The longest race of the year is over with Martin Truex Jr. visiting victory lane for the third time this season. Thanks to multiple cautions that kept bunching up the drivers there were times of exciting racing, but once again once they ran under green for a while the field stretched out too much for my taste.
This week the series heads to the Pocono Raceway for the running of the Pocono 400. This is one of the longest tracks on the circuit and speed will be essential to winning this week. However, that isn’t the only thing drivers will have to contend with here. There are also three different distinct corners they will have to get their cars to handle through, so they and their crew chiefs will have their hands full this week.
One of the main concerns at Pocono always seems to be the weather. I don’t know if you have seen next years schedule yet, but they have it set up to run back to back Saturday and then Sunday races here on the same weekend. I have no idea why NASCAR would want to do this, especially with the weather the way it can be in the mountains any time of the year. They very well could have to come back here on one of their off weekends anyway and that isn’t good for the fans.
Kyle Busch: Kyle has finished in the top ten in his last five starts at Pocono including two wins. He has lead laps in his last seven races at this track and he has finished in the top five in six of the eight stages he has run at this track. It looks like he should be the favorite this week and I am picking him to come through once again and add some more playoff points to his total.
Kevin Harvick: Now, Kevin has five straight top five finishes at Pocono and has finished in the top five in seven of the eight stages run here. They won’t be using the new aero package at Pocono this season, so this might be the place he picks up his first win of the season. He will still need to have more consistent pit stops, but he should challenge Kyle all the way to the end this weekend.
Brad Keselowski: The race last July broke a six race streak of top five finishes at this track for Brad. He has finished in the top ten in every stage he has ever run here and is looking for nothing other than stage wins and race wins seeing he is already qualified for the playoffs. You can never count this team out once they have a win as they will take chances to do something different than the rest of the field and this could be one of those fuel mileage races.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin won two of the last four June races at Pocono and is coming off his third win of the season. He still trails Kyle and Brad in playoff points and would like to make up some ground there. He knows how valuable those points are when it come to advancing once the playoffs start. I look for this team to ride its momentum to another good run this weekend.
Chase Elliott: Chase has finished in the top ten in five of the six races he has run at this track. He has also scored points in seven of the eight stages he has run here. The Hendrick teams are showing more speed now than they were earlier this year and that is something a driver needs at Pocono because of the long straightaway here. I think Chase runs up front for the majority of the race and has a shot at winning for the first time at Pocono.
Erik Jones: Erik has had a rough time this season mostly due to bad luck. This might be the place he can turn that luck around. He has finished in the top ten in three of his four races run at Pocono and lead laps in each of those three starts. The biggest thing for this team is going to be communication between Erik and his crew chief on what changes to make to the car to keep it performing well through all three corners.
Denny Hamlin: Denny won four of the first nine races he ran here, but hasn’t won since the last of those back in June of 2010. This team looks a little better this year and seems to be more consistent. The question is, are they going to try something that might take them out of contention by trying to win the race and pick up playoff points? That is where they might get caught speeding on pit road to try and gain an advantage.
Ryan Blaney: Ryan won this race two years ago while racing for the Wood Brothers. We know the Penske teams have the speed it will take to compete here and the confidence to get the job done. I think Ryan has a bounce back race this weekend and without the new aero package all of the teams will have a better idea of how the cars are going to handle right off the truck.
Kurt Busch: Kurt has three wins at Pocono and has shown that he is competitive week in and week out on his new team this season. Kurt has always run better on flat tracks and tracks that run somewhat similar to road courses. Pocono is that kind of track and if this team can make the right adjustments they could very easily put another trophy in Kurt’s collection this weekend.
Daniel Suarez: Daniel finished second here last July and seems to run better on the same tracks Kurt Busch does. It seems every time I think he is going to run well and put him on my team he falters and disappoints me. I feel this team will win a race this year because they have shown speed and competitiveness. I think it is only a matter of time before they put a whole race together and come away with an elusive win.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR POCONO RACEWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
Driver Group Game Group B
- Denny Hamlin
- Erik Jones
- Kurt Busch
- Daniel Suarez
Driver Group Game Group C
- Chris Buescher
- Ty Dillon
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT POCONO RACEWAY
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Brad Keselowski
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Chase Elliott
Dark Horse: Chris Buescher
Stay Away From: Alex Bowman
Big 18: Brad Keselowski