5-hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway Preview

Pocono may just be the most interesting race track that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits. No other track has three different straightaways of different lengths and three completely different corners. This creates a challenge for both driver and crew. The driver must be able to adapt to all the elements that the track presents them while their crew chief must not only keep up with the track, but make the car handle the best it can in all three corners of the track.

[media-credit name=”PoconoRaceway.com” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Many people often ask the question, “What corner is most important at Pocono?’ The most common answer that I have heard is, “The one right before the longest straightaway.” The reason for this is so that the car can carry as much speed as possible down the long straightaway into the next corner. If that is the case, what do you do about the remaining three corners? Most crew chiefs today try to get the car as balanced as possible through all corners of the track, while some make one corner really good and have their driver deal with an ill handling car in the remaining. Both styles of setup have worked before so there really is no one way to go about it.

Also, for the first time in since NASCAR implemented the gear rule, drivers will be able to shift going down the long straightaways at Pocono. Back in the day, this was common practice and the fast way around the track. A few years back, NASCAR changed the gear that the teams had to run which made shifting the cars a thing of the past. Now that it’s back, it just adds another challenge for these drivers and teams on Sunday. Don’t look for transmission failures like you used to see in the past. These things are bullet proof now and they rarely go out.

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Many fans and drivers alike complain about the races at the Pocono Raceway. Fans think the races are too long, too boring and we should only visit there once a year. Many drivers agree that the races are too long as some drivers have said that 500 miles at Pocono feels longer that 600 miles at Charlotte. It’s not secret that the triangle shaped track doesn’t have a history of exciting racing, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

Remember the 2000 Winston Cup Series season? Go back to the day when Jeremy Mayfield and the Dale Earnhardt duked it out on the 2.5 mile triangle. When Mayfield pulled an Earnhardt on Earnhardt. Go back to just last year. Where Joey Logano gave us one of the great sound bites of recent memory when he questioned Kevin Harvick’s role in his family. The late Tim Richmond also pulled off a stellar win at the tricky triangle after coming back from illness. These moments prove that you can have great events happen at Pocono Raceway.

Now to get down to business.

Hot Drivers at Pocono

Denny Hamlin- What more needs to be said about Denny other than he is simply masterful at Pocono. Ever since he has began racing in the Cup Series, he has pretty much owned this joint. In ten starts, Denny has four wins most recently coming in this race last year. Plus, Denny is on a role as of late. This would be a prime weekend for the 11 team to get to victory lane.

Jimmie Johnson– Johnson is the only other driver to average a top ten finishing position at Pocono( Hamlin is the other). Jimmie has always been extremely solid here and even swept the races in 2004. Be sure to watch that 48 team this weekend!

Jeff Gordon- In 36 starts at the triangle, the wonder boy has ripped off 4 wins, 16 top 5’s and 25 top tens. His average finish is 10.5 which puts him in elite class at this track. Gordon has not been up to the Gordon standard as of late, but you really can’t count him out for a good run.
Solid Pick

Tony Stewart- Pocono was the track where Stewart-Haas Racing picked up their first points paying Sprint Cup win back in 2009. In his last 11 starts at Pocono, Tony has 10 top 10 finishes. If they team can give Smoke a piece to work with, he can get it done this weekend.

Brian Vickers- Few people remember how strong Vickers was in 2005 at Pocono. It looked as though Brian was going to pull off his first Cup win that day until a late race pace by Carl Edwards. The Red Bull team has fast cars and Brian is back to the Brian of old so to speak. With an average finish of 14.5, Brian could be in for a nice day Sunday.
Sleeper Pick

Juan Pablo Montoya- Montoya has really taken to the big flat tracks. With how dominant he has been at the Brickyard, it was a matter of time before it transfered to the triangle.

Sam Hornish Jr.- I know this one sounds a little bit crazy, but just think for a second how close Sam was to winning here just two years ago. Sam is filling in for Travis Kvapil this weekend in the #38 Front Row Motorsports entry. If he can stay on the lead lap, and get a late race caution with some strategy, watch out for the former Indy 500 champ.
Stay Away From…

Marcos Ambrose- While Marcos has had a great year so far, the Pocono’s are not place for the Aussie to get excited about. Ambrose, who finished sixth in his first attempt here, has never finished better than 30th since. Sunday might be a challenge for the tin topper.

With all that said, my pick for the race is…..
Denny Hamlin

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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