Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile catchy triangle is easily the most unique track on the circuit, but the past couple of races there were snooze-fests with little passing. There were only 11 lead changes in this race last year and only 13 in the July race, but I think Sunday’s Pocono 400 might be a little different as a result of new package featuring aero ducts and engines producing 550 horsepower. The drivers are not quite certain what to expect with the bundle.
“This so tight in our sport right now with this rules package,” stated Clint Bowyer. “In qualifying at Charlotte last week, third-place through 16th-place qualifiers all ran 182 mph. At the race, the man leading will get back a few minutes later and battle in 20th. It is simply really, really tight now and you can’t make any mistakes.”
Yes, it is tight, and I like the type of rushing it has generated. Last week at Charlotte there have been 30 lead changes among 11 drivers and three weeks ago at Kansas that 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 great parity with the last 3 races using this specific package.
Teams are becoming better using it and finding more rate to close the gap Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske has demonstrated this year by winning 12 of the 13 races thus far with the packages. Chris Beuscher from JTG-Daugherty Racing finished sixth last week at the Coca-Cola 600. Also, Roush Fenway Racing things again using Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finishing fifth last week.
Obviously, Martin Truex Jr. won last week for the next time in the previous five of the program, a Gibbs automobile, and he had been followed closely by Penske’s Joey Logano and in third-place was Gibbs’ Kyle Busch. There’s still a divide with the elite teams, but others are catching up.
The upward progression with most teams becoming more acquainted with all the new package should last this weekend at Pocono. The bulge drafting and side-drafting are likely to be a huge part of the equation about the longest straightaway on the Cup tour on Pocono’s front stretch. But passing in each of the 3 turns that are exceptional is what I crave the most.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Kyle Busch recorded as the 3/1 betting favorite to win and while he has not raced this package at Pocono yethe did he discuss in which he traditionally does his many departure.
“Many of your departure will be done likely through turn off and one of turn one and getting into turn 2, and if somebody can find a fantastic run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on such a spot, getting into turn three,” Busch said. “Besides that, then onewe simply can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from moving 210 miles down the front straightaway and then hoping to slow it down to about a’buck-40′ (140 mph). Turn two is sort of bumpy and type of rough.”
The brand new package with all the gear change has also taken away the shifting component, something I thought gave a couple of drivers an edge at certain areas of the track. What is the effect? .
“I don’t have any idea,” Busch said. “Shifting at Pocono has always sort of been when we moved from changing not to altering it did not do anything. It didn’t save anyone any money. It didn’t do anything. All it did was decrease gear temps. In my opinion, I think that it’s better if you’re in a position to change.
It took Busch 26 begins to receive his first Pocono win in the second 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 together with the newest packages this year, all the wins came in the first eight races. It is as if he given a baton off to teammate Truex that has all three of his wins in the previous five.
Another Gibbs driver which has two of the eight wins for your organization is Denny Hamlin, who happens to be the active leader with four Pocono wins. He’s looking to regain the momentum he saw him finish 11th or better from the first nine races of the season. He’s been 16th or worse in his past four starts.
“We needed a very fast FedEx Toyota at Charlotte and it is crazy how many cars we passed over the length of the whole race, repeatedly moving in the back to front,” said Hamlin that has 11/1 odds to triumph this week. Regrettably , our finish doesn’t reflect how great of a car we had, but I’m proud of the pace our team attracted to the race track and if we can bring that speed with us to Pocono, we will be in great position to win. Historically, the FedEx No. 11 has had some success and we’re going to be entering Pocono confident that we can secure another victory.”
Hamlin’s final Pocono win came in 2010, but there is a reason to believe this new bundle puts him in the critical competition category because as he said, he’s had pace with this bundle which includes a Texas win.
There is a couple of drivers I have on my radar this week that I believe have a fantastic shot at winning.of it’s from past success at Pocono, but most of it is from the progression they’ve made with the race package.
How about Daniel Suarez in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 at 40/1 chances who’d greatest Cup race with second-place at Pocono in July while driving for JGR.
“It was cool to get the rod there every year,” said Suarez. “Of course, it always helps to have a great starting spot. You truly have to capitalize on a good starting position like that and also we were able to do that and finish second. I can not make mistakes and we can’t have mistakes on pit road. Everyone must do their part to do perfectly. I truly feel like with the 41 team we keep making progress each weekend. Sometimes the results might not exactly show it, but my guys are doing a great job and they never stop trying ”
Kurt Busch lately took the SHR No. 41 to victory at Pocono in 2016. The elder Busch brother has the distinction of winning times at Pocono with three different producers — Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet. He’s 20/1 to triumph in his Ganassi No. 1 Chevrolet.
Among my favorites this week is Alex Bowman at 25/1 chances as Hendrick Motorsports is collectively getting better each week. Last week in Charlotte all four of the HMS automobile finished ninth or better. Bowman’s seventh-place finish ended a run of three consecutive runner-ups. He’s knocking on the door loudly.
“I adore Pocono,” Bowman said. “We got a third-place end there last season and ran really strong during the entire race. Pocono is very unique, and it is different in the tracks we typically visit.”