NASCAR DFS: Pocono 400 DraftKings Preview

Brian Polking

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway this weekend, and the 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped track is a far cry from the 1.5-mile ovals we have been dealing with in recent weeks.

In addition to its unique shape, the style of racing at Pocono can also be different from a lot of other tracks. Passing is extremely difficult, and since drivers can pit without losing a lap, there is usually a variety of pit strategies in play. This can cause the lead to cycle between a few drivers, and one unexpected caution can jumble up the entire running order and change the complexion of the race.

Throw in the fact that Sunday’s race is only 160 laps, and building a winning DFS lineup at DraftKings isn’t particularly easy. Even though there are fewer laps on tap, you can’t ignore the dominator categories. Granted, there isn’t much you can do when a mid-pack driver ends up leading 15-20 laps because they got off cycle on pit stops, but rostering three or four strong options with dominator potential is never a bad idea.

Pocono is also a track where you can gamble a bit when hunting for lower-priced drivers. The track is so big that it is harder to go a lap down here, and with pit strategy and track position playing such a big role, it is common to see drivers from smaller teams steal decent finishes.

Qualifying will go a long way to determining the top dominator candidates and the best sleepers, but in the meantime, here is a closer look at the drivers I have my eye on at DraftKings ahead of Sunday’s Pocono 400.

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Must-Own Drivers

Kevin Harvick ($11,600)

He brings the fastest car to the track just about every week, and I see no reason that changes at Pocono. He was the runner-up in both races here last year and has four second-place finishes in eight starts at the track with Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick has led laps in five of those eight races and recorded double-digit fastest laps seven times.

Kyle Busch ($11,300)

Busch delivered two of the more dominant performances at Pocono in recent memory last year, leading 100 laps in the June race and 74 more in his win in July. He also recorded more than 30 fastest laps in both events. Fresh off his fourth win of the season last weekend at Charlotte, you can pencil him in as one of the top dominators again this Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900)

Since 2015, Truex has been one of the best in the business at Pocono. He has led laps in five of the six races over that span, recording at least 20 fastest laps four times. Truex finished sixth and third in two races here a year ago, combining for 42 fastest laps and 36 laps led. He should chip in with some dominator points.

Kyle Larson ($10,400)

If there is a driver who could have a breakout performance at Pocono Sunday, it’s probably Larson. He has always run well here, finishing 12th or better in seven of his eight starts and leading laps in five of them. More importantly, he seems to be getting better. He led 37 laps here in the July race in 2016, and he recorded double-digit fastest laps for the first time last July.

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Value Plays

Brad Keselowski ($9,800)

While he hasn’t had a dominant performance at Pocono since 2014, Keselowski has been one of the most dependable options at the track. He has five straight Top 5 finishes here, leading laps in four of those starts and recording fastest laps in all five. Keselowski offers one of the safer floors Sunday, no matter where he qualifies.

Chase Elliott ($9,300)

Elliott has become quite the force at flat tracks, and his resume at Pocono is already impressive. He led 51 laps and finished fourth here in his track debut, and he has three Top 10s in four starts, recording multiple fastest laps in every race. Keep an eye on Elliott in practice and qualifying because he could have some potential for dominator points this weekend.

Ryan Blaney ($8,700)

Fast cars and bad luck have made Blaney a boom-or-bust play this season, but he is someone you can’t ignore, especially in GPPs. He also happens to be the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and he has finished 11th or better in three of his four starts at Pocono.

Kurt Busch ($8,500)

Busch’s resume at Pocono is one of the best among active drivers, and in addition to three wins, he has a career driver rating of 104.5. He also ranks second in both dominator categories at the track. Busch has finished in the Top 5 in the June race in each of the last four seasons, leading 32 laps in a win in 2016. He could be one of the top bargains this weekend.

Erik Jones ($8,400)

He had himself a pretty nice rookie season at Pocono a year ago. Jones logged 14 fastest laps and led 20 laps on his way to a third-place finish in his track debut, and he finished eighth in the return trip, leading four laps and recorded eight fastest laps. The potential for a few dominator points makes him very appealing at this price.

Alex Bowman ($7,900)

This will be Bowman’s first race at Pocono in quality equipment, and I’m expecting a solid debut because of his success at flat tracks. He led a ton of laps at Phoenix back in 2016 while subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and he finished 13th and Phoenix this year and seventh at Martinsville. I’m hoping he qualifies in the middle of the pack or worse to boost his place differential potential.

Ryan Newman ($7,500)

His value will be tied directly too his starting spot, but if Newman starts outside the Top 20, he should be one of the safest mid-priced plays. After all, he has cracked the Top 15 in four straight races at Pocono and in 17 of his last 19 starts at the track.

Sleeper Specials

David Ragan ($5,600)

He’s been able to finish in the Top 25 on a routine basis this season, and Ragan has always managed to hold his own at Pocono. He has cracked the Top 25 in eight of his last nine starts here, and he has gained at least six positions seven times in that span, gaining 10-plus spots four times. If he starts in the back Sunday, he is an easy choice for salary cap relief.

Ty Dillon ($5,300)

Dillon has been awful for most of this season, but he has a decent history at Pocono. He has finished 21st or better in all four of his Cup starts here, gaining at least seven spots in every start. Overall, he boasts an 18.5 average finish and an average place differential of +10.0 at the track. If he starts around the 30th spot, he could be worth a look.

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