The Setup – Pocono Doubleheader Race Preview
By Tyler Miller

The NASCAR Cup series will race a doubleheader at Pocono Raceway this weekend with a 130 lap (325 mile) race on Saturday and a 140 lap (350 mile) race on Sunday. Unlike other races since returning from the public health crisis, this Pocono weekend was originally scheduled this way when the 2020 season schedule was announced last year. Drivers drew for starting position for race 1 and then the finishing results of the first race will determine the starting positions for the second race (top 20 invert, 21st on back will start where they finished). The drivers will race the same car for both races. If they wreck and need a backup car for Sunday they will start from the back. Unlike the Xfinity double header at Homestead, the exact same drivers will be competing both days at Pocono.
Race Distance: Race 1: 130 laps (325 miles). Stage 1 ends on lap 25, Stage 2 ends on lap 77.
Race 2: 140 laps (350 miles). Stage 1 ends on lap 30, Stage 2 ends on lap 85.

Lineup Lock 3:30 pm eastern Saturday and 4:00 pm eastern Sunday

2019 Pocono 1 Winner: Kyle Busch (Started 2nd)
2019 Pocono 1 Pole Sitter: William Byron (Finished 9th)
2019 Pocono 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin (Started 9th)
2019 Pocono 2 Pole Sitter: Kevin Harvick (Finished 6th)

Prior race winners: (Pocono 1, Pocono 2)
2018: Martin Truex Jr. (4th), Kyle Busch (28th)
2017: Ryan Blaney (4th) , Kyle Busch (1st)
2016: Kurt Busch (9th), Chris Buescher (22nd)
2015: Martin Truex Jr. (3rd), Matt Kenseth (7th)
2014: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (8th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9th)

Talladega Recap
What went right?

I wrote last week that Homestead was a nightmare. Talladega might have been worse. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Dillon were really good plays. Brendan Gaughan and Ryan Preece were solid, but I missed on the top end guys. I do take some solace in the fact that Logano and Elliott both led laps and there is no question that Logano and Keselowski were two of the fastest cars on the track. At the end of the day, Talladega was a big loss for me, so we move on to Pocono.

What went wrong?
Elliott crashing and scoring the second fewest points really hurt my chances but Logano killed any chance I had of cashing when he couldn’t move forward after pitting under the final caution of the race. I also wrote up Keselowski, who was under a similar circumstance as Logano. DiBenedetto and Christopher Bell also failed to perform for various reasons. I’m not that disappointed in myself for missing on the top performers. I obviously wish I would have played Ryan Blaney, but I had all of his teammates and it felt a little cheap to write up every Penske driver. I thought Keselowski and Logano were better plays and that’s what I went with.

My Fan Duel lineup was Logano, Elliott, Ty Dillon, Stenhouse, and Gaughan which scored 221 and was shut out.

My Draft Kings lineup was Logano, Elliott, Ty Dillon, Stenhouse, Gaughan, and Preece which scored 225 and was also shut out.

What Vegas thinks (Opening Lines for Pocono 1 via Penn National Gaming):
Kyle Busch has won 3 of the last 5 races at Pocono and is the favorite at 9-2 despite not winning a race this season. Erik Jones and William Byron make a rare appearance inside 20-1.

Kyle Busch 9-2
Kevin Harvick 7-1
Martin Truex Jr. 7-1
Chase Elliott 8-1
Denny Hamlin 8-1
Brad Keselowski 8-1
Ryan Blaney 10-1
Joey Logano 11-1
Erik Jones 16-1
Kurt Busch 20-1
William Byron 20-1

Driver Ratings for Pocono
1. Denny Hamlin 105.1
2. Erik Jones 103.6
3. Kurt Busch 100.7
4. Jimmie Johnson 99.1
5. Kevin Harvick 98.6
6. Chase Elliott 98.2
7. Kyle Busch 95.4
8. Brad Keselowski 94.7
9. Joey Logano 89.3
10. William Byron 89.0
11. Ryan Newman 88.3
12. Matt Kenseth 87.7
13. Martin Truex Jr. 87.1
14. Ryan Blaney 85.9
15. Daniel Suarez 83.9

Average Running Position for Pocono
1. Erik Jones 8.880
2. Denny Hamlin 10.288
3. Chase Elliott 11.098
4. Kurt Busch 11.553
5. Jimmie Johnson 12.012
6. William Byron 12.023
7. Kevin Harvick 12.356
8. Daniel Suarez 12.880
9. Ryan Newman 12.946
10. Brad Keselowski 13.091
11. Kyle Busch 13.133
12. Joey Logano 13.813
13. Matt Kenseth 14.126
14. Ryan Blaney 14.953
15. Martin Truex Jr. 15.735

Laps Led
1. Denny Hamlin 726 (15.1 % of laps run)
2. Kurt Busch 545 (10.8)
3. Jimmie Johnson 468 (9.0)
4. Kyle Busch 460 (8.9)
5. Joey Logano 275 (7.5)
6. Kevin Harvick 249 (4.8)
7. Martin Truex Jr. 197 (4.1)
8. Brad Keselowski 183 (5.6)

2019 Pocono 1 Top 10:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Erik Jones
4. Chase Elliott
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Joey Logano
8. Daniel Suarez
9. William Byron
10. Aric Almirola

2019 Pocono 2 Top 10:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Erik Jones
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. William Byron
5. Kyle Larson
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Daniel Hemric
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Kyle Busch
10. Ryan Blaney

2018 Pocono 1 Top 10:
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Ryan Blaney
7. Aric Almirola
8. Jimmie Johnson
9. Joey Logano
10. Chase Elliott

2018 Pocono 2 Top 10:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Daniel Suarez
3. Alex Bowman
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Erik Jones
6. William Byron
7. Chase Elliott
8. Ryan Newman
9. Kurt Busch
10. Denny Hamlin

Here are the drivers I like for Pocono 1. I will post a Victory Lane Article specific for Pocono 2 on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick ($14,000/10,100) Harvick is my top play for Saturday. Starting 9th, Harvick will move forward and compete for a top 5 position, maybe even the win at the end of the day.

Martin Truex Jr. ($12,500/9,700) I am going to propose Martin Truex Jr. as an alternate to the otherwise obvious play of Denny Hamlin at the top of the sheet. Truex is starting 11th and has been much more consistent this year compared to his JGR teammates. Hamlin and Kyle Busch certainly have strong numbers at Pocono, but in a short race where differential might matter more than laps led, I like pairing Truex with Harvick.

Erik Jones ($10,000/7,100) Jones has finished in the top 5 in 4 of 6 races at Pocono in his career. In his other two races he finished 8th and 29th, 1 lap down (in 2018). I don’t understand why Jones is priced so low on Draft Kings, $7,100 makes him a must play in that format. On Fan Duel, I like him if you can fit him in. I think Jones, Byron, and Bowyer are all in the same boat here, I like them in the order given, it all comes down to who you can fit in your lineup.

William Byron ($10,400/8,400) Pocono has been a great track for William Byron. Byron has finished in the top 10 in 3 of his 4 races at Pocono including a top 5 in the second Pocono race last year. Byron is starting this race 16th, but is priced up for the occasion. If you can fit Byron into your lineup, I like the play, but there are certainly other options.

Clint Bowyer ($9,400/9,500) Bowyer has been incredibly consistent at Pocono, finishing on the lead lap in every race since Pocono 2 of 2008. In his last 5 races, Bowyer has finished 6th, 20th, 22th,, 5th, and 11th. I think that something just outside the top 10 is realistic for Bowyer, anything inside the top 10 is great considering his price compared to Jones and Byron.

Cole Custer ($6,900/6,400) In 3 career Xfinity Series races at Pocono, Cole Custer won, finished 5th, and finished 7th. Custer is starting 25th which will deter ownership, but I like him in a multi-lineup tournament environment. I don’t think he’s safe enough for cash games, but if he finished in the top 15 and you have him at less than 10% ownership, you could do well playing Cole Custer on Saturday.

Christopher Bell ($8,000/11,100) Bell is going to be chalk on Fan Duel, but on DK he is the highest priced driver which makes this a more difficult decision. Bell starting off the year terrible but has improved. In 2 Xfinity starts at Pocono he crashed and finished 5th. In 2 truck starts at Pocono he won and finished 10th. Starting 36th, there is no reason not to play Bell on Fan Duel.

Michael McDowell ($5,000/5,500) If you start to do the math, you realize that Michael McDowell is probably a better play than guys like Daniel Suarez and Corey LaJoie as a value play. McDowell’s team is over performing in 2020 and I like him to gain a few spots from his 25th place starting position and finish somewhere in the range of 18th-22nd on the tail end of the lead lap. For an extra $1k in salary, Ty Dillon could do the same thing with a few more differential points, again, this is going to be about who fits in your lineup the best. I like both of these guys.

The only driver I’m completely sold on is Kevin Harvick. I think Christopher Bell is a must play on Fan Duel and Erik Jones is a must play on Draft Kings. Denny Hamlin is also way too cheap on DK to ignore. Good luck to all our subscribers and look for some updated content in Victory Lane for Sunday’s race.

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