LONG POND, Pa. — Kevin Harvick is on the pole for the Gander RV 400 on Sunday at Pocono Raceway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Does the 2014 champion — who has yet to win at Pocono — merit a spot in your Fantasy Live lineup? We’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration. Remember that inspection Sunday morning made the starting lineup official.
RJ Kraft’s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Pocono:
1. Joey Logano
2. Aric Almirola
3. Erik Jones
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Daniel Suarez
Garage: William Byron
UPDATE: Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Johnson’s No. 48 and Austin Dillon’s No. 3 were among nine cars that failed pre-race inspection.
Analysis: Two of my original lineup — Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson — pulled out backup cars before opening practice was finished on Saturday. With both of those drivers going to the rear, I needed to make some changes.
Logano, Jones and Byron stay in the lineup. The reigning series champion has shown speed this weekend, and I wanted to have one Penske car in the lineup. Jones has a solid history at Pocono with three top fives in five starts. Byron topped the 10-lap board and while he is going to the rear, remember this: He scored stage points from starting at the back at New Hampshire and finished sixth in this race last summer after starting 38th.
Stage points are part of what drove me to the Almirola play. He’s in the best spot among drivers without a win, but the 10 camp showed at New Hampshire they are willing to play for a big points day over the race win. I have been reluctant to trust Suarez in my lineup over the past two months, but I like the qualifying spot (seventh) and the fact that he should be all-in on scoring stage points. Plus, he has a favorable history at Pocono. I am putting Truex in my lineup because I like the lap times he had in practice and I have the uses to take the plunge. Denny Hamlin was also a consideration for me, but I’d prefer to have one extra driver without a win that could be a heavy hitter for stage points. Hamlin will factor into one of my bonus picks though. I wanted to use Brad Keselowski here based on his Pocono record, but the 2 team seemed really off in practice. Would it surprise me if they grabbed a top 10? No, but I want top fives when I use the 2012 champion.
For the bonus picks, I am taking Jones to win Stage 1, Hamlin in Stage 2 and Harvick for the race win.
Each week in this space, we’ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. O/U 3.5 drivers will score 10.5 stage points. In the June race, four drivers scored over 10.5 stage points — two drivers that have yet to win and two that already had wins on the season. With four winless drivers slated to start in the top 10, I expect those drivers to be on the hunt for stage points so I am taking the OVER on this one.
2. Kurt Busch leads all active drivers with 14 top-five finishes at Pocono. Does he finish in the top five on Sunday? Busch had the 12th-best 10-lap average in final practice, but he was second in final practice on the single-lap board. His last top five at Pocono came in the spring race in 2017. Throw in that his lone top five in the past month was the Kentucky win and I believe the trends say he will NOT finish in the top five.