This weekend, NASCAR will go back to back in the Poconos with a pair of points races on, “The Tricky Triangle,” otherwise known as the Pocono Raceway. Saturday, drivers will compete in the Organic 325. These 130 laps will serve as the opening to the Cup Series participation on the track. Sunday, they will line up again for the Explore The Pocono Mountains 350 race. This time, they will run 10 additional laps before completing their second points race in as many days. Starting positions for the first race have once again been predetermined. For race number two, they will be based on how they finished the day before.
It will mark the second doubleheader track offering at Pocono. Last season Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin split the checkered flags from the weekend. Both find themselves rolling out of the Top 10 at the green flag. Two days of hard driving around a track with a unique personality is the perfect excuse to jump into a Monkey Knife Fight contest. This article will cover the Saturday slate to get you started.
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Here are some of my favorite plays from this week’s contests. Scoring in these contests is based on finishing positions inside the Top 20 with 20 points awarded to first place and one less point thereafter. An additional 0.1 points are tacked on for each lap led. Below are some picks to help you get started in your MKF contests.
More Or Less (3/4)
Denny Hamlin More Than 18.5 Fantasy Points
To say the FedEx team is frustrated with how their season has taken shape would be an understatement. The #11 Camry ripped off an impressive string of eight Top 4 finishes in the first nine races of the season. They were close many times over, but could not get the win. Since Hamlin’s 32nd-place outing at Talladega, he’s only managed four Top 10 finishes in his last seven outings. None of those were better than fifth place. He currently leads the points standings but is the only driver inside the Top 5 without at least one win.
Of course, there is no better cure for a slump than visiting a track on which you have won two of the last three races. In the Fall of 2019, Hamlin started 9th and went on to the win, leading 32 laps along the way. In race two of the initial offering of the Pocono doubleheader, the #11 powered through a rain delay to claim the victory. The win represented his sixth checkered flag on the track. It makes him the winningest active driver in the field for Saturday’s race. Considering the race he did not win of the last three was a second-place finish, there is enough optimism that he will get it done this weekend and make this prop profitable.
William Byron Less Than 17.5 Fantasy Points
Admittedly, it’s tough to bet against any of the Hendrick cars as of late. Kyle Larson’s collection of checkered flags is growing exponentially. Not to mention, the rest of the team is enjoying a high level of success as well. Included in that mix is William Byron. It’s easier to count the number of times he’s not finished inside the Top-10 this season than it is the times he has. Four times this season he’s placed fourth place or better. There seems to be no end to the impressive run for the #24 car this season. As such, this prop should be a lock, right? That may not be the case this weekend.
Pocono is unlike any other track on the circuit and offers vastly different challenges. So far, Byron has been unable to hit this mark in his six career starts here. He has logged a fourth-place finish which would have been good for the first 17 points. Unfortunately, he failed to lead any laps in that run and would not have had the final 0.6 points to put him over the top. He’ll roll off the grid from the second position on Saturday, but there are several strong drivers on this track surrounding him. While he’ll likely finish the race strong, given his history on the “Tricky Triangle,” it’s safe to bet against him hitting this prop.
Kevin Harvick More Fantasy Points Then Martin Truex Jr. (+1.5)
By the time NASCAR traveled to the Poconos in 2020, Kevin Harvick already had two wins under his belt. He was one of the most dominant drivers on the track and would continue to be well after leaving Pennsylvania. This season, the #4 car is only one of two drivers inside the Top 10 in points without a win. He’s still managed to stay in the mix, with 11 Top 10 finishes, which works well for this prop. In 11 of the last 13 races here, he’s been one of the best 10 cars at the finish line. This includes his only checkered flag from this track last season. On Saturday, he’ll take the green flag from the third spot. It should give him a strong opportunity to lead some laps early, something he’s done 209 times in the last six races. Those will serve as solid buffer points for this head-to-head matchup.
As for Martin Truex Jr., his season has cooled off considerably. After a hot start with three wins sprinkled in, he’s only managed a single finish better than 19th place. His third-place showing at Sonoma was the high point in that span. Sadly, he could not maintain that momentum heading into Nashville. This does not bode well for him again this week, and he’s certainly not looking good to beat his competition for this prop. Looking back on his three straight Top 10 finishes at Pocono might make you reconsider this bet. That said, in only one of those instances did Truex Jr. do enough to win this matchup. The struggle is real for the #19 car and having to start from the 15th position on Saturday will not do much to help.
Chase Elliott More Fantasy Points Than Brad Keselowski (+2.5)
One of the recipients of the HMS takeover of NASCAR is Chase Elliott. The Napa Camaro ripped off a five-race stretch of finishes inside the Top 3, including the All-Star Race, heading into Nashville. He broke that streak last week struggling late to wind up in 13th place at the finish line. His luck got worse as he failed to properly recognize his lug nuts loosening in the closing laps. That mistake cost him his finishing position. Loose lug nuts at the end of the race cause a driver to be disqualified and awards them a last-place finish. Because of that, he will find himself having to pass a lot of drivers on Saturday from his 29th place starting position. Luckily, Elliott has done just that on two occasions in his Cup career at Pocono. Twice he’s started in 25th place. Both of them resulted in a Top 10 finish. Given the strength of the Hendrick cars and his own ability, he is a lock to find the front of the pack by the end of the day.
While Elliott has enjoyed a steady, successful season, Brad Keselowski hasn’t had the same 2021 experience. For every Top 10 finish he’s logged, he’s finished 15th or worse within a race or two of each other. Last week in Nashville, he fought unruly track conditions and an off car all day. He ended the night settling for a 23rd place finish. His luck has taken a southward drop since his win at Talladega. It doesn’t seem to be improving either. He does have nine finishes inside the Top 10 out of the last eleven races, which is solid. That said, he’ll have his hands full trying to get back there from his 18th place starting position and his recent run of hard times.