One of the unique tracks on the schedule is on the docket this weekend as the Cup series heads to the Pocono Mountains in Eastern Pennsylvania for the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. The track is affectionately known as the Tricky Triangle for its difficulty in driving and its shape. The only three-sided track on the scheduled is also one of the longest at 2.5 miles per lap. So now we know it’s long and triangular but what else makes it unique?
Each of the three turns on the track are different. The most banked is Turn 1 at 14 degrees of tilt, modeled after the defunct Trenton Speedway. Turn 2 is the second-most banked at nine degrees as it takes its cues from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Turn 3 is a wide, shallow, corner banked at just six degrees and pays homage to the Milwaukee Mile. The turns are connected by two of the longest straightaways on the NASCAR Cup series schedule in the front stretch, the longest, and the Long Pond Straight, between turns 1 & 2, that is the second-longest. The short chute connects turns 2 & 3 with Turn 2 also being called the Tunnel Turn. With all of the corners being different and requiring different styles to get through, it makes it a big challenge to get the cars balanced properly to be adequate to good throughout all three corners.
This week the cars will have the 550 horsepower, high-downforce, aero ducts package on it which has been on for six previous races including Talladega. This type of package should create a lot of drafting opportunities in the long straightaways and will make restarts absolutely insane as this is the widest track of the year as well and can easily fit six-wide on the front stretch.
Laps led and fastest laps points won’t be a big factor this week simply because there are only 160 laps in the scheduled race over three stages of 50-50-60 laps. Each of the last few Pocono 400s has had a driver lead about 90 laps and the rest be split fairly evenly, however, this package is designed to keep that from happening and so far has been pretty successful at that mission and should be again this week. Position differential will be a bigger factor in boosting point totals so focusing on getting those guys in your lineups is imperative to have a good week.
Prop Bets Challenge
- Three of the last four Pocono winners started from inside the top four. Does Sunday’s winner start from there? Color me shocked William Byron is on the pole yet again followed by Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Erik Jones. Kyle Busch would be the only one I have faith in winning the race. Byron will lead laps, but he’ll inevitably go backwards as he always does. I’m going to take the field and say NO and pull for someone outside the Top Four, but if you feel this is Kyle Busch’s race ro lose then you can go the other way.
- O/U 34.5 race points for Clint Bowyer? I’m taking the UNDER. Don’t get me wrong, Bowyer’s one of my favorite drivers personally. He’s a fun guy with a ton of personality. However, he’s had a run of bad luck lately and had a poor showing in Charlotte last week. In the last five June races at Pocono he has four Top 20’s. He’s starting third and could go backwards from there. 35 points is very reasonable, but I’ll go a bit contrarian and say he doesn’t hit that mark.
- Toyota has won the last three Pocono races. Does that streak continue? I’m going to hedge this with the first prop and say YES. Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and a few others are in Toyota’s. If Busch or Jones win then I’ll be wrong on the first prop, but hey we’ll make up for it here. If neither of these guys win then we’ll likely be correct on the first prop. If Truex or Hamlin wins then I’m right on both. And to be fair I’ve gone heavy on Hamlin and Truex for this race. Truex is the flavor of the week and is a favorite to move his way through the field to win this race as well.
- O/U 15.5 lead changes? I’m going to take the UNDER and it’s mostly because there are 160 laps at this big track. I’d say it just barely hits the under, but I’m hoping for some dominant laps from some of the top drivers.
- Which drivers score more race points at Pocono? Paul Menard or Ryan Newman? Menard is starting 14th and Newman isn’t far behind starting 19th. I’m going to take Paul Menard here based on what the Playbook has about him. Newman’s been a very bland driver aside from pissing off Bowyer a couple weeks ago in the All-Star race. Menard’s looked pretty good lately and has a decent track history at Pocono so I’m taking him.
- O/U 12.5 stage points for Chase Elliott? This one is really tough and I’m not completely confident, but I’m going with the Over. I know that’s kind of a gamble because Chase has cooled off from his hot streak from a couple weeks ago. In four races where stages were introduced at Pocono, Elliott has finished Top 10 in seven of those eight. I’m feeling good about him and will say he gets at least 13 points.
- Which two-car team will have the best finish at Pocono? JTG Daugherty or Richard Childress Racing? So JTG is comprised of Ryan Preece and Chris Buescher. RCR boasts Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric. Everyone knows how high I am on Hemric, but really Austin Dillon is the difference maker despite Preece and Buescher making the Playbook. However, I’m going to go a bit contrarian and take JTG Daugherty in this prop based on some of the Playbook notes for both Preece and Buescher listed below. It paints me not to take Dillon and Hemric to be honest…
- O/U 2.5 drivers lead over 35 laps? Three drivers to lead a combined 105 laps out of a possible 160? I’ll take the UNDER even though this isn’t completely in line with my prediction for the fourth prop.
- Jimmy Johnson has 20 top-10 finishes at Pocono in his career. Will he finish there on Sunday? I’m going to say YES but I think he barely finishes in the Top 10. He’s starting eighth which isn’t a great spot for him for DFS purposes, and he isn’t leading many laps or generating many fastest laps. But JJ has just turned into a very vanilla driver that can deliver a good final result, but not much else. I think he’s an okay Top 10 play even though a safer pick might be say no to this.
- O/U 24.5 lead lap finishers? This may seem high, but it’s because it’s a longer track so it is a bit tricky to gauge. I will take the OVER though. Last June saw 27 drivers finish on the lead lap so that seems repeatable this time around.