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After the longest race of the season last weekend at Charlotte, the Sprint Cup Series heads to one of the longest tracks on the schedule this weekend. Pocono Raceway will host Sunday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400, and building a winning DFS lineup for the 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped track will require a unique approach.
Due to the massive size of Pocono, Sunday’s race is only 160 laps, so the points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories are on the very low end of the spectrum.
Equally as important, passing tends to be incredibly difficult at Pocono, so pit strategy plays a big role. There will be multiple strategies in play all afternoon as crew chiefs try to get their driver out front in clean air, and this ends up causing a few different drivers to lead various stages of the race as pit strategies cycle through.
The bottom line is that the laps led and fastest laps run categories won’t carry a lineup by themselves. Yes, you should still try to identify the driver with the best chance of dominating Sunday’s race, but place differential and finishing position are going to much more important this weekend than they have in recent weeks.
I recommend building a solid all-around lineup this weekend. With the number of laps limited and laps led and fastest laps run somewhat tough to predict, you are going to have a tough time making up enough bonus points in these categories to punt one of your lineup spots.
Here is a closer look at some of the top DFS NASCAR options heading into this weekend’s track activities. Qualifying is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET Friday, and you can check out the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET on FS1.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300)
No driver has been better in recent weeks than Truex, and his run of dominance could certainly continue at Pocono. After all, he led a race-high 97 laps here last June on his way to the win, and he led six more laps in the August race before running out of fuel while running near the front late in the event.
Joey Logano ($10,000)
Over the last ten races at Pocono, Logano’s 220 laps led are the second most in the series. During the stretch, he has led at least 30 laps four times, including twice in the last three races. Logano led a race-high 97 laps here last August before running out of gas on the final lap, and he continues to prove he can dominate the “Tricky Triangle.”
Kurt Busch ($9,400)
The two-time Pocono winner is underrated and underpriced this weekend. He has three top-five finishes in the last five races here, and Busch ranks second in both laps led and fastest laps run at the track. If you are looking for a contrarian option to build a lineup around, the driver nicknamed “The Outlaw” makes a great starting point.
Kyle Larson (8,700)
He has been running well in recent weeks, and in four starts at Pocono, he has never finished worse than 12th. He has also gained at least seven spots in three of his four starts here, so if he qualifies outside the top 15, he should be on your short list of mid-priced drivers to roster.
Kasey Kahne ($8,100)
Kahne is more of a boom-or-bust pick, but he is a driver that should be on your radar, especially in GPP play. He is a two-time winner here, and he ranks third in fastest laps run and sixth in laps led. On the flip side, he has an ugly average place differential of -9.1 over the last ten races, but when he runs well, he runs well. Kahne could end up putting up a ton of points for at a price that won’t break the bank.
Tony Stewart ($7,500)
Pocono is one of those unique tracks where certain drivers always seem to run well. Stewart is on that list, and as bad as he has been the last few years, he still managed a ninth-place run here last August. He also owns an average place differential of +6.0 over the last ten races. Don’t hesitate to roster him if he qualifies deeper in the field.
Ryan Newman ($7,100)
Newman has a rough year at Pocono in 2015, but he still has seven top 10s in his last ten starts here and 13 top 15s in his last 15 starts. Clearly, Newman is a safe bet to deliver a solid finish this weekend, so he should make a great low-cost addition as long as he has some upside through place differential after qualifying.
Greg Biffle ($7,000)
Despite his struggles the last couple of years, Biffle has remained competitive at Pocono. He has finished 16th or better in his last seven starts here, and he has finished in the top five in two of his last three starts. If he qualifies in the middle of the pack or deeper, don’t hesitate to use him as a source of cap relief.
Ty Dillon ($6,000)
It has been a while since a part-time driver with legitimate upside was available, and Dillon should be welcomed with open arms by fantasy owners. He offers top 15 potential for a bargain price, and his lone Cup start at Pocono, he started 29th and finished 18th. He is a must-own option in cash games this weekend, and he could be a must-own in all formats if he qualifies deeper in the field.
Drivers to Avoid
Kyle Busch ($10,200)
Busch has been better at Pocono recently, but it still isn’t his best track by any means. His last top five finish here came in 2011, and he has just four top-five finishes in 22 starts overall to go along with an 18.4 average finish. Meanwhile, Busch ranks just 14th in laps led at Pocono, so there is no reason to expect a dominating performance from his this weekend.
Matt Kenseth ($9,800)
He is coming off an excellent year at Pocono that saw Kenseth finish sixth and first in two starts. However, he won the August race using fuel mileage, and the victory was his first top five finish here in a decade. He also has five finishes outside the top 20 in his last seven starts at the track, and he ranks just 15th in fastest laps run and 17th in laps led. Kenseth is far from a safe bet, especially at his price tag.