So...I usually try to write something insightful and/or funny about the upcoming race, but I'm struggling, because it's been a long day.
This weekend's race is the 5-Hour Energy 500 in Pocono, PA. Since i can't come up with anything, here's a brief Bump Stops-esque kind of breakdown.
- Pocono the place: I've never been there but my best friend used to go there since his grandparents lived in Pennsylvania. I hear it's a very nice area.
- 5-Hour Energy: After spending the majority of the day laying out the monthly newsletter (which will be sent tomorrow), I'm writing this uncharacteristically late in the day. I could certainly use a 5-hour energy right about now to help me plow through.
I'll go ahead and give the sip, as its marketed, a ringing endorsement. It helped me put a lot of miles behind me on the cross-country drive back from San Francisco this past spring. I'm not usually an energy drink kind of guy, but I'll believe the advertisement that it has far less extra-curriculars than the larger energy drinks.
That said, I'm hoping that I won't need one for this weekend's race, as I hope it doesn't last five hours. Not even a Red Sox-Yankees game lasts that long!
Lastly, grammatically speaking, five should be written out not a numeral. However, you have to assume that was just a little more effort for this company, and, since they hadn't yet produced 5-Hour Energy, they probably lacked the energy to write those extra three letters. O well, live and learn.
- The 500. The track is a solid 2.5 miles but shaped like a triangle. That's definitely odd! It means that while you might expect the track to run fast like Talladega and Daytona due to its length, there are actually three significant areas where the cars need to cut their speed, turn, and accelerate into another straightaway.
-Fantasy NASCAR. Oh, wait, I can't breeze through this part. This is why you read this section each week, but, at least, I raced the intro so we can get to the good stuff.
*In case you're new to this segment, check out my first fantasy post on how the system works.
#11 Denny Hamlin - Hamlin has won here four times in ten starts. Wow! He might have started the year slow, but he's recorded four top-10s in his last five races and is just a single point out of the Chase's top 10 automatic qualifiers. The writing's on the wall; I suggest you read it!
#14 Tony Stewart - Stewart has 18 top-10s in 24 starts including two wins and two poles. He has the third highest driver rating here (behind only Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson).
#48 Jimmie Johnson - Johnson's stats here are similar to Stewart's: two wins, two poles, and a slue of top-10s (12 in 18 starts). His average finish of 9.6 trails just Hamlin's 8.2, which brings me to my caution flag. Sure, he could win here, but he can win anywhere and you have some other very good options this week. This wouldn't be a bad week to save Johnson, if you've taxed his starts (like me).
#18 Kyle Busch - Busch has been so strong this year and it'd be foolish to waste a start on a track where he struggles. His average finish is 19.9 (worst among all of the current top-12 drivers) and he has just three top-10s in 12 starts.
#5 Mark Martin - His 96.4 driver rating tops the B-List and it's important to realize that statistic is only compiled from the last six years, so it isn't skewed by his earlier career. In 2011, he's posted two straight finishes outside the top-20 but he's shown success here and, over the course of his long career, an 11.1 average finish is noteworthy.
#39 Ryan Newman - Newman doesn't jump completely off the page, but his driver rating trials only Martin among B-Listers. He has two poles and a win with an average finish of 13.3. He's worth having on the roster as an option.
#42 Juan Pablo Montoya - I'm cautiously optimistic. He has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts at Pocono and qualified second (with a 16th place finish) in the other. However, it's been eight races since Montoya last recorded a top-10, so I'm also wary it could be more of the same in a disappointing year.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's not very strong here. He only has six top-10s in 22 starts. However, I keep telling you that he's close to winning and that if you want to start him for sentimental reasons, you won't be faulted. Take this to the bank: he wins this week. If you're on my bandwagon, start him; if you're smartly avoiding my outrageous claim, park him!
#33 Clint Bowyer - Boywer has the worst driver rating among all current top-12 drivers at Pocono. Considering he's near the cream of the B-List crop, that's reason enough to skip him.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Aside from some looney blogger (me) claiming he'll win (above), it's probably not in your best interest to start him as this is not one of his strongest tracks.
#6 David Ragan - No one looks good out of the C-List this week, so there's two theories you can play by: start the group's most consistent driver in Ragan, or...
#78 Regan Smith - With the lack of a great choice, you can hedge your bet, save your top drivers' starts and go with a guy that you can assume is going to do well enough to get you at least some points. I'm not guaranteeing Smith gets the most points on the C-List, I'm just saying he's the best option with the smallest margin of loss.
#13 Casey Mears - You probably wouldn't consider starting him anyway. However, I hinted you could have started him last week and he finished 37th. Call this spite, but he proved that you need to remember the math: with 36 races and nine allocations per driver, you can start the top four drivers all nine times to cover the 36. David Ragan. Paul Menard. Bobby Labonte. Regan Smith. Barring a reason to start Trevor Bayne, those are your four C-List drivers this season!
My preliminary roster
A - HAMLIN (9), Stewart (9)
B - EARNHARDT JR. (5), MARTIN (4), Montoya (7), Newman (3)
C - SMITH (7), Ragan (4)
*Number in parenthesis are allocations remaining.