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FANTASY: No Pocono Vacation

Friday, August 3, 2012
June's win was Joey Logano's only top-10 in seven Pocono starts. Photo: Getty Images

Pennsylvania 400 Fantasy Preview

I took a vacation to Martha's Vineyard this past weekend.  Only, after falling off my bicycle and fracturing the radial head in my left arm, it turned out to be far from a relaxing vacation.

As I lay on a couch watching Olympic coverage of stuff like women's boxing and men's ping-pong, I gained a new respect for a driver like Brad Keselowski.  A year ago, he busted up his ankle in a test session at Road Atlanta and went out and won a race that weekend.

In my case, I instantly saw my golfing and gym visiting put on hold for the near future, as I will lounge around and try to rehab my arm.  That happened a week ago today and I haven't even gained full mobility back to straighten my arm; Keselowski had won a race in less time.

Now, there's a big caveat.  "Bad Brad" gets paid millions of dollars to win races, and I was just excited to have brought my golf handicap under a 30.  However, money shouldn't undermine the toughness required to drive a car with a broken ankle.  (Keep in mind that baseball players often hit the 15-day disabled list for blisters and stubbed toes, so it's not all about money.)

I've never been to this area of Pennsylvania, but I had a friend that went there often as a child, so I'm aware that Pocono is a beautiful place to relax.  In the hopes of making a vague connection to my injury and NASCAR, I didn't enjoy my trip to the Vineyard as a vacation and the drivers of NASCAR won't get a vacation in the Poconos this weekend either.

There's no relaxing now as the series is in its stretch run, the Race for the Chase.  It's all business this weekend.  With a triangular track layout built to reward car speed, it will be all hands on deck as the crews try to build the fastest cars for their drivers.

Strategy: Being triangular in shape and relatively flat, this track races something like Indianapolis did last week.  The long straightaways makes a fast car crucial, but a generally flat layout and three unique turns certainly takes some driver skill to hold that car up front.  Most of the drivers that are successful here tend to be those with the ability to navigate flat tracks.

A-List

Start

#11 Denny Hamlin - With four wins in 13 stars at Pocono, Hamlin is a clear favorite.  His 117.6 driver rating at this track is more than 10 points better than the next driver in the field.

#14 Tony Stewart - "Smoke" always competes well on flat tracks.  He has 19 top-10s in 27 Pocono starts, so he's consistently strong here.

#48 Jimmie Johnson - While not quite as strong as Hamlin, Johnson has a 106.7 driver rating at Pocono (second-best) and two Cup wins at the track.

Park

#17 Matt Kenseth - It's hard to find an A-Lister to totally discount.  I settled with Kenseth because he hasn't registered a top-five in the last 11 Pocono races and just three in 25 career starts, so he doesn't have much upside, even though his 13.9 average finish isn't horrible.

B-List

Start

#20 Joey Logano - His win in June was the only top-10 in seven Pocono starts.  However, he's taken the last two poles, so he's probably a good selection for qualifying bonus points, whether or not you start him.

#39 Ryan Newman - Outside of Kurt Busch, Newman has the highest driver rating at Pocono on the B-List.  That doesn't come as a surprise, as his success at NHMS speaks a lot to his affinity for flatter tracks.

#55 Mark Martin - With seven top-10s in his last 11 Pocono starts, Martin is a great option, especially since he's held his own all season in a part-time position.

#56 Martin Truex Jr. - In the midst of his best Cup season, Truex Jr. hasn't shown too many signs of falling out of contention.  It's been a long time since he registered a top-five, but he's finished 11th or better in three of the last four races and has a decent, not great, history at Pocono.

Park

#16 Greg Biffle - He's slipped a little in the standings but is still one of the best options on the B-List week-in and week-out.  WIth only four top-10s in 19 Pocono starts, I suggest saving him for another week, as there are ample opportunities.

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - The new points leader is in a similar position to Biffle.  Sure, you could start him and he might do as well as the average B-List driver, but you expect more than average from him, so save him for a week when you'll get that.

C-List

Start

#22 Sam Hornish Jr. - It seems likely that Hornish Jr. will finish the season in the No. 22 now that Allmendinger is out.  That means you don't have to rush to use all nine of his starts, but it also means that he's going to be a good option most weeks.  Don't be frugal when the options are limited.

#43 Aric Almirola - The June race was Almirola's only appearance at Pocono and he finished 28th.  Normally, I'd suggest looking elsewhere, but there's not a lot out there, so you might need to cross your fingers and hope that June was a learning experience.

Park

#47 Bobby Labonte - He's usually a serviceable choice, but with not so much as a top-10 at Pocono since 2006, it's hard to expect he's going to be a full four quarters worth of a dollar this weekend.

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The picks in this blog are based around Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game and its standard scoring rules.  The preview is designed to provide suggestions, while still encouraging managers to make their own decisions.  Once sorted into Yahoo's A, B and C-Lists, they are organized based on car number and not directly associated with a rank value.

You can sign up and play for free, by visiting http://racing.fantasysports.yahoo.com.  If signed up, the "Fans of NHMS" group may be joined by clicking here.