This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Pocono Raceway, the 2.5-mile, triangular track in Long Pond, Pa. This track’s coat-hanger shape sets it apart on the circuit, but for handicapping purposes, we can loosely group it with the other big-flat tracks (i.e., Indy, California, Michigan, Chicagoland, and Kansas) and compile a substantial amount of historical data. Generally speaking, having a large amount of historical data provides good predictability because it increases sample size, and the larger the sample size, the less impact a luck event (e.g., a blown engine) has on your analysis.
Further bolstering predicability, this week the Sprint Cup teams will follow the typical preliminary schedule: one practice and qualifying on Friday, two more practices on Saturday, and then the race on Sunday afternoon. These preliminaries and the race will all take place during the day, which means the practice/qualifying data will offer a lot more value than it would if the practices were conducted during the heat of the day but the race ran on a cool track at night. So, if the weather doesn’t interfere, we’ll get a lot of good current data in addition to the historical data.
Of course, the weather may interfere. At press time, Weather.com says scattered thunderstorms will roam Long Pond Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with showers on Saturday.
To get a big-picture view of this race, I first examined the practice, qualifying and race data from all the big-flat races last year and this year. Then I filtered out the early- and mid-season 2009 big-flat races, leaving just the recent big-flat races. Then I looked at just the two Pocono races last year, and topped it all off with the numbers from this year’s lone big-flat race, California.
I put all this analysis together to compile a preliminary top 10, and then I carefully fine-tuned those rankings with my impressions of who is trending up on the big-flats, and who seems to be trending down. Here are the results:
- Jimmie Johnson
- Mark Martin
- Clint Bowyer
- Jeff Gordon
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Tony Stewart
- Kevin Harvick
- Ryan Newman
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
My Yahoo! Fantasy Picks
I will activate Johnson, and probably Martin as well. Gordon isn’t far off, and I like Montoya as a Group A dark horse this week.
Bowyer is a lock for me this week, and I like Harvick and Newman a lot as well.
After those three it gets a bit more interesting. David Reutimann looks good and will likely get the nod from me in the four hole. I think Jamie McMurray is a good alternative to Reuty.
If those five aren’t doing it for you, I currently rate Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, and Matt Kenseth the next-best options, in that order.
My analysis says Sam Hornish Jr. is the #1 guy in Group C so far this week by a good amount, so I’m forced to activate him. After Hornish, I like A.J. Allmendinger, and then Scott Speed and Paul Menard.