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The Monster Energy Cup returns for its second race at the “Tricky Triangle”, at Pocono Raceway in the Pocono Mountains at Long Pond, PA. The playoff season rapidly approaches as there are only a handful of races left to either qualify for an automatic berth with a win, or to be in the Top 16 in points(behind all of the race winners). Last week in a grueling and surprisingly crash filled race at the Brickyard 400 at the famed Indinapolis Motorspeedway, Kasey Kahne pulled out a narrow and desperate victory in Overtime beating out Brad Keselowski. Kahne’s last win was 102 races ago, and this is great resume builder as his status with #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy is in doubt for next season.
The Pocono Raceway is a 2.5 mile Triangular Oval shaped track. This Overton’s 400 race will contain 160 laps. Like the June race, practice performance and qualifying are very important for this race.
My Top 5 Drivers for the Overton’s 400
Kyle Busch($10,700): The bad luck continues for Kyle Busch. While actually having a decent year, he is win-less, but has come close many times. Last week at the Brickyard 400, he was the dominant driver throughout the race, but on a Lap 110 restart, Martin Truex Jr(also with a fast and dominant car) and Busch raced hard against each other with 50 laps to go. Martin Truex Jr. got loose, and accidentally took out Busch ending both of their day at the track. In the June Pocono race, Kyle Busch lead 100 out of the 160 laps, but lost the lead late in the race to Ryan Blaney, and could not recover. Kyle Busch is due for a win and this could be the week he finally hits victory lane in 2017.
Kyle Larson($10,100): Larson can win any race at anytime with his aggressive style. Look for him to score in the Top 5 or win this race as Chip Ganassi Racing has once again, built him a fast car to practice with. Larson was 2nd in speed for both practices. Larson finished seventh in the June race, and led nine of the 160 laps.
Ryan Blaney($8,700): Blaney was the June Pocono winner leading the last 10 laps of the 160 and edging Kevin Harvick to the finish. In his other two races in his young career at Pocono, Blaney has finished 10th and 11th. This week, he has finished in the Top 10 in both practices. Expect him to finish in the Top 5 this race, but don’t be surprised with a repeat win.
Kevin Harvick($10,200): Harvick has been consistent the past few months. In the June race at Pocono, he was very close to passing Blaney for the win, but ran out of laps to make a final move. He has a Top 10 practice car this week, and expect him to qualify near the front and stay there for a Top 5 finish.
Denny Hamlin($9,700): Hamlin grades very well at this track as he has won at Pocono Raceway four times in his career. Hamlin also has nice Top 5’s and fourteen Top 10’s at the Tricky Triangle. He had the fourth fastest car in the 2nd practice. He is a savvy veteran who has recent momentum with his playoff qualifying win at New Hampshire two weeks ago.
Erik Jones($8,300): Erik Jones has the highest driver rating at the Pocono track right now. He finished third in the June race and has a performed great in practice this week, finishing third in the first practice. In recent news, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Jones will replace Matt Kenseth in the #20 Toyota Camry, as he has impressed with this strong rookie performance.
Kurt Busch($8,500): Kurt Busch is another savvy veteran like Denny Hamlin who knows each track well with his extensive racing experience. He has won three times at Pocono, including last year’s June race. In this year’s June race, he fought to a fourth place finish. At a price at $8,500, he is a great value as he has Top 5 potential.
Brad Keselowski($9,100): Arguably, its hard to say that Keselowski can be a sleeper but I think he is under-priced at $9,100. He finished 5th in the June Pocono race and has won this race back in 2011. In his last four starts at Pocono, he finished in the Top 5. Even with a mediocre car last week, Keselowski and his team found a way to finish 2nd place, battling eventual race winner Kasey Kahne.