FREE NASCAR DFS Cup Series Pocono Breakdown, Cheat Sheet and Core Plays

Welcome to my FREE NASCAR DFS breakdown of today’s Cup Series race at the aptly dubbed “Tricky Triangle”, the Pocono Raceway!

Indeed, today’s race unfolds on a distinct 2.5-mile track that presents drivers with a trifecta of turns and three straightaways. Or, is it four turns? Perhaps five? Could it be six? The exact number seems to be the topic of a heated debate this week. But for the sake of branding and tradition, let’s stick with the good ol’ fashioned three turns.

Regardless of the number of turns you choose to count, the real question is: how can you navigate the tricky maze of this track to maximize your DraftKings contest outcomes? Well, that’s where I come in. Whether Pocono Raceway boasts three, four, five, or six turns, I’m here to guide you through the best DFS approach for today’s race. So buckle up and let’s get this cash!

Breakdown

As we venture deeper into the intricacies of the Pocono Raceway, we find that drawing parallels with other tracks on the circuit isn’t as straightforward as one might hope. This 2.5-mile triangle, with its extended straightaways, unique shape, and flat corners, distinguishes itself from the rest of the NASCAR tracks. However, despite its distinctiveness, we can draw some insightful correlations from other intermediate races that have taken place this season.

First and foremost, Pocono is all about speed. The long straightaways demand horsepower; navigating through the corners skillfully is essential, but the real game-changer is the raw power exerted on those straights, leading to a strong finish.

When seeking a reference point for today’s race, we can examine other intermediate races where the same tire code has been utilized this year. These races include events at Nashville, Kansas, Las Vegas, and Auto Club. The nature of these tracks may provide some guidance, but given Pocono’s uniqueness, historical results at this raceway will also play a significant role in our decision-making process today.

As we dig deeper into the strategy for Pocono Raceway, it’s crucial to recognize that passing can be challenging here. The opportunities for drivers to gain track position will predominantly come on restarts, during pit stops, or through strategic pit decisions.

This track presents even more of a conundrum in the next-gen car, as was evidenced last year. The drivers voiced a slew of complaints about the effects of dirty air on their vehicles’ performance. Upon reviewing the race, one noteworthy observation is the lack of green flag passes for the lead. Last year’s race further underscored the challenge of passing at Pocono. Out of the top ten finishers, seven started within the top ten, and all of the top four starters concluded the race inside the top nine in DraftKings scoring.

This difficulty in passing is reflected in recent scoring trends. 46% of the top eight scorers on DraftKings were drivers who started within the top ten. This equates to eleven top eight performances, and of these, six were from drivers who started within the top three. This data underlines the importance of starting position at Pocono and the importance of targeting the speed that drivers show in qualifying.

When constructing your DraftKings lineups, it’s important to take into account that while dominator points can have an impact, we won’t see the extreme totals of last week. The limited lap count of 160 curtails the potential for dominator upside, and diverse pit strategies usually disperse these points among several drivers. Last year’s race saw an increased number of single car incidents due to cars losing control off turns 2 and 3, which further distributed the dominator points as these incidents created opportunities for drivers to gain the lead by opting for two or no-tire pit stops. 5 different drivers led more than 10 laps in that race. We saw several cars lose it in yesterday’s practice session, which indicates we could see more of the same today.

In the last three non-invert races at Pocono, eight drivers have managed to score more than 10 dominator points, with the highest being 29 points. Pole sitters have consistently scored 10+ dominator points in all these three races. Notably, only one driver, Ross Chastain, scored high dominator points starting worse than 9th, he did so in last year’s race.

Looking beyond dominator points, the next area of focus should be position differential (PD) points, specifically from drivers in the 11-30 range. For drivers starting in the 11-20 range, target those who can gain 8-12 PD points and finish within the top seven. For those in the 21-30 range, seek drivers capable of gaining over 15 PD points and finishing around the top ten. The range starting from 30th onward offers ideal value opportunities. Moreover, massive upside can be found here if a strong car botches qualifying—yes, we’re looking at you, Chase Elliott.

Cheat Sheet

Below is my Cheat Sheet for today’s Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway. This sheet has been populated with all the vital data that will aid in your decision-making process for today’s races.

Moving from left to right, you’ll first encounter data from the four intermediate races conducted on this specific tire code in 2023—Nashville, Kansas, Las Vegas, and Auto Club. Next, I have compiled the driver data from the last five races at Pocono to give a hint of their past performances at this specific track. Additionally, you’ll find fast lap and five-lap averages from yesterday’s practice session to gauge who brought the speed this weekend. Make note though, group B in practice had better track conditions so their speed was faster than group A, this muddies the practice data some. I highlighted the salary in blue for those drivers who were in the faster group B.

To make your task easier, I’ve highlighted my top picks for today’s race. Those highlighted in pink are the drivers who, in my opinion, might fly under the radar and could potentially be under-owned.

Core Plays

Top Tier – My Favs

Denny Hamlin – The best there currently is at Pocono amongst active drivers. His 7* wins here in his career, which includes 2 in the last 5, is more than any other driver and more than he has at any other track. He also has 4 Top 5s in the last 5 and his Avg position of 7.6 is 3 spots better than anyone else. Then you add to it his performance on this tire code in 2023, 1 win, 2 Top 5s, tied for 2nd in both Avg Pos and Avg Fin, and 4th in fast laps %. Denny is a strong contender for Dom points and the win, also have to love a little PD bump as well from P8.

Kyle Busch – Kyle and this team has brought the speed to intermediates this season already boasting a win earlier this season at Auto Club. Showed speed in practice before putting down a stinker in qualifying, making him high upside play today with all the PD he can provide from P25. 2nd to only Denny when looking at Pocono results in the last 5 years. Going to be massively owned.

William Byron – If your looking to chase those Dom points then Byron provides ample opportunity to score some early in today’s race. The pole sitter has scored 10+ Dom points in the last 3 races here and Byron and HMS definitely has the speed to control this race at the start, especially with the role dirty air plays when passing the leader. The pole sitter here has finished inside the Top 3 of DK scoring in 2 out of the last 3, non-invert races at Pocono.

Chase Elliott – Chase is basically a free square at this price and starting position today. He spun out in qualifying but shares the same speed as the rest of the HMS boys. Don’t overthink it, if your fading it’s solely based on ownership.

Top Tier – Pivots

Kyle Larson – Despite not having a win in our 4 race sample from 2023, Larson has shown more consistent speed than anyone. He boasts 3 Top 5s and the highest percentage of fast laps in our sample. He has also historical been solid here at Pocono with the 3rd best driver rating in the last 3 years here while having scored more than 9 Dom points in 2 of his last 3 here. HMS has had raw speed all year and practice indicates they have it again today.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney, and Ford in general has struggled on the intermediates so far in 2023, but Blaney is coming to a track that he has had some strong performances at and he looked to have some speed in practice. Blaney has finished Top 6 here in 2 of the last 5, and had a Top 5 run going here last year before a tire failure. He scored 12 dom points here in 2020 and has finished inside the Top 4 of DK scoring in 2 of the last 3 here. One of those performances he started 16th and finished 6th, today he starts 14th.

Ross Chastain – Ross did not put down a fast lap in qualifying and looked to struggle at finding speed in practice. Do we just think that Trackhouse has all of a sudden lost speed when all the other Chevy’s are at the top of the charts? I wouldn’t bet on that especially with the way this 1 car has performed on this tire code in 2023. When looking at the 4 races this year on this tire code, Chastain has the best avg position at 4.63 along with the highest laps led % and the 2nd best avg finish which includes 3 top 5’s and a dominating win at Nashville the last time we were on this tire code. Pocono finishes have not been great in his first 3 career starts, but last year he had a race winning car, leading 16 laps and scoring the 3rd most fast laps after starting 21st in that race as well. Makes a solid pivot option off a chalky KB in this range, with similar upside.

Mid Tier – My Favs

Alex Bowman –  Price tag is way too cheap here at $7900. Maybe this is recent bias factoring into the pricing here, but short flats, Road Courses, and Super Speedways are not exactly Bowman’s bread and butter, but tracks like Pocono are. He gets to really take advantage of HMS speed here at these track types. 5th best avg position and 6th best Avg finish on this tire code in 2023 with the 7th best fast laps %. Has been great in recent years at Pocono as well with 3 Top 10s in the last 5 which includes a win here in 2021. He has also scored 6-7 Dom points in 2 of those 5 races. Top 10 upside with PD to boot for below $8k makes Bowman a very strong play today.

Daniel Suarez – I am still a believer in the Trackhouse speed today so Suarez makes the cut today in this range from P17. 4 Top 20’s, 2 Top 10’s and a Top 5 on this tire code in 2023 is hard to ignore at this price tag. Had an awesome run in this race last year with a Top 5 finish while putting up the 4th most fastest laps with 10.

Chris Buescher – Not a lot points to Buescher today outside of the speed he showed in practice, but the speed he showed is hard to ignore coming in with the 6th best fast lap in yesterday’s session. If nothing else this season, Buescher has been consistent, having not finished worse than 18th in 13 straight races, included in that stretch is 6 Top 10’s. However, he does NOT have a Top 10 on this tire code and only has 1 Top 10 at Pocono in his career outside of his race shortened win here back in 2016. Going to need a Top 10 out of him today to pay off.

Mid Tier – Pivots

Bubba Wallace – This 23 team and Bubba has had a ton of speed on this tire code in 2023 with 2 Top 5’s and the 7th best avg running position. This car looked every bit as good as his team mate Reddick’s car and with Bubba, you get a nice $700 in savings verse his teammate along with a few more PD positions. My interest in Bubba is the main reason I left Reddick off my list, as I’d rather pivot down to his team mate Bubba here.

AJ Allmendinger – AJ is another driver in this range who put had speed in yesterday’s practice session, but AJ will come in massively under owned compared to everyone else in this range. More impressive thing about AJ’s practice times is he was in the slower session of group A. He finished Top 10 the last time we were on this tire code at Nashville and 14th before that at Kansas. In fact, he has 6 finishes of 14th or better in the last 9 races on the season. Another Top 10 today would pay off huge at a very low ownership.

Value Tier – My Favs

Todd Gilliland – Not a lot to this pick here. Starts DFL for cheap. Not a ton of upside here today for Todd but he can’t kill you. Going to be heavily owned though.

Ryan Preece – Another value town driver that can provide us with some valuable PD today. The SHR cars looked terrible in practice and they have not been great on this tire code in 2023, but the price tag and start position here for Preece presents plenty of potential outcomes where Preece pays off this tag.

Harrison Burton – Burton is another cheapie that can save you salary today, that will likely be lower owned than Gilli in this range. Burton finished 21st the last time we were on this tire code and had a 15th place finish at Auto Club earlier this season, which some would consider the closest correlated track to Pocono.

Value Tier – Pivots

Erik Jones – “That Jones boy” makes a great pivot option in this range today. Many with the salary will opt for Preece in this range, but Jones perhaps has the best upside. His average running position of 16.55 is 16th best on this tire code and he has 3 Top 20’s with a Top 10. But more impressive is the streak Jones has been on of late, he has 5 finishes of 18th or better in the last 6 races, which includes 3 finishes of 11th or better and an 8th place finish the last time on this tire code. Finished 11th in this race last year after starting 34th.

Ricky Stenhouse – No one is going to play Ricky in this range which makes it the perfect time to take a swing and play Wrecky. He has been solid on this tired code in 2023 with the 2nd best average finish amongst those priced less than $7k. 4 Top 20 finishes here at Pocono in the last 5 as well.

Core

No core out of me for today or the foreseeable future. I have come the the conclusion the my core is cursed. The Drivers I core seem to always be the ones that wreck out. Yesterday I didn’t put out a core in Xfinity and I got a takedown. So, until I can figure out a way t break this curse, you guys are on your own to figure out your own core. Someone needs to come to the house and burn some sage or something.

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