Fantasy Preview: 400

July 30, 2014 No Comments

kasey-kahne-brad-keselowski-nascar-poconos-400-practice-850x560Brian Wiggins, Senior Writer

For the second and final time this season, NASCAR returns to the Pocono Raceway for this weekend’s 400.

Back in June, it was a showdown between 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Dale Eanhardt Jr. with the No.88 Chevrolet taking the checkered flag for the second time in 2014 and for the first time at “The Tricky Triangle”.

That was played out much like a typical Pocono race would be expected to. Long green-flag runs, fuel mileage and a runaway win at the end.

However, you can count on two versions of Pocono every year. The first being like what we saw back in June, and the second being anything but with suspects thought to be front runners falling by the wayside and more strange things along the way.

The August Pocono race also is one of the steps for the race to the Chase. Drivers such as Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart have won at Pocono in the past, but are still seeking their first wins of the season.

It’s very possible that a Chase-bubble driver could score a victory this weekend and stir up the Chase Grid even more.

‘A’ Drivers 

Jeff Gordon: The winner of last weekend’s Brickyard 400, Gordon is easily one of the favorites for this weekend’s race. Gordon is a multi-time Pocono winner with his most recent triumph coming back in August,2012. Many say that the setups at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway are similar, so it you’re able to run well at Indy, you should do well at Pocono. After last weekend’s performance, how can you not pick Gordon?

Kasey Kahne: Another driver that was strong last weekend at Indy, Kahne is the defending winner of this race. In fact, this race one year ago was the last time Kahne drove the No.5 into victory lane. If he wants to make his way into the Chase, Kahne is going to either need a win or a string of top-five finishes. No better place to start that than this weekend at Pocono.

‘B’ Drivers: 

Brad Keselowski: This might be the easy pick since he finished the last time the series visited Pocono, but the No.2 Ford has been one of the sternest cars on the circuit in the past month. Thus far in 2014, he has two wins on flat tracks and is riding a wave of momentum by winning two of the last four races. You might be getting close to wanting to start saving Keselowski for the Chase, but, if you have one place left to start him, do it this weekend.

Tony Stewart: As I stated above, Stewart needs a win. He’s too far back in points to really make a realistic charge without a serious performance uptick in the next six weeks. The best way the No.14 is getting into the Chase is a win and Pocono is a great track for Stewart to notch that first win of the season. His car was supposed to be strong last week at Indy, however being stuck in traffic much of the day, he never had a chance to contend.

Brian Vickers: Much like Kahne and Stewart, Vickers needs a win to make the Chase. For a while, it was looking as though Vickers was going to point his way into the Chase. Now, it’s obvious that the No.55 needs to make it to victory lane. Vickers is a strong flat-track driver with a win at New Hampshire last year and a runner-up finish at Pocono back in 2005. If you’re looking for a surprise winner, Vickers may be it.

Denny Hamlin: If Keselowski was easy to pick, Hamlin is downright obvious. He’s known as the modern-day master of Pocono Raceway with four wins at the track in his career. He’s without his crew chief and car chief this weekend due to the penalties from Indianapolis, but Hamlin should still be a contender up at the front this weekend.

‘C’ Drivers

Kyle Larson: He’s the easiest of the ‘C’ drivers to pick, but after the way he ran last weekend at Indianapolis, you better have him on your roster. Larson is knocking hard on the door for his first win. Much like in June, Larson is going to have extra track time as he’s running the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday. The more time on track for Larson the better, especially if he wants to make the Chase.

Danica Patrick: Until rear end issues ended her Brickyard 400 chances early, Patrick was looking like she was going to bring home a solid finish. Over the past couple months, the No.10 has been improving. Her best chance to make the Chase was Daytona, where she didn’t capitalize. But, Pocono is a strange place where strange things can happen. I’m not saying Danica will win on Sunday. But, she’s certainly closer than she was at this time than she was last year.

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