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

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At first glance, this stage of the schedule appears to have a lot of variety. Last week, the Cup series ran a short, 318-mile sprint on a 1-mile track. This week, the race is contested over 400 miles on a triangular-shaped 2.5-mile track. Next week will be the second road course race of the season.

There is actually more in common among these three tracks than meets the eye.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway are both flat tracks. They share a characteristic with Watkins Glen International in that drivers need to slow down before the corner and accelerate at the apex. Some of the driver who ran well in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 will repeat this week and should be watched closely at the Glen.

Flat tracks are rhythm courses and that means that the drivers on this list should dominate the NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster for the Gander Outdoors 400.

1. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 4.00)
When looking for a driver to pair with the Big 3, Keselowski is the obvious choice at Pocono. He enters the weekend with a current six-race streak of top fives that includes second-place finishes in 2015 and 2016. His last three races on this track were fifth-place results.

2. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 4.20)
Harvick has not yet won at Pocono and that could prove to be a big motivating force this week. Along with Kentucky Speedway, this is the only active track on which he’s failed to find victory lane, but he’s finished second four times in the last eight races.

3. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 9.40)
Busch won the 2016 Pocono 400 that was delayed by rain until Monday. He finished fourth the following year in the June Pocono race. Unfortunately, his other three races since his latest win have not been quite as strong as the drivers that surround him in this week’s top 10 with a best of 10th and a worst of 19th this spring. Use him only if he has great practice times.

4. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 10.60)
Busch was winless at Pocono until last July. He started on the pole, led the first 21 laps, won Segment 1 of the race, and then put himself in position to take the lead when it mattered most. He paced the field for the final 17 laps. This spring, he finished third for his fourth consecutive Pocono top 10.

5. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 10.60)
The Pocono 400 this June was one of Kenseth’s best runs in the No. 6. In his third start of the season, he cracked the top 15 for the first time in his new ride. He finished 13th. Last week, Kenseth got his second top 15 (15th) on another flat track. Those two factors combine to suggest he could finish that well again. That makes him a good value in salary cap games where he is moderately priced, but it’s not enough to add him to the Fantasy Live roster.

6. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 11.60)
In his rookie season, Blaney finished 11th and 10th. Last year, he won his first Cup race, but almost as if Fate demanded balance, he fell two laps off the pace in the second race and finished 30th. He was back inside the top 10 this spring with a sixth in the Pocono 400, but it remains to be seen if he can regain his consistency.

7. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 11.80)
Larson’s average is deceptive. It is skewed by a drive train failure last July that sent him behind the wall for 12 laps. If that is removed from his record, he has a career average of 7.75, which would make this his third best track. Larson is a driver who historically has run the high line, so such a great record on a track with a single groove at the bottom is exceptional.

8. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 13.00)
Like Larson, Elliott has only one bad finish during his Pocono career and that makes his average look worse than it should be. Crash damage in the second race of 2016 gave him a 33rd-place finish, but the remainder of his five career races ended in the top 10.

9. Erik Jones (three-year average: 13.33 in three starts)
Will Jones repeat the theme of the two drivers above him? He swept the top 10 in his rookie season before finishing 29th this spring with crash damage. If he follows true to form with Larson and Elliott, that might be his only poor result for quite some time.

10. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 13.40)
Truex won the 2015 Pocono 400, but he had trouble on the 2.5-mile flat track in his next three attempts. From summer 2015 through the end of 2016, his best effort was 19th, which he scored twice. Last spring, he finished sixth and has steadily improved since until he won this spring’s race in dominant fashion.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Kyle Busch swept the pole last year at Pocono. He’s started on the front row five times in 2018 and among the top 10 on 14 occasions. Blaney won this spring and could be a long shot to sweep the season.

Segment Winners: Brad Keselowski has scored points in every stage of a Cup race at Pocono, but he has not yet won a segment. That could mean that he is due to win this week and if a player needs to roll the dice to move up in their league, he is an excellent choice. Make the final decision based on practice, however, and select the driver with the best 10-lap average who qualifies on the first three rows.

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

Kyle Busch takes the blame for wrecking Martin Truex Jr.

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Busch left Bristol Motor Speedway with no regrets about his team’s comeback effort but one major regret about an attempted pass that he misjudged by about 6 inches.

“I crashed the 78,” Busch said plainly about his Lap 432 contact that sent Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota hard into the wall. “That was my bad. Totally misjudged that one coming off the corner. I clipped him there and sent him for a ride.

“He knows that wasn’t intentional at all. We’ve worked really, really, really, really good together these last two to three years, so that shouldn’t ruin anything between us.”

Truex was running second when the crash occurred. He angrily threw his HANS device and kicked the car after coming up short of winning his first short-track race in NASCAR’s premier series but had cooled down after a care center visit.

“(Busch) probably didn’t obviously do it on purpose, but it’s hard Bristol racing,” Truex said. “Probably could’ve shown a little bit more patience. He was a lot faster than me at that point in time. He just caught me and probably another lap or so he would’ve went right by. Half his fault, half my fault for following (leader Clint Bowyer) so long. I should’ve knocked his butt out of the way because he held me up for 15-20 laps and burnt my front tires off screwing with him. Played too nice and got the crappy end of the stick.”

Busch and Truex are de-facto teammates because they are closely aligned through their affiliations with Toyota Racing Development, and this was the second major tangle between the two teams over the past two seasons. Last July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Busch and Truex wrecked while racing for the lead, and an altercation between their teams led to the suspensions of two Furniture Row Racing pit crew members.

Adam Stevens, crew chief for Busch, said he hadn’t talked with Cole Pearn, crew chief for Truex but said the Indianapolis incident “never crept into my mind all night.

“I would assume they’re upset,” Stevens said. “They got wrecked out of a race. I’d be upset. That’s all there is to it.”

Busch said no damage control would be necessary.

“Cole’s really cool, Martin’s really cool,” he said. “I think they’re fine. Maybe I’ll send them a ‘Sorry’ cake to the Denver shop for the guys having to work extra. They’ll probably throw that (car) away anyways, but it ruined their day of being able to get a win or even a second.”

It didn’t ruin the day for Busch despite having endured a wild chain of events in Saturday’s 500-lap race. His No. 18 Toyota slipped out of the traction compound and spun while running the inside lane on the third lap, causing a 15-car crash.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver fell two laps down, but his team managed a repair job that allowed him to climb back into the top five in the final 100 laps.

That was just me and this team and never giving up and being able to drive up through the field like that,” Busch said.

The damage, though, prevented his team from filling his fuel tank swiftly, which cost Busch several spots in the pits on every stop. That was costly on a restart with 23 laps remaining, and he spun after getting sandwiched between the cars of Jimmie Johnson and Chris Buescher.

“We had a shot to come back there and win the race realistically,” Busch said. “We certainly were going to way overachieve, but we just didn’t get to.”

“I’m proud of the effort,” Stevens said. “I’m proud of the car we put on the racetrack. Had we been able to put fuel in it, in a timely manner, it would have been a whole different race. … Hard to win a race when you’ve got to pass every car on the lead lap every run. Frustrating, but it shows what the team is capable of, I guess.”

Kyle Larson finishes second in ‘most frustrating Bristol race’

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — A night after earning his first NASCAR win at Bristol Motor Speedway, it was back to business as usual for Kyle Larson in the Cup Series.

Larson had to settle for another second-place finish to a guy named Busch.

Larson earned his fifth runner-up result of the season and his second at the half-mile track. But instead of placing behind Kyle Busch like he did in April, Larson was left looking at Kurt Busch‘s rear bumper.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has placed second six times since his last win in the 2017 regular-season finale at Richmond. Three of those runner-up results have been to Kyle Busch.

“I mean, I’m happy to finish second,” Larson said. “That’s probably 12 to 15 spots I feel like better than where I deserved to finish. Our car was just really bad. I got lucky all night lining up in the right lanes.  I could gain three or four spots every restart. Just fight to hang on there. Then I’d be terrible at the end of the runs.

“Probably the most frustrating Bristol race I’ve had just ’cause I never really felt like I had a shot to win.”

After starting from the pole, Larson led three times in the first 63 laps but only led two laps the rest of the way.

He placed sixth in Stage 1 and fought to place fourth in Stage 2.

Larson found himself in 10th on the next to last restart with 22 laps to go. On the final restart, with 13 laps to go, he was in fourth.

Larson quickly moved into second after Clint Bowyer failed to get up to speed on the restart.

“Fourth is the second-best place to start besides the leader,” Larson said. “I knew I would get out to second. I hadn’t been around Kurt on the short runs there to see what he was doing.  Was hoping maybe he would run the bottom for a couple laps.

“He went straight away to the top.  I knew it was going to be tough to pass him.  I knew if I got close to him, I’d have to use the bumper a little bit.  I never even got close enough to get to him there.”

Larson, who clinched a spot in the playoffs on points, gave the traction compound applied to the bottom lane in each turn a positive review.

“It didn’t really matter where I ran,” Larson said. “Everybody that passed me either passed me on the top or the bottom, then drove away from me in each lane.

“I would say the lanes are pretty equal and consistent. Just hard to pass. When you get down there, you can have more lap time down there, but then your exit gets kind of tight because they hang on your outside.

“Yeah, Bristol is still a bad‑ass place.  I think they’ve done a good job with figuring out exactly where they need the (compound).”

What drivers said after Bristol

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Kurt Busch — Winner: “It’s awesome to do it at Bristol. I love this place. We now have won six times here and I have great teams that have always helped me win. This group of guys, Billy Scott, my crew chief, this is his first win and to be able to do it with Ford and Monster and Haas Automation is just what it’s all about is executing as a team and we had good restarts when we had to, and then you’ve got to get clever and start throwing everything at it.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “I think if I had a better car, tires probably would have showed what they are really capable of. This was just a really frustrating day. Our DC Solar Chevy was not very good from Lap 1 to Lap 500 there, but we fought and got a second-place finish out of it. So, I was happy about running second, but just disappointed because I had a lot of confidence going into this race and thought our car was really good. But, we were probably a 12th to 15th-place car, I thought. Just lined up in the right re-starts just about every time and was able to gain some spots on every re-start and maintain. And then would be terrible there towards the end of the run. Frustrating, but we were able to fight; so that’s good for our team to be able to do that. Our pit stops, aside from the first one, were really good. So, I’m happy about that that. So, we’ll just continue to fight to get our cars a lot better.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 3rd: “Yeah, not quite enough of something. I don’t know, just got tight there after the run that we had the lead and once we got it freed back up, but we kept getting the bottom on all the restarts and it was just hard to go forward and what not. But, man, that thing was really fast there at the end. It felt like we were making up some ground on those guys.”

Joey Logano — Finished 4th: I wouldn’t say we’ve been in a little slump, but we kind of have been. We’ve been consistent and run in the top 10 and that’s just kind of where we’d run. We had a couple wrecks here recently with Pocono and Watkins Glen and a top 10 last week felt OK. I felt like we had a better car than a top 10 last week and then this week we had a car that could win if circumstances played out right, which it didn’t, but, overall, I’m proud of the speed we had on the short run.

Erik Jones — Finished 5th: “The run before last, we could’ve got up front when Kyle (Busch) and I were kind of running through the field. We were probably the best car, but you know there at the end, I didn’t have enough. I was too tight. I think our Sport Clips Camry was just lacking a little bit all night. We were close, but we could never find that last little bit to get up there and compete for the lead. I’m wore out. We worked hard all night trying to get ourselves a shot. It just wasn’t quite enough.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 6th: “I just clearly didn’t do a good job on the restarts. When I had the lead I thought I got a good jump and about the time I shifted Kurt (Busch) hit me in the door and it just lit the tires up. He didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just a product of it. I don’t know. Then when I was on the bottom I spun the tires real bad and they all got around me. It’s disappointing. You get a car that good and you get that close you hate to not come home with it, but, all in all, for as terrible as we started the weekend and as bad as our yesterday was, to lead laps or even be in the top 10, I was pretty surprised to be honest with you. In the grand scheme of things it was a pretty good run for us, but you hate to give them up like that.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 7th: “We just struggled as the track got colder and rubbered in. I was really happy with our car in the first stage, but we just kind of lost it from there. It was a decent comeback for us. We were gonna restart sixth and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) pitted and that kind of hurt us, but it was a decent night.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 8th: “We had a really good race car, just had that loose wheel and lost those two laps. Almost got the lap back under green and that would have probably have gotten us a couple more spots there, but still got it back through wave arounds and lucky dog. Just proud of my guys, we had a good race car, but the car was good.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON — Finished 9th: “We had a decent night. I guess the No. 41 (Kurt Busch) won by staying out. We kind of lined up on the inside and felt like we had to come in for new tires with 20 to go or something. Just a solid night. We will take it. Of course, we want more, but it was nice to have a good consistent run all night long.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 11th: “Jack asked me in the driver’s meeting how my car was and I told him it was a 10th to 15th-place car and if we could get it to turn we’d be better than that. Early in the race it turned and we drove up into the top 10 and were running about eighth. I had the speeding penalty and kind of overcame that and got back up to seventh or eighth and then that last restart it was all about what lane you were gonna be in. We were gonna be in the top 10, but Jimmie (Johnson) pitted and I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ So I started on the bottom and cost us a few spots and ended up 11th.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 12th: “Unfortunately, qualifying didn’t go as planned but I wasn’t too concerned about it because our practices went well. Once the race started we battled tight and loose conditions, but by halfway, we were balanced fairly well. The biggest issue we had was being able to maneuver through all the rubber on the track. Our Chevy either plowed or shook itself loose. I think we’re all looking forward to the off weekend so we can recharge and get ready for Darlington. It’s my favorite race on the Cup schedule and I want to win it for so many reasons. We’ve got to win to get into the Playoffs.”

David Ragan — Finished 17th: “I was disappointed when we got spun and went a couple laps down. Bristol is a tough race and you really have to have 500 really clean laps and we had one mistake early and lost a couple of laps, so we were fortunate to get back one lap down and our team did a nice job making adjustments and I feel like we had a top 12 to 15 car, but a top 20 finish. We learned a few things and it was a good night for us. It was a lot of fun representing the Shriners in the car.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 20th: That was just a misjudgment on my behalf, I crashed the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) so that was my bad totally. Totally misjudged that one just coming off the corner and knowing there was still plenty of laps left, I wasn’t even in a hurry and I just misjudged it by four or six inches, whatever it was and I clipped him there and sent him for a ride. He knows that wasn’t intentional at all and we’ve worked really, really, really, really well together these last two or three years and that shouldn’t ruin anything between us.

Ty Dillon — Finished 21st: “Bristol is called The Last Great Colosseum for a reason. It’s a battle every single time you race here. Tonight, wasn’t the night we had hoped for. My GEICO Camaro ZL1 struggled through the corners on both ends, and we just couldn’t find the balance that we needed. This team is working hard week in and week out to get better. We are going to keep making gains and building on the data we’re collecting.”

William Byron — Finished 23rd: “We had something go wrong early on and just were off the pace the whole time. It was disappointing. I thought we were going to have a good day, but something went wrong. We will figure it out.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. — Finished 30th: “I’ve seen the replay real quick, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. It’s hard racing at Bristol. The corner exit’s really slick where the VHT wore out. There’s some real slick patches. I’m sure he (Kyle Busch) hit one of them. Probably didn’t obviously do it on purpose, but it’s hard Bristol racing. Probably could’ve shown a little bit more patience. He was a lot faster than me at that point in time. He just caught me and probably another lap or so he would’ve went right by. Half his fault, half my fault for following the 14 (Clint Bowyer) so long. I should’ve knocked his butt out of the way because he held me up for 15-20 laps and burnt my front tires off screwing with him. Played too nice and got the crappy end of the stick.”

Paul Menard — Finished 36th: “The wheel is broke – broke the center section out of the wheel, which we’ve never seen before, so kind of just disappointed. We had a really fast Ford. We started fourth and felt like if that first caution hadn’t come out we could have been leading the race by Lap three, but on the restart I just had a really bad vibration, trying to stay out of everybody’s way up by the fence and finally the wheel broke. We’ve got to figure out why the wheel broke. What came first, the chicken or the egg, hitting the wall or the wheel breaking, but we’re scratching our head about that one.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 37th: “We started pretty far back with our Love’s Ford and really I was stopped and not in it at all, and then about five seconds later got blasted from behind. I’m not really sure. It seemed like a long time before the other cars got slowed down, but it’s so disappointing to be out so early, and not of your own doing. It’s just heartbreaking. Five hundred laps is a long race and I think I did a total of 10 laps between the two races this year in 2018, so I’m just really frustrated, but this is racing and that’s what happens sometimes. I’m not really sure what led to the 18 (Kyle Busch) being spun, but all I know is there is a lot of cars not paying attention and a lot of spotters not paying attention for that to happen like it happened.”

BUBBA WALLACE — Finished 38th: “I just got run over from behind after I got checked up. I was talked to AJ (Allmendinger) in there (the infield care center) and said ‘Sorry man, I run over you at the beginning.’ He was like ‘No, you are fine.’ He said he was sitting there for a solid second and a half and got run over again. Just poor spotting up top and some rookie drivers out back I guess.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 39th: “At this point, it is what it is. I’m just sorry for Kroger Clicklist and everybody that is partners with this race team. I appreciate the hard word out of everybody and all of our partners. We had a lot of Kroger Clicklist guest here. We had a lot of just partners in general, Bush’s Beans home race, so hopefully, Chris (Buescher) can get a strong run, but I’m ready for an off week.”

Results, stats for the Cup race at Bristol

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Kurt Busch held off Kyle Larson in a 13-lap shootout to the end of the Bristol Motor Speedway night on tires that were nearly 40 laps older. This was his sixth career win at Bristol. It came in a week with rumors swirling about his status with Stewart Haas Racing.

Larson held on to finish second. He also finished second in the spring Bristol race to Kyle Busch.

Chase Elliott finished third to earn his fifth consecutive top-10 finish.

Joey Logano and Erik Jones rounded out the top five.

All of the Big 3 drivers experienced trouble. Kyle Busch was involved in a Lap 2 incident, Kevin Harvick had a loose wheel on Lap 185 and lost two laps, while Martin Truex Jr. wrecked after contact by Kyle Busch on Lap 432. Kyle Busch finished 20th, Harvick got back on the lead lap and finished 10th with Truex in 30th.

Click here for complete results