On the schedule, Daytona is the first track to host a second race of the season. But, it's a restrictor-plate track where anything can happen and anyone can win. Realistically, Pocono is the first track of the season where a team really gets to test what it learned with a second race.
This is the time of year when the championship contenders truly take shape. With a new package on the cars in 2014, it's possible that some teams just missed the setup in the first race at track. However, it's inexcusable to go back to the shop, look at the data, and miss the setup again. Eight of the 10 Chase races will be run as the second event at a track. The champion come from a team that learns best from Round 1 and optimizes the car's performance for Round 2.
Pocono will be the first test for that. Here's a look at a few options to consider (or disregard) in fantasy NASCAR:
Green Flag - Jeff Gordon
Most people realize that Gordon is the points leader, but did you know that even if he finished last this week, there's only one driver capable of catching him? That's consistency, and he's coming off a win at Indianapolis. He has six wins at Pocono, so there's a good chance that the No. 24 could visit victory lane in back-to-back weeks.
Caution Flag - Jimmie Johnson
It's a good thing that NASCAR doesn't put reverse lights on the car, because Johnson's would be on. After two straight finishes of 42nd, he bounced back to a ho-hum 14th at Indy; that's hardly a dominant Jimmie. He has three wins this season, and he proved last year on his way to a sixth championship that a midseason slump is nothing to worry about; he'll be fine. However, fantasy owners might want to save his starts for the Chase, as opposed to bank on him living up to his 8.7 career-average finish at Pocono.
Red Flag - Kurt Busch
The intro to these picks discussed a team (and driver) getting on the same page and improving the car when the team visits a track for the second time. That needs to be the No. 41 car. Busch was far better last year with Furniture Row Racing, and that simply shouldn't be the case with a bigger team like Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch only has four top-10s in 20 starts this season, so his 11 top-fives (in 26 races) at Pocono really aren't relevant right now. The No. 41 needs to figure it out before it becomes a viable fantasy start.
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