On Sunday, Jimmie Johnson will be looking for his third straight win and to potentially climb into the No. 1 spot in the Sprint Cup standings.
After wins at Charlotte and last week at Dover, Johnson is fourth in the standings, just 27 points behind new leader Matt Kenseth. When the six-time champion is gaining, the leader can't be too relaxed.
Will Johnson keep his streak going, or will another driver step up to take the checkered flag at Pocono Raceway?
Denny Hamlin has thrown down the gauntlet with a record-setting performance during the final qualifying run. His 181.415 mph speed made him look like the favorite.
Here's the information you need to watch or listen to the race.
Where: Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday, June 8 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TNTDrama.com
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Here's a look at the lineup, per NASCAR.com.
|Starting Position||Driver||Car No.|
|8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
|17||Martin Truex Jr.||78|
|28||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||17|
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Just pencil this name in for every race through the rest of the NASCAR season as a driver to watch.
Johnson did show himself to be human during the qualifying runs. He struggled during the second turn and took all the blame for the disappointing time and subsequent grid position.
Per Tom Jensen of Fox Sports, Johnson said:
The driver blew Turn 2. I just got too greedy down in (Turn) 2 and lost the nose in corner exit. I knew it killed the lap. Sure enough when I came back around it was only good enough for 20th. I feel bad for my guys, but this one is one me.
Though things don't look good for Johnson's chances of winning Sunday, you can never count him out. Who knows what happens in qualifying if he doesn't make the error on the second turn. We could be talking about him starting from the pole.
As it stands, with the 20th spot on the grid and because of how hard it is to pass on this race track, Johnson will be an underdog—at least for one race.
Despite the fact that he's still searching for his first win of the season, Kenseth overtook Jeff Gordon for the points lead in the standings last week.
His lead is a mere two points, so in order to maintain the advantage, he'll need a strong performance. With an emphasis now placed on wins in determining qualification for the Chase, Kenseth desperately wants to grab a checkered flag.
Per Mike Hembree of USA Today, Kenseth said:
You'd rather have a win. Being in the top 30 in points (a requirement for playoff qualification) really shouldn't be a problem, so, of course, you'd rather have a win at this time of year than be the points leader.
Things look even worse for Kenseth than they do for Johnson. He was just 26th in qualifying and had showings outside the top 20 on this track last year.
After capturing the pole position, Hamlin has to be the man on every driver's mind. He's captured the pole two other times at Pocono Raceway and won both of those races (2006).
B/R's Bob Margolis kept it simple when he talked about what Hamlin needs to do to win. Margolis said: "All the four-time Pocono winner needs to do is deliver 395 solid miles, and then drive five more like his hair is on fire."
Last season, Hamlin crashed early in one of the races at Pocono and finished 43rd in the other. If he is going to put last year's disastrous 2013 run behind him, he'll need to follow Margolis' advice—so to speak.