For the second and final time of the 2012 season, the Sprint Cup Series heads north to the Poconos for 400 miles on the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. The "Tricky Triangle" shortened both of its races from 500 miles to 400 this year, but the story remains the same in Victory Lane—there's a good chance that Joe Gibbs Racing will be there.
Since 2001, JGR cars have scored seven Pocono wins, four of which belong to Denny Hamlin. The most recent came in June, when Joey Logano passed Mark Martin to break into victory lane for the first time in nearly three years in spite of an uncertain future with the team. There's still a good chance that Gibbs will replace Logano with Matt Kenseth in 2013, but the win spurred Logano's run into Chase for the Sprint Cup contention and makes him one of the most attractive free agents in the sport.
Last year's August race winner was Brad Keselowski, and at ninth in points, he's shown the ability to run up front and do it again. After injuring his ankle in a road course testing accident, Keselowski used last August, particularly his Pocono win, to propel himself into Chase position and prove himself a title contender. Keselowski has three wins thus far this season, tied for most in the series.
Pocono should prove an interesting battle ground for the top two drivers in points, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. attempts to extend his 14 point lead over Kenseth. Neither driver has ever won at Pocono, and the statistics show somewhat of a wash between them; in 25 starts apiece, Earnhardt Jr. has five top five finishes to Kenseth's three, but Kenseth's average finish of 13.9 beats Earnhardt Jr.'s 16.7.
But if you're looking at Pocono solely based on average finish, your pick for the weekend is simple: Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin may have four wins, but Johnson's average finish of 8.8 is best of all active drivers at the triangular racetrack. Coming off of his record-tying fourth Brickyard 400 win last weekend, it shouldn't be a surprise if Johnson starts a little winning streak before the start of the Chase.