This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to the Tricky Triangle at Pocono Raceway. Last week Jimmie Johnson dominated the race at Dover. I would not be surprised to see the same thing happen on Sunday in the Pocono 400.
There is one big change taking place this week that all NASCAR fans should know about. This week’s race will be the first race on the TNT instead of Fox. Look for the NASCAR Race Buddy on NASCAR.com.
What to Watch For
New Track Surface: For the first time since 1995, the racetrack at Pocono received a new coat of asphalt. The drivers who dominated in the past will have to figure out the new racetrack. Teams have been testing on the new asphalt this week. The new pavement should make for a face racetrack on Sunday.
Race Distance Change: Last year despite having a broken ankle, Brad Keselowski won the second race at Pocono because of an excellent pit strategy. For the first time in NASCAR history, the race at Pocono will not be 500 miles long. The race has been shortened to 400 miles. Hopefully some other racetracks may follow suit and do the same.
NASCAR and Twitter: A new Twitter experience will give #NASCAR fans a complementary insider’s view of the action as it unfolds on the track and on Twitter. During a race, when fans click on #NASCAR, search for #NASCAR on twitter.com or visit twitter.com/#NASCAR, they will reach a new Twitter experience where they will see the most relevant tweets from their favorite NASCAR drivers, NASCAR families, teams, commentators, celebrities and other racing fans and personalities.
Drivers to Watch
Jimmie Johnson continues to dominate the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In the last month Johnson has won the Sprint All-Star Pit Crew Challenge, the All-Star race, the race at Darlington and last week’s race at Dover. Johnson has a good chance at adding another victory at Pocono.
In his 20 career starts at Pocono, Johnson has won two races, eight top-five finishes, 14 top-10 finishes, won two poles and led 518 laps. Johnson has a series-high 2,194 laps run in the top-15, the second-best driver rating of 107 and the second-fastest green flag speed of 159.230 mph.
Denny Hamlin is the class of the field at Pocono. In his 12 career races at Pocono, Hamlin has four wins, seven top-five finishes; eight top-10 finishes, won two poles and led 639 laps. He has a series best average running position of 8.3, series-best average green flag speed of 159.622 mph, series-high 409 fastest laps run and a series-best driver rating of 118.6.
Jeff Gordon is beginning to reverse the curse of the 2012. For the first three months of the season, Gordon could not find any change in the luck bank. He is getting closer to turning his season around. Sunday could be the day when Gordon returns to victory lane. The No. 24 went to victory lane in this race last season.
Gordon has been good at Pocono. In his 38 career races at Pocono, Gordon has five wins, 17 top-five finishes, 27 top-10 finishes, won two poles and led 957 laps. His average running position of 10.1 is third-best, average green flag speed of 158.996 mph is fourth-best and he has the second-most laps run in the top-15 with 2,063.
Kasey Kahne has been on fire the past month. Now the No. 5 team visits a track where Kahne has had success at in the past.
In his 16 career starts at Pocono, Kahne has one win, three top-five finishes; five top-10 finishes, won two poles and led 150 laps. His 161 fastest laps run are the fifth-best and his 1,186 green flag passes are fifth-best.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a career year in 2012. He has a series-high 10 top-10 finishes so far this season. He should be able to make it No. 11 on Sunday.
In his 24 career starts at Pocono, Earnhardt has five top-five finishes, eight top-10 finishes, won one pole and led 98 laps. In the two races last year at Pocono, Earnhardt finished both races in the top-10.
Ryan Newman continues the hunt to become the ninth driver to reach 50 Coors Light Poles. He has two poles at Pocono, most recently in 2007.
Jeff Gordon looks to become the fifth driver to reach 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top-10 finishes.
David Gilliland will make his 200th NSCS start.
Pocono Race Facts
- First Sprint Cup Race: August 4, 1974, won by Richard Petty
- Last Sprint Cup race: August 7, 2011 won by Jeff Gordon
- Won from the pole: 13 times, last by Tony Stewart in 2009
- Won from top-five starting position: 42 times (62%)
- Won from top-10 starting position: 48 times (71%)
- Won from 21st or worse starting position: four times (6%)
- Fastest Qualifying Speed: 172.533 by Kasey Kahne in 2004
- Wins by active manufactures in last 10 years: Chevy (8), Ford (5), Toyota (2), Dodge (5)
Predicted Race Winner: Jeff Gordon
*Stats courtesy of NASCAR Media Department.
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