Pocono Preview: NASCAR Happenings On and Off the Track
In just a few more days, race teams and fans alike will head to Long Pond, PA for the NASCAR race weekend, culminating in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. Haulers will pull into the tunnel and set up shop in the garage area.
Fans will maneuver their RVs into their preferred spots, reacquainting themselves with friends and with the new features at the track. They will set up their grills and chairs, settling in for a weekend of enjoying the nation's most popular sport.
So, what can the drivers, teams, and fans expect at this weekend's race? Here are some Pocono previews from right outside the tunnel turn.
Pocono Raceway will continue to refine the Chase racers.
This is the fifth race in the 10 races leading up to the cutoff for Chase contention. Since the last Pocono race, Kyle Busch, David Reutimann, and Jeff Burton have fallen out of the top 12 Chase contenders.
Drivers who have wormed their way into the Chase since the last Pocono race are Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Eight of the 16 drivers with a chance at the Chase have won at Pocono Raceway. The most wins, four in fact, are held by the driver currently in the third spot in the Chase, Jeff Gordon.
Five drivers in Chase contention have two wins each. This prestigious list includes Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.
Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman have one win a piece at Pocono Raceway.
Pocono Raceway may be the site of an historic "super" sweep.
Several drivers have swept both Pocono races. Those drivers include the likes of Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, Tm Richmond, Bobby Labonte, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.
But there has never been a "super" sweep, whereby the winner has not only been a driver but also a team owner. Tony Stewart has the opportunity this weekend to "super" sweep his way right through Pocono Raceway in his No. 14 Old Spice Swagger Chevrolet.
Pocono Raceway will continue to confuse even the best NASCAR drivers.
Many of the Cup Series' best drivers find Pocono to be one of their worst nightmares. Count Kyle Busch in that particular camp.
Busch has finished outside the top 20 in the last three Pocono races. In his nine-race career, Busch's driver rating is 78.5, making Pocono Busch's third worst track after Homestead and Kansas.
Even Denny Hamlin, who won at Pocono in his first two starts at the track in 2006, has recently struggled at the Tricky Triangle. His last two races left him finishing in the 23rd and the 38th positions respectively.
Pocono Raceway will send only one car home.
The car count for this weekend's Cup race is a bit on the light side. There are currently only 44 Cup teams on the preliminary entry list.
With that short of a field, just one car will not make the race. Contenders for that ignominious honor are Sterling Marlin, Patrick Carpentier, Tony Raines, Mike Wallace, Dave Blaney, David Gilliland, Derrike Cope, Scott Speed and Joe Nemechek.
Pocono Raceway has garnered some good sponsorship news, in spite of the struggling economy.
JTG Daughtery Racing announced that they have secured sponsorship with iRacing for the No. 47 car driven by Marcos Ambrose. iRacing, a motorsport simulation company, is sponsoring the team for a one race deal.
iRacing is using their race sponsorship to introduce their company and team to Marcos's homeland Australia and New Zealand.
"This seemed like a great way to introduce ourselves to the more than 80,000 NASCAR fans who will attend the race in person and the several million more who will be watching on ESPN," said Steve Myers, iRacing's Executive Director.
Pocono Raceway will mix racing and bluegrass music for the fans.
Pocono Raceway is hosting one of the biggest Bluegrass Music Festivals in the area to add to the fan experience during the race weekend. There will be two days of concerts, Friday, July 31st and Saturday, August 1st.
Dubbed "The Music of the Mountains", the Festival will feature artists like Ricky Scaggs, Steep Canyon Rangers, the Charlie Sizemore Band and SteelDrivers, to name a few.
One of the main features of the Bluegrass Festival is the band Dailey & Vincent. The New York Times recently named them "the most celebrated new bluegrass act of the last 20 years."
Both Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent have been singing bluegrass since the age of three. Even though they have only been together for two years, they have already won accolades including seven International Bluegrass Awards, Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Album of the Year, and Emerging Artist of the Year.
The two day bluegrass music extravaganza is totally free to campers and fans in the infield area of the Raceway. The concert will also be available online, with a special pre-concert event featuring interviews with the NASCAR and ARCA drivers who will be in attendance at the concert.
Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Pocono Raceway CEO, summed it up best. "Two days of top flight bluegrass music, to an already exciting race weekend, provides our fans added value for their entertainment dollar—an outstanding weekend at the track."
Pocono Raceway will also be mixing up some special beverages at the track.
Infield race fans will also find a new addition to the track experience, the BACARDI Bistro. The Bistro will provide beverages, snacks and special food for the race weekend.
One of the specialties to be featured at the BACARDI Bistro is a Greek sandwich by Notis The Gyro King. This sandwich has been voted the best in the Wyoming Valley for the past 15 years.
"We are excited to join with Pocono Raceway in providing infield fans with this upscale hospitality option," said Kevin Glah, Market Manager, Bacardi USA Inc. "The BACARDI Bistro will also complement the Yabutz.com Bluee Grass Concerts to be staged nearby in Pocono's infield on Friday and Saturday evenings."
Pocono Raceway will play ball with the Yankees.
One of NASCAR's Cup drivers, Casey Mears, will be throwing out the first pitch at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game. Mears, driver of the Richard Childress Racing No. 07, will do the honors at the PNC Field in Moosic, PA on Thursday evening, kicking off the race weekend.
Pocono Raceway puts the safety of the fans first.
Pocono Raceway has instituted a new fan assistance program. Anyone in need of any kind of assistance can call the Fan Assistance center at (570) 643-7184, email to email@example.com or text SOS then "your message" to 84444.
Pocono weekend is just around the turn, at least around one of the three turns on this most unique track. Gates open on Friday at 8:00 AM, followed by ARCA practice, the first Cup practice, ARCA qualifying, Cup qualifying, and then the Bluegrass Music Festival.
Saturday features the final Cup practice and Happy Hour, as well as the Pennsylvania 200 ARCA/REMAX Series Race at 1:00 PM. The second day of the music festival will also be held Saturday evening.
On Sunday, the parking lots open bright and early at 5:00 AM, with gates opening at 9:00 am. The Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 race will kick off at 2:00 PM.
For more information about the upcoming race weekend, call 1-800-RACEWAY or visit www.poconoraceway.com.
Photo Credit: Mary Jo Buchanan
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