Yahoo Fantasy racing cheat sheet: Driver rankings for Pocono

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won 26 Cup Series races. (Getty)

Special to Yahoo Sports
By Dan Beaver

Pocono Raceway is known as the Tricky Triangle. That moniker is apt, because there is certainly a trick to getting around it. Once a driver learns its secrets, this course is much easier to manage and there are some clear favorites for the week. This is also a track that tends to reward teammates of highly successful racers and that suggests those lessons can be passed down. Watch Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Team Penske closely this week.

1. Brad KeselowskiAs the only driver to sweep the top five at Pocono last year, Keselowski has a distinct advantage over the rest of the field if he can avoid getting into a third consecutive accident.

2. Denny Hamlin: At the beginning of his career, Hamlin swept Pocono’s Victory Lane. He remains the winningest driver on this oddity and can still find a good setup when needed.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: It has been a long time since Earnhardt was profiled as a top-five driver, but this is a track where he has six such finishes in his last seven Pocono starts.

4. Jimmie Johnson: Pocono is a track that has always been kind to Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson is coming off last week’s win and could double down like he did earlier this year at Texas and Bristol.

5. Chase Elliott: He got off to a great launch on this track last year with a fourth-place finish and when a rookie starts strong at Pocono, he often has a great career there. Look for another top-five.

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6. Kevin Harvick: In summer 2014 and spring 2015, Harvick scored back-to-back runner-up finishes at Pocono. Last year, he swept the top 10.

7. Kyle Larson: A botched restart kept Larson out of Victory Lane last week in Dover. He was disappointed with the result, but earned the most points in many Fantasy NASCAR games nevertheless.

8. Daniel SuarezThis is the type of track that could reward Suarez’s patient driver style. He could easily get a top-10 and might even challenge for his first career top-five.

9. Matt KensethA strong showing at Charlotte failed to give Kenseth much momentum at Dover. He was running outside the top 15 before a multi-car crash elevated him to 13th in the AAA 400.

10. Jamie McMurray: Even though he got dinged in the last-lap crash at Dover, McMurray managed to cross under the checkers in the top 15 for the 11th time in the last 12 races this season.

11. Kurt BuschAs the defending winner of this race, Busch is going to get a lot of press but he is more likely to finish in the high single digits like he did last summer at Pocono.

12. Kyle BuschAs strong as he is on other flat tracks, Pocono has eluded Busch. He has not scored a top-five there since 2011 and top-10s are almost as infrequent.

13. Joey Logano: Crash damage at Dover sent Logano home from the back half of the field for the fourth consecutive week. Leave him in the garage until the Fates forgive him for whatever they think he has done.

14. Erik Jones: The odds can go either way for rookies at Pocono. It is a tricky track, but some notable racers have scored top-fives in their first attempts there. Jones will be strong, but he also has to be error-free.

15. Martin Truex Jr.It is not so much that Truex is not good at Pocono, but there are so many other places to start him that this is a good week to rest him and save some Yahoo allocations.

16. Ryan Newman: The 2015 season was unkind to Newman and he failed to complete all the Pocono laps in either race that year. Otherwise, he has gone the distance for the past 11 years.

17. Austin DillonHe does not have any top-10s on this track, but Dillon has finished between 13th and 19th in all but one of his six Pocono starts.

18. Kasey Kahne: This has been a track on which Kahne either finished extremely well or struggled since joining Hendrick Motorsports. Given his recent trouble, he is best avoided.

19. Darrell Wallace Jr.In order to finish in the middle of the pack, Wallace is going to need to temper his aggression and ease into these corners.

20. Ty Dillon: With an 18th- and 21st-place finish in two Pocono starts, Dillon has already proved that he can find a good setup for this tricky track.

21. AJ Allmendinger: Given his strength on road courses, it should come as no surprise that Allmendinger has finished 16th or better in his last three Pocono starts.

22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: His recent attempts at Pocono resemble a bell curve with results of 18th or 15th in 2014 and 2016 contradicted by a pair of 40s in 2015.

23. Trevor Bayne: Last year, Bayne finished 13th in the spring and 19th in the summer at Pocono. He was 24th in his debut and that makes him an attractive mid-pack pick.

24. Ryan Blaney: Bad luck is impossible to predict and difficult to shed. Wait for Blaney to finish a couple of races without incident before thinking about activating him.

25. Chris Buescher: The driver of the No. 37 hopes lightning can strike the same place twice so that he can get another surprising Pocono win.

26. Clint Bowyer: Some of Bowyer’s better results last year came on drivers’ tracks, but he never found the rhythm at Pocono and finished outside the top 15 in both races.

27. Paul Menard: He has a handful of Pocono top-15s, but only one of these was awarded to Menard in the past four years.

28. Gray Gaulding: A 24th in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism gave Gaulding back-to-back finishes in the mid-20s and will undoubtedly contribute to an air of confidence.

29. Cole Whitt: Players looking for a long-shot should consider the fact that Whitt has 10 top-30 finishes in 13 races this year and an average of 25.3

30. Michael McDowell: He parked early in six straight Pocono starts, but when McDowell was allowed to race to the end last August, he finished 23rd.

31. Reed Sorenson: With only two top-20s to his credit, Sorenson has not garnered a lot of fantasy attention, but he has been fairly consistent in the low-30s and could fit a niche.

32. David Ragan: While he has not always finished at the front of the Pocono pack, Ragan has been running at the end of every race he started there and on the lead lap in five of his last six.

33. Matt DiBenedetto: This team showed a lot of promise for a while, but three results of 29th or worse in the last three races have fantasy owners questioning whether to start DiBenedetto.

34. Danica Patrick: For some reason, Patrick has been better in the summer Pennsylvania 400 than the Pocono 400. Expect a result in the low-30s.

35. Landon Cassill: A pair of accidents and a problem with his transmission in the past four weeks have been disappointing for fans of Cassill. Use him sparingly until he posts consecutive top-25s.

36. Jeffrey EarnhardtLast week at Dover, Earnhardt scored one of his better finishes. He was 27th after starting 39th. That was one of eight times in 37 starts that he cracked the top 30.

37. Cody Ware: Last week’s 35th-place finish at Dover did not turn many fantasy heads and it did not earn enough points to make Ware fantasy relevant at Pocono.

38. Corey LaJoie: The triangular shape of Pocono means that one has to compromise in order to go fast. That can be a difficult lesson for rookies like LaJoie.

39. Derrike Cope: The modestly funded teams often struggle to find enough horsepower to keep from getting lapped multiple times even on a track as big as Pocono. Cope will finish the Axalta 400, but not well.

For more analysis, go to DanBeaver.com or follow him on Twitter