Jimmie Johnson was already sitting atop the driver rankings for Pocono heading into the weekend, and Mother Nature helped ensure he remains there in the final rankings. Qualifying for Sunday's race was rained out, putting Johnson on the pole at a track where clean air is crucial and where 10 of the last 11 winners have started in the top 15. Now, the two-time Pocono winner is in prime position to improve on his series-leading 9.0 average finish at the track. Throw in the facts that Johnson topped the charts in the first practice Saturday and has finished outside the top 15 just once in 22 Pocono starts, and fantasy owners are going to be hard-pressed to find a safer option this weekend.
Thanks to Jared, Mother Nature
Another driver who benefited from the rain was Carl Edwards. In fact, Edwards climbs to the No. 2 spot in the final rankings thanks in part to being awarded a spot on the front row for the start of Sunday's race. Of course, it also helps that Edwards is a two-time winner at Pocono and has finished 12th or better in five of his last six starts at the track, including three straight. Not to mention the fact that he posted the second-fastest time in Saturday's first practice session. Don't be surprised if Edwards runs near the front most of the afternoon en route to a solid finish.
Add Kyle Busch to the list of drivers who was smiling when the clouds rolled in Friday. He has run hot and cold at Pocono throughout his career, but he does have three finishes of third or better in his last six starts. With the rain awarding him a top-10 starting spot, Busch should be able to stay out of the heavy traffic that has given him trouble in the past. Throw in the top-10 practice speeds, and Busch moves back into the top 10 in the final rankings. Pocono still isn't his strongest track, but the potential reward is always high with Busch, especially with him starting near the front.
On the flip side, Friday's bad weather probably wasn't what Tony Stewart wanted to see, but "Smoke" still lands in the top 10 of the final rankings. Even though he will start 19th Sunday, he practiced in the top 10 Saturday, and history says he will get to the front. Stewart is a two-time Pocono winner, and he has finished 11th or better in eight of his last nine starts at the track. During the stretch, he has tallied six top-five finishes, including five finishes of third or better. It was a painfully slow start for Stewart in 2013, but he did win last weekend at Dover, and he could continue to make amends with fantasy owners this weekend at one of his best tracks.
The rain likely cost Juan Pablo Montoya some track position, as well, but fantasy owners should still consider him a potential sleeper option this weekend. He ends up in the top in the top 15 in the final rankings despite the poor starting spot, but there are plenty of other reasons to like his chances. Montoya has been running well lately and has picked up all three of his top-10s this year in the last five races. He also ranked in the top 10 in the first practice Saturday and has four top-10s in his last eight starts at Pocono. Don't forget that he nearly won last weekend at Dover, and he could sneak into the top 10 again Sunday.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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