Complete Preview of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono

Chad Robb@@MrFantasyNASCARCorrespondent IJune 5, 2013

LONG POND, PA - AUGUST 05:  Jimmie Johnson drives the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 5, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race at the Pocono Raceway for the Party in the Poconos 400. The key to winning at Pocono is to find balance in all three corners. That is easier said than done; they call it the Tricky Triangle for a reason.

NASCAR fans will have a chance to see how the new Gen-6 performs at one of NASCAR’s fastest racetracks. Last week Denny Hamlin set a new track record at Dover. It was the eighth time in 13 races that the Gen-6 car has broken the track record in 2013.

Joey Logano holds the track record at Pocono from when he ran a lap of 179.598 mph in this race last year. The pole winner should easily break the record again on Sunday.

Sunday’s race at Pocono will be the first race of the 2013 season televised on the TNT network. This means NASCAR fans will be able to visit nascar.com during the race to see TNT’s “RaceBuddy,” which will include 10 cameras positioned around the racetrack and in the cars. Fans can choose which camera they would like to view during the race or view them all at once in the mosaic option.

Sprint Cup teams will qualify for the FedEx 400 Friday at 3:40 p.m. ET. On Speed TV.

Coverage of the race can be seen Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET on TNT.

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Five Favorites to Watch

Denny Hamlin is the driver to beat this week. He needs wins in order to make the Chase and Pocono is his best chance.

Hamlin has a series-high driver’s rating of 115.1, series-best average running position of 9.1, series-best average green flag speed of 160.936 mph and a series-high 430 fastest laps run. He is a lock for a top-five finish.

Jimmie Johnson is the driver Hamlin will be racing for the win on Sunday. In order to win at Pocono NASCAR teams must have a Crew Chief who can make the car turn in all three corners. Crew Chief Chad Knaus will have Johnson’s car ready for the race.

Johnson has the second-best driver rating of 107.6, the second-best average running position of 9.8, the second-fastest green flag speed of 160.687 mph and a series-high 2,376 laps run in the top 15. Johnson has a good chance to win his third race of the season on Sunday.


Jeff Gordon has the most wins by an active driver at Pocono with six. He could add to that total on Sunday.

Gordon has the fourth-best driver rating of 100.9, the third-best average running position of 10.3, the fourth-fastest green flag speed of 160.425 mph and the third most laps run in the top-15 with 2,231. Gordon has finished two of the last three races in the top three. He may visit Victory Lane on Sunday.

Matt Kenseth has had the fastest car at almost every racetrack this season. The way Joe Gibbs Racing dominates the races at Pocono, it would be no surprise to see Kenseth with the fastest car once again.

Kenseth’s stats at Pocono are average, but he did finish seventh in this race last year. He will finish inside the top five with his new team this year.

Tony Stewart’s victory last week at Dover should not have surprised people. Smoke always heats up with the calendar turns from Spring to Fall. Stewart is a streaky driver and he has a streak of two top-10 finishes going.

Stewart has the fifth-best driver rating of 98.6, the sixth-best average running position of 12.1, the third-most green flag passes with 1,340 and the fourth-most laps run in the top 15 with 2,138. Do not be surprised to see Stewart win back-to-back races this week.

Sleepers to Watch

Juan Pablo Montoya has had some success at Pocono. Last year Montoya started on the poll and led seven laps. In 2009 Montoya started tenth and finished second.

Montoya is looking for his first win on an oval racetrack. While Pocono is not an oval, he would gladly take a win at the Tricky Triangle.

Joey Logano won the poll for this race last year, led the most laps and went on to the victory. Logano must prove this week that his win last year was the result of his driving skills and not because he was driving a Joe Gibbs Racing car. Logano could win his third career race on Sunday.

Kurt Busch is not the first name that comes to mind when people think about Pocono, but it should be. He has finished in the top three at the racetrack eight times in his career. He missed this race last year due to suspension, and will be ready to take the No. 78 car to Victory Lane this week.

Note: Stats from NASCAR Media Center based upon the last 16 races at Pocono Raceway

Top 15 Driver Ratings at Pocono

  1. Denny Hamlin 115.1
  2. Jimmie Johnson 107.6
  3. Kurt Busch 103.7
  4. Jeff Gordon 100.9
  5. Tony Stewart 98.6
  6. Carl Edwards 97.4
  7. Ryan Newman 95.4
  8. Mark Martin 90.7
  9. Kasey Kahne 91.4
  10. Matt Kenseth 90.7
  11. Kevin Harvick 89.6
  12. Jeff Burton 87.1
  13. Greg Biffle 87.1
  14. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 86.1
  15. Kyle Busch 84.6

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2012 races (16 total) among active drivers at Pocono Raceway.

Memorable Finish at Pocono

The 2006 Pocono 500 was a memorable one for rookie Denny Hamlin. He started on the pole, spun out while leading the race and then went on to win his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Hamlin also won the second race of the 2006 season at Pocono.  

Pocono Facts

Most Wins by Active Driver: Jeff Gordon (6)

Most Poles by Active Driver: Mark Martin (3)

Worst Starting Spot to Win: Carl Edwards, 2005, started No. 29

Best Average Starting Position by Active Driver: Denny Hamlin (5.6)

Best Average Finishing Position Active Driver: Jimmie Johnson (8.9)

Most Laps Led by Active Driver: Jeff Gordon (965)

Most Wins by Manufacturer: Chevrolet (26)

Note: All driver statistics come from DriverAverages.com


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