Our long national nightmare is over. Kevin Harvick has a win. It took until the 20th race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, but it is in the books. We’ll see if he can ride that momentum into Pocono Raceway for this weekend’s Gander RV 400. Not to be confused with the Gander RV 400 at Dover earlier this season, this is the MENCS’s second stop at Pocono and last for the season.
We’ll be looking at the odds and break this one down for you. Those odds will be on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and below the comment box for mobile viewers as we head on up to Long Pond, PA.
Tricky Triangle Times Two
The 14th race of the regular season was at Pocono Raceway back on June 2. The win in that race went to Kyle Busch, who had never won the first race at Pocono in his career. He’s won this July race back-to-back years, so he’s looking to make some history this weekend. The last driver to pull off the Pocono sweep was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2014. The last driver prior to Junior was Jimmie Johnson all the way back in 2004. That’s when both races were 500 miles. That changed in 2012.
Busch is in search of his fourth career win at Pocono. Jeff Gordon holds the all-time record with six, as he had four in the June race and two in the July/August race.
The other two-time winners in this race among active drivers are Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin, but neither has won this race since 2009. Hamlin has four career wins here, but none since 2010.
Joey Logano leads by just three points over Kyle Busch, who finished eighth last week, but led the most laps and won the first stage. With the win, Kevin Harvick moved to within nine points of 700, which means he is only 89 points behind Busch. Denny Hamlin was second and sits in fourth with 669 points. Brad Keselowski is fifth with 663 points.
Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, and Chase Elliott all have wins, so the top eight drivers in points have taken a checkered flag. Aric Almirola has not and sits in ninth place. Alex Bowman has and he is 10th. Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, and Clint Bowyer rounds out the playoff participants if the cut-off was before this race. That means that Jimmie Johnson would be out. He’s finished 30th the last two weeks. He trails Bowyer by 17 points and Newman by 21 points.
Justin Haley is the only driver outside the top 10 with a win. He won the rain-shortened summer race at Daytona.
William Byron had the pole for the Pocono 400 earlier this year. The pole winners have been a real hodgepodge of drivers this season. Austin Dillon has had three pole positions. Guys like Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola have had the pole. But, Byron had the best qualifying times here last time out. It was his second straight pole position and third of the year.
It hasn’t mattered much at all. Only once has the pole sitter won the race and that was Joey Logano at Michigan, as he basically swept everything. That is one of the big differences between NASCAR and say F1 or IndyCar. That will move the odds on those open-wheel racing circuits. That isn’t the case here.
Pole sitters have only led the most laps four times out of 20 races. Qualifying matters in the sense that you want to pay attention to penalties, but the starting grid doesn’t appear to be a huge deal.
Party at Pocono
As mentioned, Kyle Busch won the June race. Keselowski was second, with Erik Jones third, Elliott fourth, and Bowyer fifth. Busch is +275 to repeat and pull that Pocono sweep. Keselowski, Truex, and Harvick are all +550. After that, Hamlin is +1100. Then Logano is +1540. There are some balloon prices here and you might really want to look at some of the longer shots.
Busch is a back-to-back winner here, but before that, he hadn’t been in the top five in this race since 2011. Truex is a two-time winner at Pocono, but he won twice in June. His best finish in this race is third in 2017 and 2012. Harvick has five career top-five finishes in the June race and seven in this race, but he has never won at Pocono. Among the short prices, though, he’s second on my list now that he’s got that win out of the way. It doesn’t hurt that he’s finished fourth or better in this race in four of the last five years.
Keselowski won this race back in 2011 and has finished in the top-five four additional times. He also has four straight top-five finishes in the June race and five in the last six. Keselowski would be my favorite pick of the short prices because of his consistency here.
Tricks or Treats
There haven’t been as many big-priced winners here as you would expect with a unique track layout. It’s part oval, part road course, so you would think we’d see a lot of wrecks and craziness, but that hasn’t really been the case for the most part.
Still, there are some long shots to consider. Kyle Larson looked to be in line for his first win of 2019 when he won Stage 1 and Stage 2, but that first Pocono race may have been the pinnacle of frustration for him this season. He finished 26th. There are worse 22/1 bets out there than Larson this week.
Erik Jones has finished third twice and fifth once at Pocono in his young career. I’m not sure what, if anything, that means, but he was also second at Pocono in the Xfinity Series race in 2015. Maybe this track just suits him well? At 22/1, a really cheap beer money bet isn’t bad, especially if you want to decide between the two. Jones has typically struggled early and run better at this point in the season and he does have back-to-back third-place finishes.
Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick will be on the card this week. Long shots don’t come in a ton here, but I’ll throw something on Erik Jones to see if he can get over the hump. Since his win at Daytona last season, he does have 13 top-five finishes. He just wrecks a bit too much to be consistent. He’s probably the best long shot here in this one.