The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway's 2.5 mile triangle for the 14th race of the 2012 season, the Pocono 400. Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and talked to NASCAR contacts to predict how the field should finish on Sunday.
When: Sunday, June 10, 2012; 1:19 p.m./et.
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high around 84; wind out of the WNW at 7 mph. There is a 1nasc0% chance of precipitation.
The Track: Pocono Raceway
Pocono Raceway is a 2.5 mile tri-oval with three completely different banked turns. It has 14 degree banking in turn one, eight degree banking in turn two, and six degree banking in turn three.
Key to Race: THE POCONO TOUGH TRIANGLE
Pocono has three long straight-aways after each of the turns. This unique configuration forces engines to run at high RPM levels three times on each lap. The long race length places a premium on brakes and engine durability. Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon (twice), Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin (four times) have won the last 12 races at Pocono. All eight of these drivers, except Kurt Busch, are great picks.
44 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. If the first practice is run, but qualifying is unable to take place, the starting lineup will be based on speeds from the car's fastest lap from the first practice, with top-35 cars in owner points no longer segregated from the non-top 35 cars. Previously, the top 35 cars lined up in front of all other eligible car owners.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been awesome at Pocono during in his career. In 10 starts he has four wins.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Stewart won June 2009 race at Pocono and has finished in the top 10 in 11 of the last 13 races at the track. Smoke will be flying again this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has five career victories at Pocono. He is due for some good luck and should be battling for the lead all day.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has finished 15th or better in 17 of his 19 career starts at Pocono. He will run his typical smart race and could improve on last June’s fourth place finish.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has had plenty of past success at Pocono. He should be one of the fastest cars on the track.
6 to 10
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards had a miserable race at Pocono last June, but he rebounded in the fall with a solid finish. He will be fast again this trip to PA.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has finished inside the top 18 in the past 12 races at Pocono. He should have another fast sled on Sunday.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has finished in the top 18 in 11 of the past 12 races at Pocono. He will compete for the pole this weekend and should crack the top 10.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy has been awesome in two of the last four races at Pocono. He should flirt with the top 10 this weekend.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior hasn’t had a ton of past success at Pocono, but this season he is driving with a new energy.
11 to 20
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has always been awesome during qualifying at Pocono and he has been one of the better drivers at the track in race-trim the past few races. He is a great fantasy option this weekend.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Even with “Biff’s” win last summer, Pocono has never been one of his better tracks. He will finish inside the top 20, but we don’t think he crack the top 10 again.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has finished 4th, 23rd, 20th and 21st in his first few trips to Pocono. We see him cracking the top 15.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer won the fall race at Pocono and has finished in the top 16 in nine of the last 10 races at the track. He will have a good car again this weekend.
No. 55 Mark Martin: Martin has finished in the top five in 19 of his 50 career starts at Pocono. We project he will finish just outside the top 10.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya appeared to figure Pocono the past two seasons. He has driven well on flat-tracks and is someone to use this weekend.
No. 31 Jeff Burton: Pocono has been a good track forBurtonduring his career. With some luck he could be in the top 15 when the checkers fly late Sunday afternoon.
No. 51 David Reutimann: Reutimann takes over for Mr. Angry this weekend. He has been fast the last six races at the track and is a great sleeper pick.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. has averaged a 15th place finish in his seven career starts at Pocono. We think he will finish right around his average on Sunday.
No. 22 A.J. Allmendinger: A.J. has been decent, but not great in the past five Pocono races. He is just a third driver in all leagues.
21 to 30
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano has averaged a 22nd place finish at Pocono during his young career. He will just miss cracking the top 20 this trip to Long Pond.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard's average finish at Pocono is 23rd. He should finish right around his average this weekend.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose finished sixth at Pocono in June of 2009, he has struggled since. He isn’t an option.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola has been driving fantastic this season. He is worth using as a fourth driver in most leagues.
No. 78 Regan Smith: Smith has never finished outside the top 35 at Pocono during his career. He is an interesting sleeper pick.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray has just three top 10 finishes in 19 career Pocono starts. He won’t make it four on Sunday.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte: Labonte has three wins at Pocono in his career. With the way he is driving the past few races he is the best of the cheap options.
No. 34 David Ragan: Ragan has been terrible at Pocono in four of the last six races.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has had a disappointing season so far. He isn’t very much of an option at all.
No. 10 Dave Blaney: Blaney hasn’t had a ton of success at Pocono during his career, but he should finish inside the top 30.
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 93 Travis Kvapil
No. 32 Reed Sorenson
No. 38 David Gilliland
No. 36 Tony Raines
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 19 Mike Bliss
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 33 Stephen Leicht
No. 98 Michael McDowell
No. 49 J.J. Yeley
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 26 Josh Wise
No. 74 Stacy Compton
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Tony Stewart
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Jimmie Johnson
1. Aric Almirola
2. David Reutimann
Bust of the Week: