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.

Vote for best 2018 Cup paint schemes

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It’s time to take stock of the 2018 Cup season.

That means voting in the best paint schemes of the year tournament.

The NBC Sports tournament has now reached its final four.

Here’s the bracket so far.

Bubba Wallace, RPM reinlist US Air Force as two-race sponsor

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Richard Petty Motorsports will continue to receive support from the United States military. On Friday, they announced the US Air Force will continue as a primary sponsor in 2019 as well as a major associate sponsor throughout the season on Bubba Wallace’s No. 43.

The two races for which the Air Force will be the primary sponsor are Saturday, July 6 at Daytona International Speedway (4th of July weekend) and Sunday, Nov. 10 (Veteran’s Day weekend) at ISM Raceway. Last year during his rookie campaign, Wallace finished in the top 15 in both of those races. He was 14th in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona and 10th at ISM.

“The Air Force continues to see benefits from our partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver, Bubba Wallace,” said Major Ross McKnight, Chief, Air Force National Events Branch at Air Force Recruiting Service in a press release. “Wallace Jr. and his personality align well with our target audience’s interests and the Air Force’s commitment to teamwork and technology. The combination of Bubba Wallace and the iconic No. 43 provides a continuing sponsorship opportunity that reflects our Air Force core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence, as well as has a positive impact on generating public awareness about the U.S. Air Force, our people and our mission.

“Like NASCAR, much of our work is based on science, technology, engineering and math principles combined with teamwork and training. This sponsorship is a great way to highlight that connection.”

Last year, Wallace visited four Air Force bases. He participated in drills at each and flew in an F-16 with the 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers” at Shaw AFB in South Carolina.

“I was really impressed with all the different aspects of the Air Force, and the different opportunities they offer,” said Wallace Jr. “I was able to visit different bases and see the Airmen in action and actually participate myself. That gets me excited and then I’m able to talk to inspiring students who are looking at a career in the Air Force. I’m pretty humbled to represent the Air Force.”

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John Hunter Nemechek, Chase Briscoe approved to run for Xfinity Rookie of the Year

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NASCAR has approved John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe to compete for the Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year title in 2019, NBC Sports has confirmed.

Nemechek made 18 Xfinity starts in 2018 with Chip Ganassi Racing while Briscoe made 17 with Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Nemechek will compete for GMS Racing in the No. 23 Chevrolet. Briscoe will drive the No. 98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

When Nemechek was announced on Dec. 6 as joining GMS Racing, a team press release said he would compete for Rookie of the Year. But a NASCAR spokesperson said his eligibility had not been decided on at the time.

The Rookie of the Year title was not mentioned in SHR’s Nov. 27 press release about Briscoe going full-time.

The Xfinity rookie field next year will include Nemechek, Briscoe, Noah Gragson in JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet and Justin Haley in Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet.

Briscoe said in an Q&A on Reddit he was “honestly surprised” he was approved.

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Richard Childress Racing reveals Daytona 500 cars, sponsors and Xfinity details

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WELCOME, N.C. – Richard Childress Racing kicked off its 50th anniversary Friday at its headquarters in Welcome, North Carolina, with announcements about the 2019 season.

RCR announced Daniel Hemric will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet in his rookie Cup season. Hemric had originally been announced as driving the No. 31.

Hemric, who moves up after two years in Xfinity, drove the No. 8 in his two Cup starts in 2018.

Richard Childress Racing

Hemric will be sponsored by Caterpillar, Bass Pro Shops, Liberty National Life Insurance, Cessna and VF Workwear.

Cessna is also a sponsor at Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Growing up in Kannapolis, it was all about racing,” Hemric said in a press release. “I always dreamed of having the opportunity to drive for RCR and for Richard himself. Now, two iconic numbers, the 3 and the 8, are going to be under one roof. I know it makes Richard happier than anybody, just understanding what that means for the sport of NASCAR and how our fans are going to be able to connect with that.”

RCR also confirmed NBC Sports’ report that Luke Lambert would be the crew chief for Hemric.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

The team revealed gold-themed cars Hemric and teammate Austin Dillon will drive during Speedweeks in Daytona to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary.

Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet will be sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the Advance Auto Parts Clash.

The scheme for the exhibition race is based on the car Dale Earnhardt Sr. drove in the 1998 All-Star Race.

Xfinity Series

Team owner Richard Childress confirmed Tyler Reddick would be the organization’s only full-time Xfinity Series driver in 2019.

The defending series champion will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet and be paired with crew chief Randall Burnett, who worked with Matt Tifft on the No. 2 in 2018.

Childress said its second Xfinity car will be the No. 21 “more than likely.”

Technical Alliance

Childress confirmed the teams that will be full members of a technical alliance with RCR in 2019.

In Cup, RCR will be joined by StarCom Racing (No. 00), Germain Racing (No. 13) and Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43).

Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series (No. 11 Chevrolet) will also be a part of the alliance.

Childress said ECR engines would be provided for all those teams.

Charter

Childress said the team would sell a team charter to StarCom Racing that had been leased to the team in 2018.

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