10 Best and Worst Lessons We Learned at the Pocono 400
The anomaly track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit was repaved, making it treacherously fast and a bit of new game for drivers. The track was forgiving for most participants, but schooled others.
On a track that is a little like Indianapolis Speedway, a bit like a road course and fast as a superspeedway, setups become intriguing. The teams that hit on the right one became contenders.
After several days of testing, NASCAR, drivers and teams were comfortable with the speeds and tossed thoughts of a restrictor plate, despite speeds of 212-plus mph.
Grip level is high on a new surface, tires don't fall off and the high speeds use more fuel. Strategy was part of the plan that could make the critical difference in points should it be wrong.
With the lack of racing grooves, it was an E-ticket ride heading into Turn 1, but problems resulted coming off the tunnel turn and the final third turn as well.
This slideshow will highlight some of the lessons we learned at the new and improved Pocono Raceway during the Pocono 400.
Speeding in a Race Can Be Bad
Speeding on pit road took a record toll with 14 penalties with 12 different drivers by lap 75. The problem appeared to be in the last segment of pit road heading back to the track.
There were 22 speeding penalties with 13 different drivers during the race.
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Kobalt Tools No. 48, was among those speeding, and penalized with a stop-and-go, only to be penalized again for speeding when coming back out of pit road.
Drivers insisted they were driving the proper speed and RPMs, but NASCAR thought otherwise and handed out an information sheet to each pit box regarding the timing lines.
The lines were different after the repave of the pit area, but ultimately it was the job of the teams to verify the timing lines.
Joey Logano Finishes Where He Started
Joey Logano, driver of the Home Depot No. 20, started on the pole and won the race. It has been 31 races since a winner started on the pole.
Logano needed to prove his worth at Joe Gibbs Racing with this being a contract year. Under the guidance of a rookie Cup crew chief, Jason Ratcliffe, he moved Mark Martin out of the way to go for the win.
Logano led a lot of laps and was emotional in Victory Lane after the race. It is his second Cup win, but the first one was during a rain-shortened race in June 2009.
This was like a first real win for him in the No. 20. He silenced many doubters with his performance at Pocono.
Greg Biffle Loses the Lead
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, had led the point standings for 11 straight weeks heading to Pocono.
Shortly after the midpoint of the race, Biffle's car dropped a cylinder. He unofficially finished 24th and dropped to third in the points, 16 markers behind the leader, Matt Kenseth.
Kyle Busch Finishes in Garage
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, suffered the second engine failure in the last two races.
At Dover, he completed 202 laps out of 400 and at Pocono, he completed 76 of 160 laps before pulling into the garage. He finished in 30th position.
Busch does have one win this season, but he dropped three slots to 12th in the standings after the Pocono 400.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Maintains Performance
Earnhardt led 36 laps in the Pocono 400. Pit strategy was working well until the final laps of the race. The team only took left side tires on lap 67.
It was fuel mileage that bit the team, when under caution, the No. 88 came down pit road to top off the gas for fear they would come up short.
Earnhardt returned to the track in 16th position and finished eighth. He is currently second in the point standings, 10 markers out of the lead.
It Wasn't Turn 1
The repave of the Pocono track was expected to cause chaos as drivers came off the long frontstretch and into the first turn.
Other than Denny Hamlin going pretty heavy into the turn at the start of the race, and making contact with Carl Edwards, there was not much action other than hard racing at high speeds.
It was the third turn that had most of the incidents. Landon Cassill lost control and triggered an incident on the second lap that took the side off of Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 56 and damaged A.J. Allmendinger's No. 22.
Allmendinger later went for a wild ride and took a hard hit that appeared to be one of his hardest yet. He was moving slowly exiting the car and was bent over as if to get his breath.
The Penske driver was taken to the infield care unit and was fine, but he will likely be sore.
Second Place Again for Mark Martin
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, started on the outside of the front row.
Martin was a contender for the win much of the race and led six laps.
In the end, he finished second for the seventh time at Pocono. Perhaps it just isn't in the cards for him to win at this track.
David Reutimann Did What?
It was David Reutimann who was the choice to fill the seat in the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing that was vacated by Kurt Busch because of a NASCAR penalty.
Reutimann gets the award for the most speeding penalties, having been caught three times during the Pocono 400.
He qualified 25th and finished in the 21st position on the lead lap.
The question remains as to who will be behind the wheel of the No. 51 in Michigan. Busch and his team owner, James Finch, will be meeting Tuesday to hash things out.
The Burger King Car Is Well Done Again
For the second week in a row, Landon Cassill's No. 83 Burger King Toyota looked much the same at the end of the race. He has gone for spins that not only heavily damaged his car, but others as well.
BK Racing is hardly a high-dollar team, and it is a blow to the team with damage like this.
At Dover, Tony Stewart made contact with Cassill and triggered a 13-car wreck.
Can Jeff Gordon Climb out of the Hole?
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, had a fast car once again in the Pocono 400.
Gordon started in the 12th slot and finished 19th. He slipped one slot in the point standings to 22nd, 187 markers out of the lead.
There are only 12 races until the start of the Chase. Gordon will need two wins to even have a chance at the wild-card slot. Could it be, the four-time Cup champion will miss the Chase?
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