When the dust settled over the newly-paved Pocono Raceway, Denny Hamlin emerged with the pole for this Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
Hamlin scorched the dinner bell track in a record time of 181.415 mph, breaking the old record set by Jimmie Johnson last year in August. It’s the ninth time this season a new track record has been set and second of the season for Denny Hamlin.
Denny took two poles in his rookie season at Pocono that resulted in two wins. He’s got to be a threat to take the checkers since Denny shines on the flat surfaces. Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Pocono with a 6.5.
Here’s the rest of the top ten qualifiers in order:
#41 Kurt Busch, #2 Keselowski, #4 Kevin Harvick, #24 Jeff Gordon, #18 Kyle Busch, #22 Joey Logano, #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr., #55 Brian Vickers, #99 Carl Edwards.
Kurt Busch is a great buy on all fantasy teams and has been knocking on Pocono’s door the last few years with less than best equipment, and with Hendrick power in front of him makes him a threat.
Jeff Gordon has won here twice during the past five years and showed some muscle during practice, as he unloaded with the third-fastest time in the first round of practice. It’s a good omen.
First round top practice speeds:
Brian Vickers is a sleeper pick and priced right. His road race background on this flat track should pay dividends after last week’s horror.
Jimmie Johnson won last year’s June race and Kasey Kahne won the August race. Johnson is red-hot right now and a must-have on your fantasy teams with a best average finish among all active drivers the past five years at 6.9.
The pole position is the best starting spot, producing 24 wins out of 72 races. The second best starting spot is the two hole producing nine winners in 72 races. Only 7% of all Pocono races have been won outside the 20th starting position.
Toyota seems to have the wick turned up for this race, with three cars starting in the top-10 but Chevrolet leads all manufacturers in wins with 28, followed by Ford with 21 wins.
There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting in a green-white-checkered finish at Pocono Raceway.
A concern this weekend is the possibility of blown engines with the weather heating up and the high revs on the Long Pond straight. This race could easily turn into a fuel mileage race. I don’t see many yellows happening, but this is the beginning of the stretch run to make the Chase, so look for drivers that haven’t won this year to make some bonsai moves.
Janet Guthrie’s 11th place finish in her rookie season at Pocono is the number Danica Patrick needs to beat to take the skirt title at Pocono. It’s a tall order for Danica, who has an average finish of 32.0 in her only two Pocono starts last year.
Here are my Ice Picks for Pocono:
Jeff Gordon-the 4th best driver rating among all active drivers.
Jimmie Johnson-the best driver rating among all active drivers.
Kyle Busch- is starting to like Pocono.
Joey Logano- average finish of 13.3 the past five years are good points for Sunday.
Kurt Busch- has the third best driver rating.
Denny Hamlin- Flat Track +pole = top five.
Brian Vickers- very fast during practice and qualifying.
Austin Dillon- solid top 15.
Those are my picks to give you the best fantasy points on Sunday. TNT will cover the race on Sunday and your comments are always welcome. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Good Luck! @JoeIcemanNieves