The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway's 2.5 mile triangle for the 14th race of the 2011 season, the 5-Hour Energy 500. Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and talked to NASCAR contacts to predict how the field should finish on Sunday.When:
Sunday, June 12, 2011; 1:15 p.m./et.Weather:
Scattered T-storms with a high around 72; wind out of the ESE at 7 mph. There is a 50% chance of precipitation.The Track:
Pocono Raceway is a 2.5 mile tri-oval with three completely different banked turns. It has 14 degree banking in turn one, eight degree banking in turn two, and six degree banking in turn three. Key to Race:
THE POCONO TOUGH TRIANGLE
Pocono has three long straight-aways after each of the turns. This unique configuration forces engines to run at high RPM levels three times on each lap. The longer than usual race length places a premium on brakes and engine durability. Greg Biffle
, Jimmie Johnson
, Kasey Kahne
, Carl Edwards
, Jeff Gordon
, Kurt Busch
and Denny Hamlin
(four times) have won the last 10 races at Pocono. All seven of these drivers are great picks. Qualifying Procedures:
44 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the 2010 owner point standings will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 will be determined by qualifying runs on Saturday, June 11 at 11:30 pm/et.Fantasy Cheat Sheet:Top 5
No. 11 Denny Hamlin
: Hamlin has been awesome at Pocono during in his career. In nine starts he has four wins, including a win at the track last June.
No. 22 Kurt Busch
: Busch won two of the last 11 Pocono races. This is a great opportunity for the No. 22 team to notch another strong finish.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson
: Johnson has finished 15th or better in 16 of his 17 career starts at Pocono. This will be a good chance for him to get his first top five finish since April's Aaron's 499.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick
: Harvick has cracked the top 20 in all but one race this season and has had past success at Pocono. He should be one of the fastest cars on the track.
No. 14 Tony Stewart
: Stewart won June 2009 race at Pocono and has finished in the top 10 in 10 of the last 11 races at the track. Smoke will be flying again this weekend.6 to 10
No. 99 Carl Edwards
: Edwards has been very good at the track the last few races. He is a solid pick this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon
: Gordon has four career victories at Pocono. He should be battling for the lead all day.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
: Don't look now, but NASCAR's perennial fan favorite is driving like a potential champion. Junior has three consecutive top seven finishes and could make even more noise this weekend.
No. 39 Ryan Newman
: Newman has finished in the top 18 in the past 11 races at Pocono. He will compete for the pole this weekend and should crack the top 10.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya
: Montoya appeared to figure Pocono the past two seasons. He has driven well on flat-tracks and is someone to use this weekend.11 to 20
No. 18 Kyle Busch
: Rowdy had his best career run at Pocono last June. He should flirt with the top 10 this weekend if he can avoid Richard Childress.
No. 16 Greg Biffle
: Even with "Biff's" win last summer, Pocono has never been one of his better tracks. He will finish inside the top 20, but we don't think he crack the top 10 again.
No. 5 Mark Martin
: Martin has finished in the top five in 19 of his 48 career starts at Pocono. We project he will finish just outside the top 10.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth
: Kenseth has finished inside the top 18 in the past 10 races at Pocono. He should have another fast sled on Sunday.
No. 33 Clint Bowyer
: Bowyer finished in the top 15 in seven of the last eight races at Pocono. He will have a good car again this weekend.
No. 4 Kasey Kahne
: Kahne has always been awesome during qualifying at Pocono and he has been one of the better drivers at the track in race-trim the past few races. He is a decent fantasy option this weekend.
No. 31 Jeff Burton
: Pocono has been a good track for Burton during his career. With some luck he could be in the top 15 when the checkers fly late Sunday afternoon.
No. 00 David Reutimann
: Reutimann brought a very strong and fast car to Pocono in two of the last four races. He should be back in the top 20.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.
: Truex Jr. has averaged a 16th place finish in his six career starts at Pocono. We think he will finish right around his average on Sunday.
No. 6 David Ragan
: Ragan has been terrible at Pocono in three of the last four races, but with how well he is driving the past month he could surprise. 21 to 30
No. 20 Joey Logano
: Logano has averaged a 22nd place finish at Pocono during his young career. He will just miss cracking the top 20 this trip to Long Pond.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski
: Keselowski finished 20th and 21st in his first trips to Pocono. We see him finishing right around there this trip.
No. 83 Brian Vickers
: The past month Vickers has been much better than his current position in the standings. He is a good buy-low candidate.
No. 78 Regan Smith
: Smith has never finished outside the top 35 at Pocono during his career and he finished 21st and 18th last year. He is an interesting sleeper pick.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray
: McMurray has just three top 10 finishes in 16 career Pocono starts. He won't make it four on Sunday.
No. 43 A.J. Allmendinger: A.J. has been decent, but not great in the past three Pocono races. He is worth using as a fourth driver in all leagues.
No. 27 Paul Menard
: Menard's average finish at Pocono is 26th. He should finish right around his average this weekend.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose
: Ambrose finished sixth at Pocono in June of 2009, but his struggles this season make him a poor fantasy choice.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte
: Labonte has three wins at Pocono in his career. He is the best of the cheap.
No. 13 Casey Mears
: Mears has had a disappointing season so far. He isn't very much of an option at all.Field Fillers
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 38 Sam Hornish Jr.
No. 32 Terry Labonte
No. 34 David Gilliand
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 37 Tony Raines
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 51 Landon Cassill
No. 46 J.J. Yeley
No. 81 Scott Riggs
No. 50 T.J. Bell
No. 60 Mike Skinner
No. 66 Michael McDowell
No. 71 Andy LallyBrownie's PicksTop Four:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kurt Busch
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kevin HarvickSleepers:
1. Regan Smith
2. Bobby LabonteBust of the Week:Jeff Burton