Brad Keselowski - $12,000
Chase Elliott - $11,300
Kasey Kahne - $10,300
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $9,300
David Ragan - $8,500
Chris Buescher - $8,100

The higher-risk lineup for Pocono puts a lot of faith in Keselowski. The team overcame a deficit to be competitive in Indianapolis and should be faster off the truck this week. He finished second and third in the last two Pocono races and won at the track in 2011. Elliott had a wonderful Pocono debut earlier this season, but brings risk since that was his only Sprint Cup start there. He started 13th and finished fourth in that race. Kahne can be hit or miss, and that trend is continuing in 2016. However, he is a two-time winner at this circuit and finished sixth here earlier this season. The Roush Fenway Racing team is showing definitive improvement every week, and Stenhouse can leverage that this weekend. He finished 12th last week and 10th the week before and scored a top-15 at Pocono earlier this year. David Ragan has improved his finishing position from his qualifying spot by at least seven spots in the last two Pocono races, and Chris Buescher should be boosted by his 14th-place run at Indianapolis last week.

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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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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