The rain forecast for yesterday at Pocono did not materialize, so the teams got in both practices. With the data from those two practices, plus the data from practice and qualifying on Friday, plus all the historical data I noted in my race preview, we’ve got a pretty good picture of who should be fast in today’s race.
Before I get to the data analysis, though, a few updates on two prediction factors: tires and weather. According to the Goodyear Tire Notes section on Jayski’s Pocono Race info page, the teams are running the same tires they ran last year in both Pocono races. That’s one less variable for the crew chiefs to worry about, and fewer variables mean increased predictability.
Unfortunately, the weather is another story. Pocono dodged rain yesterday, but as of this morning, Weather.com say there’s a 90% chance thunderstorms will hit the area this afternoon. Rain would alter the racing surface, and it could turn the race into a fuel-mileage contest if teams alter pit strategy based on the weather radar. It could even lead to a race stoppage, giving us a wild card winner. Bottom line: Overall predictability is therefore down today. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking of making a bet; you need better odds to remain profitable than you would’ve if we weren’t under the threat of rain.
I reviewed the speed charts from the three practices and qualifying to get solid initial driver rankings, and then I tweaked those rankings with input from my original rankings from earlier this week. Finally, I fine-tuned them with information I picked up during the practice and qualifying telecasts that didn’t show up in the speed charts (e.g., Jimmie Johnson likely would’ve qualified significantly better if he hadn’t made a mistake in Turn 1), and with some of the info and opinions offered by a couple of the experts over at FantasyNASCARPreview.com.
After all that, I think Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin are co-favorites today. I rate Juan Pablo Montoya and Clint Bowyer next, with Kyle Busch right there, too.
Here are my rankings, with the best odds I could find online this morning:
- Jimmie Johnson (6-1 at JustBet, The Greek, WSEX, and Bodog)
- Denny Hamlin (3.5-1 at JustBet, The Greek, WSEX, and Bodog)
- Juan Pablo Montoya (20-1 at Linesmaker and BetUS)
- Clint Bowyer (16-1 at JustBet, The Greek and Bodog)
- Kyle Busch (6-1 at JustBet, The Greek, Bodog and BetUS)
I think Johnson is just profitable at 6-1 (I wouldn’t take him at 5-1). Hamlin is a definite thumbs-down at 3.5-1, especially with rain in the forecast. I love Montoya at 20-1, and like Bowyer a lot at 16-1. Thumbs down to Kyle Busch at 6-1.
My Yahoo! Fantasy Picks
I’ve got Johnson and Mark Martin, and I’ll use a Johnson start today. Mark Martin should have a top 10 car today, but Johnson’s edge is just too big to pass up on.
I’m pretty happy with my Group B options today. I’ll start Bowyer for sure, and probably Kevin Harvick over Ryan Newman (David Reutimann is definitely on the bench). Newman might have a slight edge on Harvick, but I have few Newman starts left and many Harvick starts.
Jeff Burton looks very good—I’d definitely start him if I had him. I like Dale Earnhardt Jr., too (he came out of nowhere for me this week). Jamie McMurray makes as decent dark horse.
I have A.J. Allmendinger and Sam Hornish Jr., and I think they’re about even heading into the race. I’m going to take a chance on Slammin’ Sammy this week and save Allmendinger for races in which he’s got a big edge.
Scott Speed doesn’t look bad, either, and Regan Smith might make a good dark horse.