Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile tricky triangle has become easily the most unique track on the circuit, but the last few races there were snooze-fests with minimal passing. There were only 11 lead changes in this race last season and just 13 in the July race, but that I think Sunday’s Pocono 400 could be a little different as a result of new package featuring aero ducts and motors generating 550 horsepower. The drivers aren’t quite certain what to anticipate with the package.
“This so tight in our sport at this time with this rules package,” stated Clint Bowyer. “In qualifying at Charlotte last week, third-place through 16th-place qualifiers all ran 182 mph. In the race, the guy leading would get back a couple of minutes later and battle in 20th. It is simply really, really tight right now and you can not make any mistakes.”
Yes, it is tight, and I like the type of racing it has produced. Last week at Charlotte there were 30 lead changes among 11 drivers and 3 weeks ago at Kansas there 23 lead changes among 12 drivers and at Texas, in late March there have been 26 lead changes among 13 drivers. That’s some nice parity with the past three races utilizing this specific package.
Teams are becoming better using it and discovering more rate to close the gap Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske has shown this season by winning 12 of their 13 races so far with all the bundles. Chris Beuscher out of JTG-Daugherty Racing finished sixth last week in the Coca-Cola 600. Additionally, Roush Fenway Racing matters again using Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finishing fifth last week.
Of course, Martin Truex Jr. won last week for the next time in the previous five of the schedule, a Gibbs automobile, and he was followed closely by Penske’s Joey Logano and at third-place was Gibbs’ Kyle Busch. There’s still a divide with the elite groups, but others are catching up.
The up progression with most teams getting more acquainted with the new package should last this weekend at Pocono. The bump drafting and side-drafting are going to be a huge part of the equation on the maximum straightaway on the Cup tour on Pocono’s front stretch. But departure at each of the 3 turns that are unique is exactly what I crave the most.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Kyle Busch listed as the 3/1 betting favorite to win and while he has not raced this bundle at Pocono yethe did he discuss where he traditionally does his many passing.
“Many of your departure is going to be accomplished likely through turn off and one of turn and getting into turn 2, and if someone can get a fantastic run off of turn two, get up large and get in line to get on such a spot, getting into turn three,” Busch said. “Besides that, then one, we just can not get the cars to flip down because there’s a lot of load on the bump stops from moving 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a’buck-40′ (140 mph). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough.”
The new package with the gear change has also taken away the shifting component, something I believed gave a couple of drivers an edge at specific regions of the track. What is the effect? .
“I don’t have any idea,” Busch said. “Shifting at Pocono has always kind of been when we moved from changing not to shifting it didn’t do anything. It didn’t save anyone any money. It did not do anything. Was reduce gear temps. In my view, I think it’s better if you are in a position to shift.
It required Busch 26 starts to get his first Pocono win in the next race of 2017. He was third behind Truex in this race last season and then won again in July. But that package is gone and while he has three wins with the new packages this season, all the wins came from the first eight races. It is as if he handed a baton off to teammate Truex that has all three of his wins at the previous five.
Another Gibbs driver that has two of those eight wins for the organization is Denny Hamlin, who appears to be the energetic leader with four Pocono wins. He’s seeking to regain the momentum that saw him finish 11th or better in the first nine races of the season. He’s been 16th or worse in his last four starts.
“We had a really fast FedEx Toyota in Charlotte and it is crazy how many cars we passed across the course of the whole race, repeatedly moving from the back to front,” said Hamlin that has 11/1 chances to win this week. Regrettably , our conclusion doesn’t reflect how great of a car we had, but I’m proud of the speed our staff brought to the race track and when we can bring that speed with us to Pocono, we’ll be in great position to win. Historically, the FedEx No. 11 has had some success and we will be entering Pocono convinced that we are able to secure another victory.”
Hamlin’s last Pocono win came in 2010, but there is a reason to think this new package puts him in the critical contender class since he said, he has had speed with this bundle which comprises a Texas win.
There’s a couple of drivers that I have in my radar this week I believe have a great shot winning.of it’s from previous success at Pocono, however most of it’s from the progression they have made with the race package.
How about Daniel Suarez in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 in 40/1 odds who had greatest Cup race ever with second-place at Pocono in July while driving for JGR.
“It was cool to get the pole there every year,” said Suarez. “Of course, it always helps to have a good starting spot. You truly have to capitalize on a good starting place like that and also we were able to do this and finish second. I can’t make mistakes and we can’t have mistakes on pit road. Everybody has to do their part to execute flawlessly. I truly feel like using the 41 group we continue making progress each weekend. At times the results may not exactly show it, but my guys are doing a fantastic job and they never give up.”
Kurt Busch recently took the SHR No. 41 to victory at Pocono in 2016. The elder Busch brother gets the distinction of winning three times at Pocono with three different producers — Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet. He’s 20/1 to triumph in his Ganassi No. 1 Chevrolet.
One of my favorites this week is Alex Bowman in 25/1 odds as Hendrick Motorsports is collectively getting better each week. Last week in Charlotte all four of those HMS car finished ninth or better. Bowman’s seventh-place finish ended a run of three straight runner-ups. He is knocking on the door .
“I love Pocono,” Bowman said. “We have a third-place finish there last year and ran really strong during the entire race. Pocono is quite unique, and it is different in the tracks we typically go to.”