How can one describe the track at Long Pond, Pennsylvania?
Some call it a speedway with corners like a road course. Some say it's similar to Indy with just three corners. One thing that every driver, crew chief, and fan can call the Pocono Raceway is tricky. Just because the car handles in the first corner doesn't mean it will handle the third corner. Three different straightaways, and a lot of speed make up Pocono.
Some drivers have a handle on the track, while others still don't have a feel for it. A few drivers have won at Pocono in their first few tries. Others have been racing at Pocono for two decades, but have yet to take the checkered flag. The next installment of racing at Pocono comes this Sunday. As a Pennsylvania native, it feels good knowing the stars of NASCAR are in my neck of the woods.
With that being said, let's dust off the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500.
No one can deny that Hamlin is on a roll. At this point in the season, no driver is better and no team is better than the No. 11 crew. Here at Pocono, Hamlin is the heavy favorite.
In his rookie season, Hamlin came to this track having never taken a lap at Pocono. The first laps he turned on the 2.5-mile triangle came in the first practice session. When the weekend came to an end, he was in victory lane. Later that year, he completed the sweep.
He won the July event last year after his grandmother passed away, which was an emotional run for Hamlin. I've got him once again this weekend as my pick, and I think he can continue this run of good luck.
This track has always favored the Roush-Fenway cars in years past. I can't help but believe this will be the weekend where Ford finally gets into victory lane this season.
Of the four Roush drivers, Edwards is the only one with at least one win at Pocono. He won during his rookie season back in 2005 and again in his near-championship run in 2008.
If Ford wants back in victory lane, especially at this track, I'm putting my money on the No. 99.
It was strategy that won this race last year, but don't count out the No. 14 of Stewart. This is the beginning of a busy week for him. Not only is he trying to get back to victory lane, but he's still got all his plans for the "Prelude to the Dream" next Wednesday.
Still, Stewart proved last year he can be a driver that can run up front, and also come from the back to lead.
Fuel conservation may have won this race for him last year, but I'm betting Stewart is going to be extremely tough come Sunday.
Here is a man who has done everything at Pocono except put the car in the winner's circle.
Going into Sunday's race, Martin has competed in 46 NASCAR Cup races at Pocono. He finished on the lead lap 38 of those races. He has finished runner-up six different times. He has 19 top-fives and 32 top-10's.
If Martin can win at Pocono, all those statistics won't matter anymore because he would finally check off the one he hasn't done yet.
For a guy who has four wins at this track, why exactly would I put Gordon in this category for this week?
Simple, because if Steve Letarte gets the right strategy late in the race, he will finally close this deal and win a race. This track historically has been all about late-race strategy, whether it was fuel conservation or a late-race caution.
Gordon last won here in 2007, one year after his frightening accident in turn 1 at over 200 mph. That still must be on his mind when he comes here, but his confidence still must be high.
They are close, real close. If strategy comes into play, there will be no one better at getting to the finish than the No. 24 DuPont team.
Three different corners, three different straightaways, and one tricky race track await all Sunday afternoon. Coverage begins at Noon ET on TNT with Countdown to Green , with the race set to begin shortly after 1 p.m. ET.