Jeb Burton will be behind the wheel of the No. 32 at Pocono Raceway. He also ran for this team in the June Axalta We Paint Winners 400 and finished 29th after starting 39th, which added 10 place-differential points to his total.
If a team is going to utilize several drivers in their car, this is a good plan because it allows the racer and team to develop course-specific chemistry. One of the biggest obstacles faced by part time driver is seat time and maximizing it on a given course ameliorates that.
Matt Kenseth has finished seventh or better in all but one of this year’s flat track races. Last year, he recorded top-10s in all but two events on this course type.
Included in those streaks are top-10s in all three Pocono Raceway events. He was sixth last spring and in this year’s Axalta We Paint Winners 400, but the highlight was a fuel-mileage aided victory in the Windows 10 400, which was his first in Pocono.
Ryan Newman finished 39th and 23rd in last year’s pair of Pocono Raceway events. That came on the heels of six straight seasons in which he swept the top 15 at least and two years of consecutive top-10s. He rebounded this spring and finished 12th in the Axalta We Paint Winners 400.
That should have righted his ship and Newman should easily be expected to finish in the top 15 again this week. With a moderate price cap in most games and some momentum with which he has recorded several top-15 points’ days since, he should be a great value.
Aric Almirola finished 18th in this race last year and followed that up with a 20th this spring in the Axalta We Paint Winners 400, which gives him a two-race streak of Pocono Raceway top-20s.
Three of Almirola’s last four races this season have also ended in the top 20 with a best of 15th on the restrictor-plate Daytona International Speedway. Last week on the other 2.5-mile flat track of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he finished 25th so fantasy owners can expect him to hover around the 20th-place this week.
Landon Cassill has finished better than he started in 15 of the last 17 races this season. He also finished exactly where he started once.
Notably the only time in that span of events that he finished worse than he started was at Pocono Raceway this June. Cassill qualified 31st, but sustained crash damage to finish 36th. He should be a lock to earn positive place-differential points in games that offer them.
Matt DiBenedetto will make his fourth Pocono Raceway start this week, and he has been uneven in the first three attempts. He finished 32nd last spring, 29th last summer, and was 40th this spring.
Another top-30 to go along with last year’s 29th is probably not in the cards. He has not finished that well in the NASCAR Cup series since May at Kansas Speedway, so a pattern should start to emerge this week that will help handicap DiBenedetto in 2017. He has finished worse than he started in his last three attempts—two of which were DNFs.
Elliott Sadler has 11 NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) starts at Iowa Speedway and has finished in the top 10 every time.
He finished sixth in the June race. The Emporia, Va. native has started from the pole three times at Iowa and won from the pole in 2012. He is currently second in the NXS point standings and has officially been locked into the inaugural NXS Chase. In 18 starts with JR Motorsports (JRM) this season, he has one win (Talladega), five top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. Sadler is tied with Daniel Suarez for the most top-10 efforts in 2016.-JRM
Carl Edwards has gotten progressively stronger in the past three Pocono Raceway events. He was 15th in his first start there with Joe Gibbs Racing last year, 10th in the summer race, and eighth this spring.
Edwards is more than capable of scoring a top-five on any track and should be watched closely during the Pennsylvania 400 weekend because he has been fairly erratic in recent races. Strong runs have been punctuated by mistakes, bad luck, and slightly missed setups so he should only be considered when he is rightly priced and fits the appropriate niche on one’s roster.