The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway on June 5 for the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400. Daily NASCAR Fantasy lineups and teams will now need to overcome the difficulties of the sport’s “Tricky Triangle” in order to cash in. The three-turn, 2.5-mile track is unique in its shape and place on the circuit.
What’s not unique is who’s been to Victory Lane there as of late. Seven of the last eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races have been won by a Toyota. Six of those wins were by a Joe Gibbs Racing car while the other was won by Martin Truex, Jr., driving a JGR-affiliated Toyota for Furniture Row Racing. It’s easy to say, at this point in time, that it’s absolutely necessary to include at least one of these Camrys when setting your roster.
Here are a few other suggestions, including the details on said Toyotas, to keep in mind when constructing your Pocono DraftKings lineup for Sunday.
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Kyle Busch ($10,200) FPPR: 53.9 – Career at Pocono: 29 races, 2 wins, 12 top 5s
Average Finish: 15.1
Busch has three wins already in 2016, along with two second-place finishes, two third-place results and two fourths. He has been one of the most consistent drivers this season, a trend that should continue throughout the year. The Joe Gibbs Racing veteran has not had fantastic luck at Pocono over the past few seasons – it’s one of two tracks on the Cup circuit where the reigning Cup champ has yet to win – but he has the hot hand and the best equipment in the sport. Not to mention he will have crew chief Adam Stevens back at the helm, returning after a NASCAR-based suspension over the lug nut rule.
Jimmie Johnson ($10,100) FPPR 44.3 – Career at Pocono: 28 races, 3 wins, 11 top 5s
Average Finish: 9.5
The six-time Cup champion has had great success at Pocono over his career. Those top-5 finishes in Pennsylvania have landed consistently, from finishing third during his rookie season, to sweeping from the pole in June 2013, plus one third-place result at the track last year. Johnson has had speed so far in 2016, and crew chief Chad Knaus has made some incredible decisions on pit road to keep up with the JGR onslaught. Johnson has two wins so far on the season and will look to land the top spot once again this weekend.
Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,300) FPPR: 55.7 – Career at Pocono: 20 races, 1 win, 3 top 5s
Average Finish: 15.3
Truex had been the definition of bad luck in 2016, until last week. From finishing second in one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history at Daytona, to pit crew miscues, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Truex had been haunted by these near-misses. But the No. 78 team finally had the perfect race at Charlotte, picking up his first win of the season in dominant fashion and setting a NASCAR record with 588 miles led in a race. Last season, Truex won at Pocono in lesser equipment. This year, with the JGR alliance and the speed to beat any car in the field, he has to be the favorite to pull into Victory Lane at Pocono.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Harvick ($10,400)
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,500 – $9,999
Carl Edwards ($9,700) FPPR: 54.7 – Career at Pocono: 22 races, 2 wins, 5 top 5s
Average Finish: 15.2
Edwards’ 2016 average finish through 13 races to this point is 11.1, and that includes two bad luck wrecks that landed him toward the back of the field. That number alone, aside from his two wins, should have you confident enough to slot Edwards into your lineup on Sunday.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200) FPPR: 30.7 – Career at Pocono: 20 races, 4 wins, 9 top 5s
Average Finish: 12.3
Hamlin started off the year winning the Daytona 500, but has failed to find consistency throughout the following races. Yet, after two top-10 finishes in a row, including a fourth-place result last week at Charlotte, Hamlin is on the upswing and headed to one of his more successful tracks. The Virginian has four career wins at Pocono, most among active drivers and rounded up a top-10 finish there a year ago.
Kyle Larson ($8,700) FPPR: 32.1 – Career at Pocono: 4 races, 1 top 5, 2 top 10s
Average Finish: 9.0
Larson is coming off one of the most exciting finishes in his career three weeks ago at Dover. He will look to carry that momentum to Pocono, where he has been fairly successful over his first two years. In only four starts at the track, Larson has locked up the pole and brought home two top 10s. With a new crew chief and a team that has found a way to stay up front when racing clean, Larson could be the underdog pick for the win at Pocono.
Honorable Mention: Kasey Kahne ($9,800)
MID TIER: $7,500 – $8,499
Tony Stewart: ($7,500) FPPR: 26.6 – Career at Pocono: 32 races, 2 wins, 12 top 5s
Average Finish: 12.0
Ol’ Smoke needs a good finish in order to stay in the Chase hunt after a tough showing at Dover. Stewart has not won at Pocono since 2009 but wrapped up a ninth-place finish in the finale of the two-race set in 2015. He also qualified well, a sixth-place effort his best since Michigan last August. The three-time Cup champ is racing with nothing to lose during his final campaign and he has the equipment to run inside the top 15.
Jamie McMurray: ($7,700) FPPR: 31.2 – Career at Pocono: 26 races, 7 top 10s
Average Finish: 19.1
McMurray has not won at Pocono but has finished inside the top 20 in his last eight runs on the triangular-shaped track. Jamie has been up-and-down to this point in 2016, but has found a way to make it work at this track the past two years. Four top-15 finishes, which include two seventh-place nods, give reason to add this value pick into your lineup.
Austin Dillon: ($8,200) FPPR: 30.9 – Career at Pocono: 4 races, 2 top 15s
Average Finish: 16.0
A win is coming for Austin Dillon. We may not know when or where, but the way the No. 3 team has been running in 2016, it is only a matter of time. The elder Dillon brother only has two seasons of experience at Pocono, but has managed a top 20 in all four races, including two top 15s. Crew chief “Slugger” Labbe has the leadership; Dillon has the spunk. Now all they need is a good start, a clean race, and a solid result should follow.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Newman ($7,100)
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,499
Ryan Blaney: ($7,300) FPPR: 29 – First career Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono
Blaney is making his first career start at Pocono in NASCAR’s premier series. In his first full-time year in the big leagues, Blaney’s average finish is 17th, but he is on a hot streak after finishing inside the top 10 in three of his last four races. Although Blaney has never raced at Pocono on the Sprint Cup level, he does have a win at the track in the Camping World Truck Series. Blaney is a high upside starter at a low price this weekend.
AJ Allmendinger: ($6,800) FPPR 16.1 – Career at Pocono: 16 races, 2 top 10s
Average Finish: 24.5
Allmendinger’s career numbers at Pocono are nothing to write home about, but in 2015 he logged in a seventh-place finish. In 2016, through 13 races, AJ has an average finish of 16.6, including a respectable 16th-place result at Charlotte last weekend. Allmendinger may not compete for the win, but he will be a contender for a top 20, and that makes him a solid choice to wrap up your Pocono lineup.
BOWLES – ATHLON: Axalta 400 Preview And Fantasy Recs
For more coverage of the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono leading up to the race, as always you can follow Frontstretch on Twitter @Frontstretch, on Instagram @frontstretchdotcom and Facebook at facebook.com/frontstretch.
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No love for Jr? Dude swept Pocono in 2014. Other than that MASSIVE omission, I agree with everything that was said here.