The Sprint Cup Series head to Pocono this weekend to take on the Tricky Triangle and fans are in for a good show. Since 1974, NASCAR has been racing on the banks for Pocono Raceway and with two races per season, the drivers can’t get enough. With turns modeled after Indianapolis and Daytona, Pocono is one of the toughest tracks on the circuit.
Many teams took to the Pocono pavement a few weeks ago to test out the new Gen-6 cars and after many laps around the track, one thing was clear; speeds are down. Last season, Joey Logano ran a lap time of 50.112 seconds (179.598 mph) and single car runs during the Pocono test were over a second slower than Logano’s qualifying speed.
With new pavement, Pocono has added even more unique characteristics to this famed track. Last season’s races saw drivers struggling to pass and made track position extremely important. Joey Logano started from the Pole in the June race and went on to win it after being up towards the front most of the day. Track position also came in handy for Jeff Gordon during the August race after rain forced NASCAR Officials to call the race early.
As teams prepare to hit the track today for practice, it looks like rain may come into play again. Look for qualifying to be set from the current point’s standings which will put Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards on the front row.
Denny Hamlin will be one to watch this weekend at Pocono. Hamlin has four wins at this track and after missing a good portion of the beginning of the season, Hamlin is more determined than ever to make the Chase. Since his return, he has captured two Poles and two top-5 finishes. If qualifying is set from points standings, Hamlin will be sitting 26th.
Another one to watch this weekend will be Jeff Gordon. Gordon hasn’t had the best of luck this season but Pocono is one where luck has been on his side. Last season, Gordon secured himself a wild card spot into the Chase at Pocono thanks to a rain out. He finished 3rd last weekend at Dover so he and his Hendrick Motorsports team definitely have momentum on their side. If qualifying is set from points standings, Gordon will be starting 11th.
There is also one Rookie to keep an eye on at Pocono. Danica Patrick has never been to Pocono before, but the Tricky Triangle usually treats first-timers pretty well. Pocono’s turns resemble the turns of two of Patrick’s best tracks, Daytona and Indianapolis. She and her team were also part of the test held a few weeks ago. With the momentum of Tony Stewart’s win last weekend at Dover, Patrick and the rest of the Stewart-Haas Racing teams have great momentum heading into the weekend. Keep an eye on her; she just might surprise you. If qualifying is set from points standings, Patrick will be starting 30th.
Pocono is a track with a lot of character and unpredictability. With rain forecasted all weekend, until race day that is, teams could very well hit the track for the first time during the pace laps on Sunday. One driver that everyone should keep an eye on that was not mentioned above is current point’s leader Jimmie Johnson. He has won at this track before and will be starting from the pole if qualifying is rained out. One thing is for certain, no matter where he starts, Mr. 5-Time will always be a factor.