NASCAR at Pocono 2014: Latest NASCAR Team News, Top Drivers and More

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IJune 4, 2014

After weeks of wondering when Jimmie Johnson would finally win a race, NASCAR fans are now wondering when he'll lose.

The 2013 Sprint Cup champion nailed down his second straight win Sunday and now leads the Chase grid following the FedEx 400. NASCAR provides a look at the final statistics from Johnson's win at the Monster Mile:

While Matt Kenseth currently leads the overall points standings with 463 points through the first 13 races, JJ's two victories help him sit at the top of the Chase grid. Johnson's teammate, Jeff Gordon, has one win and sits second behind Kenseth with 461 points in the regular-season points standings.

Along with Kenseth, multiple drivers not currently in the Chase have hopes of winning their first race. Names like rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon are on the cusp of securing a spot, but they still need a win to solidify their stellar seasons thus far.

Here's a look at the latest team news, drivers to watch and the full schedule for the Pocono 400.


FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks Information

Site: Dover International Speedway, Dover, Delaware

Date: Sunday, June 8

Start Time: 1 p.m. ET


Radio: MRN


Latest Team News

As sick as some NASCAR fans probably are of hearing about Hendrick Motorsports' success, the organization is firmly at the top of the totem pole once again. Johnson's two consecutive wins were preceded by Gordon's first victory of the year at Kansas and marked the team's fourth win of the season. Hendrick Motorsports' official Twitter account noted the triumph for Johnson:

Johnson is enjoying a resurgence after a baffling start without a win through 11 races, but his HMS team is also enjoying a great season thus far. The aforementioned four wins are one thing, but three drivers have a spot essentially secured in the Chase and are in the top five of the points standings.

The dominance of Hendrick doesn't just end with those three drivers, as Larry McReynolds of notes:

I think we also have to say that collectively Hendrick Motorsports as a whole has stepped their game up. At one point Sunday you had three of the four Hendrick drivers in the top five, and all four of them were in the top seven or eight. 

... You also have to look at the strength of the Hendrick engine program as they have now won the last four races we've run. Jeff Gordon won Kansas. Jamie McMurray won the All-Star Race with a Hendrick engine under the hood. Then, naturally, Jimmie has won the last two races.

While other organizations like Penske, Joe Gibbs and Stewart-Haas have proven to have drivers worthy of contending for a championship this season, Hendrick has yet again shown it will be difficult to knock off the throne.

With drivers like Johnson and Gordon, who have 11 championships between them, near the top, making a case for either to win it all seems easy.


Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson

Look, until we reach a track where Johnson hasn't dominated, he's going to remain in the "drivers to watch" section.

Outside of Gordon and Denny Hamlin, Johnson has the most wins at Pocono. With his 109.3 driver rating at the Tricky Triangle, JJ is tops out of all drivers and has 10 top-five results in just 24 starts.

Richard Allen of gives his pick for the Pocono race:

It appears nearly everyone has forgotten about Johnson's slow start and sees him once again as the most dominant force in NASCAR. Heading to Pocono, another track that he's blistered his competition at during his career, things don't appear to be getting any easier for Sprint Cup drivers.

While many teams fear the difficult track, Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, spoke about his optimism heading into Pocono, courtesy of Scott Walsh of The Times-Tribune:

When we do finally start to hit our stride, all those things that everybody worked on starts to culminate, and we can get out there and really start to make things happen.

I’m definitely looking forward to getting to Pocono. I’ve said it time and again, Pocono is one of my favorite race tracks. It is such a fun track from a crew chief standpoint because you have to work so many different angles. We’re really looking forward to getting there next weekend and just seeing if we can get another solid finish.

Though it may not be what some NASCAR fans want to see, Johnson is once again on a hot streak heading into the summer. And until someone overtakes him as the current king of NASCAR, don't expect talks of another championship to go away anytime soon.


Denny Hamlin

One of the very few drivers who's experienced more recent success at Pocono than Johnson has is Denny Hamlin.

A four-time winner at the superspeedway, Hamlin hasn't won there since 2010 but still has two top-fives in that span. With 10 top-10 results in just 16 starts at the track, it's absurd to think he won't experience similar results with a reliable car.

Hamlin was also running a strong race at Dover before a speeding penalty threw him off the pace, as Jeff Gluck of USA Today notes:

The No. 11 machine still came away with a top-five, but it might have contended for a win if not for the unfortunate penalty.

Though Hamlin has been in two accidents in his last three starts at Pocono, he is still a dominant force on the track when he has a fast car. Following a good showing at the Monster Mile, look for him to be near the front of the pack at the Tricky Triangle.


Kasey Kahne

Enough with the Hendrick talk already, right? Wrong. After struggling to start the year, Kasey Kahne has slowly climbed his way back into the top 20 in points and has hopes of joining his three superstar teammates in the Chase.

Kahne has already posted four top-10s this season and notched a third-place finish at Kansas just a few races ago. Now, the 34-year-old heads to the track where he posted his last win.

Currently in a 28-race winless drought, Kahne will be looking to run up near the front with hopes of ending that streak at Pocono on Sunday.

Not to rub in the fact that Hendrick is dominant at this course, but the lone drivers left off this list are Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon, who have a combined 40 top-10 finishes in Pennsylvania. If all goes well for the organization, all four of its drivers might be competing for top-fives at Pocono.


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