The Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA will be the site of the 21st race of the 2010 season. The Sonoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 won’t have the glitz and glamour that the Brickyard 400 had last weekend, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Sunday leaves just five races before the Chase begins and many drivers are starting to feel the pressure of trying to lock in a Chase position. Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the first two drivers who are sitting on the outside looking in and each will look to a track that they’ve never won on before to change their luck.
Drivers like Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson will be looking for another Pocono win to add to their growing total on the season. The two are still tied in bonus points at the moment and each is a strong contender at the tricky triangle. But point leader Kevin Harvick isn’t going to let them out of his sight after coming off a second place finish last week.
Two others coming off strong runs at the Brickyard are winner Jamie McMurray, who will look to continue his climb through the standings with his third win of the year, as well as the third place finisher Greg Biffle. Biffle and his Roush—Fenway teammates will be racing with special inspiration as their team owner, Jack Roush, recovers in a hospital after a plane crash that has resulted in facial surgery.
Last weekend, Biffle was the best of the Fords and RFR’s bright hope of their first win of the season. Sunday’s race will be more of the same as the company continues their season-long fight to the front.
Whichever driver ends the day in victory lane, will do so in the 100th Sprint Cup race held in Pennsylvania. It will be a special day for more than just the driver celebrating.
Will one of our Creatures being celebrating as well? A win was lost last weekend, but they are back at it again. Here’s who they believe will be the first to the checkered flag.
Misan Akuya : Tony Stewart
Until he wins in the regular season I am sticking with Tony Stewart. He just finished fifth at his home track, Indy, and heads to a track similar to Pocono. His success at Indy is also similar to Pocono with two wins, eight top fives, 17 top 10s, 154 laps led, and an average finish of 11.91.
Stewart continues his summer surge and has been the most consistent driver in the last nine races. A win is bound to happen and it could happen at Pocono.
Kyle Brandt: Greg Biffle
I'm going out on a limb and picking Greg Biffle to win on Sunday. It seems like things are starting to turn around for the No. 16 team and last week at Indy proved it. Pocono and Indy are very similar and I believe they will transfer that success over to this weekend .
James Broomhead: Denny Hamlin
What's that? Pocono? End of discussion; Hamlin wins.
Kelly Crandall: Denny Hamlin
It’s Pocono and it’s Denny Hamlin, the two just go together. Hamlin needs a win to get his mojo back and I need a win for bonus points. Sunday is the perfect time to accomplish that.
Billy Fellin: Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has struggled of late, but he dominated at Pocono earlier in the year. I see him doing the same on Sunday.
Christopher Leone: Denny Hamlin
Hamlin’s successes at Pocono are widely known. Here they are anyway: four wins, seven top 10s, an average finish of 8.6 in nine career starts, and tops of all active drivers. Sounds like a pretty obvious pick to me, based on his history.
Kara Martin: Denny Hamlin
He’s the Pocono king!
Dustin Parks: Denny Hamlin
There are not many people that can say they have a track figured out, let alone do so in such a short period of time. But, when it comes to the triangle, Hamlin just has it down.
The stats just speak for themselves. Through nine races, he has four victories and an average finish of eighth. That's mind-boggling. Now, he enters this weekend not only the defending winner, but also the winner of the previous race at Pocono. With Johnson struggling, this is his chance to pounce and get another win heading into the Chase.
He has momentum, and has this track figured out. There's no doubt that Hamlin can get the job done.
Patti Rodisch: Denny Hamlin
Since Hamlin’s last win this season, his numbers have not been all that impressive. Hamlin was looking like the one to beat this season. His best finish since his win at Michigan was eighth and that was at Chicagoland.
This is the perfect weekend for Hamlin to get back to his winning ways and sweep the season races at Pocono. He is more than capable of doing so; with four wins, six top fives and seven top 10s. Bring out the brooms Hamlin fans and get ready for a sweep.
Sal Sigala Jr.: Denny Hamlin
Can Hamlin make it three in a row?
Rob Tiongson: Denny Hamlin
Nobody's made a 2.5 triangular shaped speedway look so easy in recent years than a guy who, prior to his first visit to the track in 2006, only "raced" Pocono on the NASCAR Racing 2003 Season PC game. If he and his No. 11 team are hungry and want to win the Sprint Cup title, a solid victory at this track will speak volumes that Gibbs can beat the Childress and Hendrick bunch.
Alan Wade: Tony Stewart
Smoke has earned an outstanding 17 top-10 finishes in 23 starts at Pocono Raceway, with only two DNFs. However, this year has been a bit of a struggle for the 14 team to find consistency. But I think now is the time for the "Summer Slam" to begin for Stewart, and the tricky triangle is as good a place as any to commence.
Kara Martin (2,812 ) Tony Stewart finished fifth (2 )
Billy Fellin ( 2,760 ) Tony Stewart finished fifth (3 )
Sal Sigala Jr. ( 2,665 ) Jimmie Johnson finished 22nd (2 )
Christopher Leone (2,658 ) Tony Stewart finished fifth (3 )
Dustin Parks (2,562 ) Tony Stewart finished fifth (2 )
James Broomhead ( 2,553 ) Juan Pablo Montoya finished 32nd (2 )
Rob Tiongson ( 2,542 ) Jeff Gordon finished 23rd (0 )
Kelly Crandall ( 2,496 ) Jimmie Johnson finished 22nd (2 )
Misan Akuya ( 2,452 ) Tony Stewart finished fifth (1 )
Patti Rodisch ( 2,251 ) NO PICK SENT (0 )
Alan Wade (943 ) Jeff Gordon finished 23rd (1 )
Kyle Brandt (231 ) NO PICK SENT (0 )
Starting position and pit road pit stall might be the deciding factor in Sunday’s race. The last 10 winners have all been drivers that started near the front, the lowest starting spot being 18th by Jeff Gordon in 2007.
A team’s pit selection is also key because of how long the straightaway is and because six of the 10 winners have come from the front row, making the first pit stall the one everyone wants.
Summary of Picks
Denny Hamlin – 9
Tony Stewart – 2
Greg Biffle – 1