Tricky Triangle

The Monster Energy Series heads to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania this weekend to take on the “Tricky Triangle”. Pocono Raceway is a 2.5-mile triangular track and has a minimum width of 60 feet. With a unique track design featuring a 3,055-foot back straightaway, it has variable banking in the corners with Turn 1 – 14 degrees, Turn 2 – 8 degrees and Turn 3 – 6 degrees. Pocono also has the longest main straightaway in motorsports, with a 3,740-foot frontstretch. The first Monster Energy Series race here in 1974 was won by Richard Petty. Drivers at Pocono will use the 2019 rules package with a tapered-spacer that will generate roughly 550 horsepower. The cars will use aero ducts, after NASCAR made a change earlier this season following the Atlanta race.

Kyle Busch has dominated the events at Pocono in recent years, winning two out of the last four races and leading in all four. He also has 239 combined laps led in the last two years at the track. Hendrick Motorsports drivers have been on the rise in recent races. The Hendrick Motorsports team has the most poles (3), wins (2), and have collectively led the most laps (416) in the last four events of 2019.

With a win at the track in 2017, Ryan Blaney is hoping to repeat that success this Sunday for his first win in 2019. Blaney has led 359 laps in races this season, the most without a victory.

Past winners entered this week are Hamlin (4), Kurt Busch (3), Johnson (3), Kyle Busch (2), Truex (2, last year’s winner), and Blaney, Buescher, Keselowski, Logano, and Newman with one win each.

As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.

Kyle Busch (11400) – Busch will be the driver to beat at Pocono on Sunday. Think top five or better. In recent Pocono races KB has been the class of the series. Over the last four he’s won twice, has the best driver rating, a 3.5 average finish, and has led the most laps (239). Last summer at Pocono, Kyle Busch dominated and ended up in victory lane. He also led the most laps (52) despite starting 28th. Last spring he finished 3rd, and in 2017 he won the summer race, and would have won the spring race if not for late race pit strategy costing him the sweep. Rowdy carries the second best value of the week in my projections, despite starting 2nd, due to his projected dominator points. He had the fastest 10 lap average in happy hour.

Martin Truex Jr. (10900) – Truex sports the 3rd best average finish here over the last six races. He should contend for a top five on race day, and is the defending champion of this event. Last summer Truex finished 15th, but ran better than that most of the day. He won last spring, leading 31 laps on the way to victory. He had a 3rd and a 6th in 2017, despite starting in the rear of the field in the latter race. Truex didn’t post a 10 lap average in happy hour, but he’s been fast this week. He slipped in qualifying and rolls off 20th on Sunday, making him the highest projected ‘mover’ in the field. He’s a great value among the higher priced drivers this week.

Kevin Harvick (10500) – Harvick has never won at Pocono, which is amazing because he has the best average finish in the last six races. He has 7 top five finishes since 2014, and only a single engine failure has kept him from averaging a top ten or better in that time span. Harvick has five straight top 4 finishes here. Last summer, Harvick was poised to win his first Pocono race, despite starting in the back of the field. He easily moved to the front, but with 40 laps left, he had contact with a teammate on pit road and had to make an extra stop which stole the win from him. Despite all of that, he still managed a 4th place finish. In summer 2017, he finished 2nd, and earned the 3rd best driver rating. Harvick had the 5th best long run speed in happy hour, and rates as the best overall value in my projections this week due to starting position (11th), and dominator potential.

Brad Keselowski (10200) – Keselowski has a great history at Pocono. In 6 of the last 7 races at the Tricky Triangle, he’s finished in the top five. Aside from last summer when he wrecked early, Keselowski has a 3.7 average finishing position in the six races prior to that with finishes of 5th, 5th, 5th, 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd. Keselowski had the second best 10 lap average in happy hour, and starts fifth. He’ll need dominator points to pay off his salary this week. He’s not the best value, but with his proficiency for getting dominator points he’s usable.

Kurt Busch (8800) – The older Busch is a solid play this week. He’s a three-time Pocono winner who’s finished in the top five 40% percent of the time and in the top ten 57% percent of the time. He’s had a great 2019 with his new team up to this point and there’s no substitute for experience on the Tricky Triangle. Last summer at Pocono, he finished 9th, and led 11 laps. His performance was impressive when you consider he had a flat tire with 49 laps to go. In spring 2017 he finished 4th, and earned the 7th best driver rating. In 2016 he had a win and a 10th. Kurt had the 13th best happy hour 10 lap average and qualified 21st, which rates him out as the 2nd best mover of the week.

Joey Logano (9500) – Logano is high on my radar this week. He doesn’t have the best recent history here, but despite some bad luck, he still has one of the ten best averages in the last six races at Pocono. Expect a top ten this week, with a great chance at a top five. We’re hoping here at FTA+ that recent history will work in our favor. Pit road penalties, flat tires, and on track incidents have cost him, and those can’t be predicted. We don’t pick lines based on that, but rather potential and Logano rates as one of the five best values on the slate this week. He had the 7th best happy hour speed, and rolls off 16th. He also rates as the third best mover in the field to boot. DK has been kind enough to drop his salary in recent weeks, making him an even better play.

Ryan Newman (7400) – Newman has a good history here and has been running well recently. The Tricky Triangle is a track where history and experience definitely come into play. In 4 of the last 6 races at Pocono, he’s finished between 12-14th. Last summer at Pocono, Newman finished 8th. In 2016 and 2017 combined, he finished in the low teens in every race. The Roush Fenway Racing #6 team is still working it’s way back to relevance in the Monster Energy Series, but Newman is making strides with it, and there’s no better place to do it than Pocono this week. He starts 19th and is a solid bet to pay off value with 5-8 positions gained on Sunday.

Corey LaJoie (5400) – LaJoie has looked good lately when you factor in his salary, and this week I chose to reward his efforts by listing him in my write-up and his value this week is solid again. He rolls off 33rd, and projects as my best bet among sub 6k drivers in the field to pay off 5-8 positions gained. Pocono is a long track, and equipment/hp is sure to play a role, which will limit his upside, but if you’re looking to dip this low in salary, then Lajoie is your driver. Lajoie has three starts at Pocono with finishes of 25th and 28th at the Tricky Triangle in 2017. With all of the high priced plays this week, we need salary relief somewhere, and Lajoie is who I’ll be using in several lines.

Other drivers I like are Elliott (who narrowly missed making the article above), Blaney, Stenhouse, and TD.

Salary-savers this week are Lajoie and Hemric.

Dominator potentials this week are Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Keselowski.

Movers this week are Truex, Kurt Busch, Harvick, and Logano.

Fades for me this week are Johnson, Austin Dillon, and Menard.

My pick to win the race this week is Kyle Busch. My heart says Harvick, but my head, and research say Rowdy.