Top NASCAR Prop Bets for Sunday’s Pocono 400

Top NASCAR Prop Bets for Sunday’s Pocono 400 article feature image
Credit:

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Denny Hamlin

After the 1.5-mile quad-oval regularity of last week’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, this week we are likely to get a strategy-filled affair at Pocono Raceway. Sometimes called “The Tricky Triangle,” Pocono is a 2.5-mile asphalt flat track that often sees fuel-mileage races.

Pocono features minimal 14-, 8-. and 6-degree banking in the three corners, so passing tends to be difficult. Additionally, the flatness of the track requires drivers to slow down through their turns, which increases the average lap time. Because the track is long — it’s technically a superspeedway — drivers can actually take advantage of the slow-ish speeds by having full pit stops without going down a lap.

 

Because drivers can make four-tire, full-tank stops while still staying on the lead lap, it’s not uncommon for some to make unscheduled stops in an attempt to gain a strategic edge on the field, which makes Pocono races a little more random than those we normally see at non-restrictor plate events.

For this race, here are the main metrics I’m considering:

  • Projected finishing position
  • Starting position
  • Long-run practice time
  • Year-to-date performance
  • Long flat-track history
  • Pocono history

Per usual, I rely on the machine learning statistical models and similarity scores at RotoViz, created by Nick Giffen (RotoDoc).

Here are the three props I’m eyeing for Sunday’s Pocono 400.

Year-to-date performance: 16-16, 9.76% return on investment, +3.12 units

Kyle Busch (+115) Over Kevin Harvick (-145)

Harvick has won a circuit-high five races this year, but Busch actually has the best 2018 marks of any driver with a 7.9 finishing position, 114.7 driver rating, 7.3 average running position, and 81.5% quality pass rate. While Harvick has six top-three finishes this year, Busch amazingly has eight.

The last time Harvick didn’t finish inside the top 10 at Pocono was 2015, and he’s had top-eight finishes at the comparable Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2014, but Busch more than holds his own at the long flat tracks: Last year he won the second Pocono race, and for each of the two years before that he won at Indy. Since NASCAR switched to the Gen-6 car in 2013, Busch has been better than every other driver at long flat tracks in driver rating (116.3), running position (6.4), quality pass percentage (78.0), laps led percentage (21.7), and fastest laps led percentage (11.2).

Denny Hamlin (+125) Over Kyle Larson (-155)

In final practice Larson was overwhelmingly faster than Hamlin with his single- and 10-lap times (6 and 2 vs. 12 and 8), and he has five straight top-10 finishes in non-restrictor plate races, but Hamlin might be the preferable driver. This year, Hamlin has outperformed Larson in every key metric.

  • Finishing position: 9.7 vs. 13.3
  • Driver rating: 97.9 vs. 94.1
  • Running position: 10.6 vs. 12.5
  • Quality pass percentage: 70.1 vs. 54.0

Additionally, Hamlin has been better at long flat tracks in the Gen-6 era.

  • Finishing position: 10.5 vs. 13.5
  • Driver rating: 99.0 vs. 91.8
  • Running position: 10.3 vs. 12.5
  • Quality pass percentage: 59.5 vs. 55.8

In the RotoViz model, Hamlin has the fourth-highest projected finish at 8.45. Larson is outside of the top eight with a 9.53.

Alex Bowman (+115) Over Jamie McMurray (-145)

In the Gen-6 era McMurray has three top-10 finishes at Pocono, whereas Bowman has never placed in the top 24 at any long flat track. This year, though, Bowman might actually have the edge. In 2014-15 he had the subpar equipment of BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing, and in 2016-17 he raced in the Cup Series only as a fill-in, but now he has much better gear with Hendrick Motorsports.

This year, Bowman has simply been a better driver than McMurray.

  • Finishing position: 15.0 vs. 20.2
  • Driver rating: 77.1 vs. 69.2
  • Running position: 16.4 vs. 17.8
  • Quality pass percentage: 38.6 vs. 31.7
  • Laps led percentage: 2.1 vs. 0.0
  • Fastest laps led percentage: 2.0 vs. 0.7

McMurray has the superior starting position (3 vs. 14), but Bowman had the better single- and 10-lap speed in final practice (4 and 10 vs. 10 and 11). McMurray’s ceiling projection in the RotoViz sim scores is 9.0; Bowman’s, 5.1.