NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Pocono in last three years

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Pocono Raceway is an oddity with three distinct corners and straightaways. Because it requires a lot of compromise to go fast, one might suppose experience would be a critical factor, but six drivers entered this week scored top fives in their first attempt.

Denny Hamlin was the best of these with victories from the pole in his first two tries in 2006, followed by Erik Jones (third in 2017), Jimmie Johnson (third in 2002), Chase Elliott (fourth in 2016), Kyle Busch (fourth in 2005) and Kyle Larson (fifth in 2014).

Notably, three of the six drivers who excelled in their Pocono debuts raced for Hendrick Motorsports at the time, so that suggests William Byron might be a good dark horse to include in this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster.

Pocono is also a track prone to streaks. Seven drivers swept the top 10 last year and three of them carried momentum over from the previous season. This is a track on which success is often predicted by success, so chose most of your lineup from the 10 drivers listed.

1. Erik Jones (three-year average: 5.50 in two starts)
Jones continued the tradition of strong rookies at Pocono in last year’s Pocono 400 with a third-place finish. He was eighth in the Overton’s 400 later in the year. It didn’t hurt matters any that Jones had the notes from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Busch as a jumping off point.

2. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 5.67)
Statistically, Keselowski is the best fantasy pick this week. He enters the week with five consecutive top-five finishes that includes a pair of runner-up finishes. He has struggled with three results outside the top 20 in the last seven weeks, but that means the competition is likely to ignore him – and an astute player can make up ground.

3. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 8.33)
It is not yet time to consider that Kenseth’s track record is more important than the obstacles currently faced at Roush Fenway Racing. But there are two factors that make the No. 6 a little more appealing this week. Kenseth came close to cracking the top 15 at Charlotte and may be getting closer to finding a good race setup. Secondly, he has a knack for Pocono with five top 10s in the last six races.

4. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 10.17)
Last week was a disappointment for NASCAR Fantasy Live players, but in all likelihood Harvick’s crash didn’t affect much since the majority of rosters had him activated. The key to success sat in the garage – if a player remembered to swap that driver before the end of the second segment. At Pocono, Harvick has a current three-race, top-five streak.

5. Daniel Suarez (three-year average: 11.00 in two starts)
Suarez finished 15th in last year’s edition of this race at Pocono. He improved to seventh in the Overton’s 400. Since his record includes only two races on this track, fantasy players have to place more emphasis on his recent momentum and he has five top 15s in the last six races of 2018.

6. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 11.50)
Hamlin ran a clean race last week and was rewarded with a solid top-five finish. He needs to avoid mistakes for a little while longer before NASCAR fantasy players begin to trust him, but Pocono is a track he has dominated in the past. Hamlin should be watched closely in practice before making a final decision on whether to start him or place him in the garage.

7. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 11.67)
Busch’s Pocono record is actually a little better than it appears. If one disregards a crash-induced 37th in August 2015, he would have an average of 6.6 over the past three years – and he has not finished worse than 13th in five years. Busch’s appeal recently has been his consistency. The lack of a significant downside to starting him makes him a great selection for the garage this week.

8. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 11.67)
Pocono is not the type of track one usually associates with Larson since there is no high groove to manipulate in any of the corners, so a driver is left to fight and gouge at the bottom. Still, Larson had a perfect record of top-12 finishes to his credit before he developed a drivetrain problem last July and finished 33rd – 12 laps off the pace.

9. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 13.00 in four starts)
If one throws out the high and low for Blaney, it is easy to predict he will finish about 10th. His rookie season produced a 10th and 11th-place finish. When he won his first Cup race on this track last July, expectations were raised, however, and a 30th in July spoiled a lot of rosters.

10. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 13.33 in four starts)
Sometimes a switch flips for a driver on a given track. That may be what happened to Busch last July when he won from the pole after being shut out of the top five at Pocono since 2011. For the record, he was leading in August 2015 when he ran out of gas with two laps remaining.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Kyle Busch won both Pocono poles last year and has another in 2015. If he shows any speed at all in the first practice session, make certain he is activated

Segment Winners: Until their domination ends, the most obvious pick to win segment bonus points is Busch and Harvick. Keselowski demands a little attention as well, however, because he has been the third-most productive producer with four stage wins so far this year. If one wants a dark horse, last year’s winner Blaney has three stage wins to his credit in 2018.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.