The Bucket Report: Pocono, Stewart Comes Alive, Harvick Was the Come Back Kid

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 The Bucket Report: Pocono, Stewart Comes Alive, Harvick Was the Come Back Kid

      Pocono Raceway bestows a unique challenge at each turn, as she was modeled after three different tracks. Turn One, pays homage to the now obsolete Trenton Speedway with 14 degree banking. The Tunnel Turn or Turn Two brings drivers back to the Brickyard with 9 degree banking, and last but not least, Turn Three is similar to The Milwaukee Mile with six degree banking. Yup she is one Tricky Triangle that is for sure. Crews have to be on their game to make efficient chassis adjustment on this roval.  Yet, it wasn’t the turns that did teams in last Sunday, it was fuel mileage. The long front-stretch craves horsepower and horsepower requires fuel, well timed pitting really lead to victory at Pocono.

 

Ranked 13th – Matt Kenseth (#17)

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11

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            Pocono knocked Kenseth out of the Chase, for now. Kenseth, maintained a top ten track position during the majority of the race, however late pitting would steel a top ten finish from him. His driving style was aggressive, as early as Lap 32; he was 2.48 off the leader and in third. Kenseth would lead two laps (Lap 120 and Lap 162), both times his team was able to use others pitting to their advantage.

            He would pit at Lap 163 for four tire and air pressure adjustment losing some track position coming out 14th. However, the decision to wait until Lap 184 to come in for gas would cost him a top ten finish. Even taking advantage of the empty tanks in the front of the field, there just wasn’t enough time to regain track position.  

 

Ranked 12th – Clint Bowyer (#07)

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            Bowyer pulled a top ten finish out of no where. In qualifying Bowyer wasn’t anything to write home about only earning a starting position of 30th. The first half the race would never have predicted his finish at sixth. By Lap 100, he was only able to move up five places to 25th. Not to say that racing in the back of the field was uneventful.  At Lap 106, Bowyer found himself three wide with Juan Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr. It would be Montoya that would back off in the end, but still Bowyer wasn’t moving up the field.

            It would be the #07 team’s decision to make their last pit on Lap 165 and stretch out the gas that would give them the competitive edge. With leaders like Kasay Kahne pitting late at Lap 185, Bowyer was able to quickly move up the field, having been in the back of the field for a while he had something the front runners were lacking, fuel mileage.

 

Ranked 11th – Kevin Harvick (#29)

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            Just call Harvick the come back kid! On Lap 1, Joe Nemechek clipped Harvick’s rear, luckily not creating damage but causing Harvick to fall to the back of the field. However, by Lap 100, Harvick had worked his way up to 16th. Nevertheless, he was having problems; he reported over the radio that the front end was pushing the whole car sideways and they are having a brake problem they experienced in the past. Pitting on the competition caution hampered many in this race, but it gave Harvick a chance to make the adjustments he desperately needed.

            He pushed the fuel millage to its limit to gain track position, even running out of gas on pit row at Lap 166. A team can average about 30 laps before needing to refuel; therefore Harvick’s team knew he could make it to at least Lap 196. By not pushing through the field Harvick conserved on fuel and was able to maneuver to fouth as others started conserving too late.

 

Ranked 10th – Denny Hamlin (#11)

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            The Hamlin and Kenseth teams should have a beer and compare notes, because they had similar stories at Pocono. Like Kenseth, Hamlin was in it the whole race. The first half the race he only dropped out of the top ten after pitting and even then was able to recover fast.

            Hamlin stayed out on the competition caution gaining track position. At Lap 145 Hamlin was only 0.16 off leader (Kahne). He gave Kahne a strong challenge but just couldn’t make it happen.  He pitted at Lap 155 causing him to have to pit again before the end of the race, at least by Lap 185. His team made the call to pit on Lap 174, possibly 11 laps before they had to. In the past Hamlin has had a slow track position recovery after pitting, so this may have been valid strategy for Hamlin. However it didn’t pay off, as Hamlin couldn’t recover position in time.   

 

Ranked 9th – Tony Stewart (#20)

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            It was about time! The first half of the race I thought I was going to have to watch another boring, half hearted Stewart behind the wheel. Not doing a bad job but not giving much excitement either. Plus it looked like the car was getting a little sideways off Turn Two. I was ready to write him off then at Lap 158 Tony came alive!

            He took Earnhardt Jr. on the inside for seventh and that began his hard push to the front. The #20 team showed their strength and superior approach to Pocono by making his last pit Lap 166. Coming off pit row Stewart was nothing but aggressive charge.  Stewart was at third by Lap 186 and 10.26 of the leader. Two laps later he was second and had cut his time off the leader by almost half to 5.60. Edwards was running out of gas but Stewart couldn’t catch him but finished strong at second.

 

            Time is getting short, how will the Glen affect the Chase? If the Tony Stewart we saw at Pocono keeps showing up then yes I am going to have to eat my past words and say he deserves to be in the Chase,  but I lets see what this Sunday hold first. Between Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer, Kenseth is the better driver thus, I think we will see a strong fight for 12th at the Glen.

 

             Well until next time, happy cheering for the bottom of the bucket!

 

 

Sources: NASCAR.com, ESPN, and ESPN.com

 

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