As expected, Pocono Raceway enjoyed good weather Friday and today, allowing the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams to get in all three practices and qualifying. Fantasy NASCAR players and handicappers therefore have good data to analyze, and that’s always good for predictability. Plus, according to Jayski’s Goodyear Tire Notes (scroll down to the bottom of the Pocono Race Info page), the teams are running the same tire they ran in the June race, and that’s good for predictability, too, because it’s one less variable the teams must consider.
However, as feared, Mother Nature is messing with Pocono today. According to Weather.com at 9:00 a.m. ET, it’s currently raining at the track, and that in itself will alter the track from what the teams saw on Saturday. In addition, there’s a 40% of rain hitting the track throughout the day, so there’s a significant chance we’ll see rain interfere with or even stop the race, and that could give us a wild-card winner.
In Wednesday’s Preview, I rated Pocono II’s predicability about average, but I now think it’s a little below average. Fantasy NASCAR players can therefore be a little aggressive with start-saving tactics, and bettors should ensure they’re getting really good odds before they lay the money down.
Handicapping Pocono II
I crunched Friday’s and Saturday’s practice and qualifying data to obtain baseline rankings, and then I tweaked those results with the rankings I produced on Wednesday. I further tweaked the rankings by taking into consideration each driver’s starting position because as Jimmie Johnson showed in Pocono’s June race, even a very good car will have trouble coming from way back in the field. Finally, I reviewed the rankings and impressions of a couple other online experts and fine-tuned my rankings where I thought it was appropriate.
Here are my top five with the best odds I can find online this morning:
- Jimmie Johnson (4-1 at Bodog)
- Jeff Burton (12-1 at Linesmaker and BetUS)
- Denny Hamlin (3.9-1 at The Greek)
- Kevin Harvick (16-1 at Bodog)
- Juan Pablo Montoya (11-1 at The Greek)
Johnson and Hamlin are no-brainer favorites, but I’m a little surprised to see Burton appearing this high because he typically underperforms in the preliminaries. All the Richard Childress Racing cars look strong this weekend, however: Harvick also looks great, and Clint Bowyer should have a really good car, too, though he’s hamstrung by his terrible starting position (he almost crashed in qualifying, lost a ton of speed and will start 40th).
What about Tony Stewart, you ask? Yes, he’s on the pole, but I’m not liking what I saw in the 14 car in race trim. Call me crazy, but I’ve got him rated #10 this morning.
I think profitability is iffy with the Johnson and Hamlin lines, but I like Burton at 12-1 and Harvick at 16-1. I’d avoid Montoya at 11-1.
My Yahoo! Fantasy Picks
I have Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and although I wouldn’t mind saving Hamlin today, I just can’t because Busch hasn’t show enough.
I’d also be hard-pressed to save Johnson if I had him available. Montoya isn’t far off, and I rate Jeff Gordon right behind Montoya.
I’ll start Joey Logano (I rate him #7 overall today) and Harvick over Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. I like Ryan Newman a lot today, too, and Dale Jr. is my sleeper pick.
A.J. Allmendinger is once again the class of Group C today, but I don’t have him available. I have Sam Hornish Jr. and Regan Smith. I rate Hornish a few spots higher than Smith, so I’m tempted to save Hornish and run Smith. Smith starts way back in 34th, though, and that’s not good (Hornish starts 15th).
I rate Paul Menard a tick above Smith.