The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway's 2.5 mile triangle for the 21st race of the 2012 season, the Pennsylvania 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, August 5, 2012; 1:19 p.m./et.
Weather: Isolated T-Storms with a high around 80; wind out of the S at 7 mph. There is a 30% 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. Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon (twice), Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin (four times) have won the last 13 races at Pocono. All nine 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 11 starts he has four wins.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Stewart won June 2009 race at Pocono and has finished in the top 10 in 12 of the last 14 races at the track. Smoke will be flying again this weekend.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has finished 15th or better in 18 of his 20 career starts at Pocono. He will run his typical smart race and notch another top five finish.
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.
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano took the checkers during the June race this year. He is a good choice this weekend.
6 to 10
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. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has had plenty of past success at Pocono. He should be one of the fastest cars on the track.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has finished inside the top 18 in the past 13 races at Pocono. He should have another fast sled on Sunday.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer won the fall race at Pocono and has finished in the top 16 in 10 of the last 11 races at the track. He will have a good car again this weekend.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy has been awesome in two of the last five races at Pocono. He should flirt with the top 10 this weekend.
11 to 20
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards has a miserable race at Pocono last June, but rebounded for back-to-back to 11 finishes. He will be fast again this trip to PA.
No. 55 Mark Martin: Martin has finished in the top five in 20 of his 51 career starts at Pocono. We project he will finish just outside the top 10.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has finished in the top 18 in 12 of the past 13 races at Pocono. He will compete for the pole this weekend and should crack the top 10.
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 18th, 4th, 23rd, 20th and 21st in his first few trips to Pocono. We see him cracking the top 15 once again.
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 JeffBurton: 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. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. has averaged a 16th place finish in his eight career starts at Pocono. We think he will finish right around his average on Sunday.
No. 22 Sam Hornish Jr.: Hornish has been a top 20 driver at Pocono during his career. We like him once again this weekend.
21 to 30
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. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray has just four top 10 finishes in 20 career Pocono starts. He won’t make it five on Sunday.
No. 51 Kurt Busch: Busch has been fantastic at Pocono during his career, but that was before his attitude bounced him from quality cars.
No. 10 David Reutimann: Reutimann has been fast the last six races at the track and is a fine sleeper pick.
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. 47 Bobby Labonte: Labonte has three wins at Pocono in his career. With the way he is driving this season he is the best of the cheap options.
No. 34 David Ragan: Ragan has been terrible at Pocono in five of the last seven races.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged just a 25th place finish during his career at Pocono. He isn’t worth using.
No. 32 John Wes Townley
No. 33 Stephen Leicht
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 38 David Gilliland
No. 36 Tony Raines
No. 93 Travis Kvapil
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 91 Reed Sorenson
No. 19 Mike Bliss
No. 98 Mike Skinner
No. 37 J.J. Yeley
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 26 Josh Wise
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Tony Stewart
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1. Aric Almirola
2. Sam Hornish Jr.
Bust of the Week: