From “The Beast of the Southeast” to “The Tricky Triangle”, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads from one tough racetrack to another. Pocono Raceway is a very difficult racetrack to maneuver, mostly because of its distinct shape and unusual characteristics. Instead of on an oval where there are four identical corners, Pocono has three unique turns. Turn 1 has 14 degrees of banking, Turn 2 has 8 degrees, and Turn 3 has 6 degrees. All three have different characteristics of different types of racetracks, though overall the track seems to resemble that of a flat racetrack like Indianapolis or Loudon.
Here are some questions heading into the weekend…
Will Jimmie Johnson make a rebound this weekend? … I refuse to be fooled into believing that Johnson is now down and out. Every single year the No. 48 team has a dry spell where everyone says they are basically out of it. They won’t win another championship. This is finally the end of their reign. I’m not buying it, and no one else seems to be either. Everyone is waiting for Johnson, Chad Knaus, and the entire 48 team to rebound sometime. When they do, everyone will roll their eyes, throw their hands up in the air, and say, “I knew it!” It’s a matter of when, not if. This weekend at Pocono wouldn’t be a bad start. In 16 starts at this track, Johnson has 2 wins, 5 top 5s, 10 top 10s, and 2 poles. His average finish is 10th. Johnson finished 7th at this race last season, and 13th in the fall race. Call me crazy, but it sounds like this would be a perfect track for Johnson to brush off all of the “slump” talk and show everyone that was all it was: a slump. A string of bad luck. Whatever you want to call it, though, it won’t last forever. They will be back. If not this week, then sometime soon. You can’t keep a good team down!
Can Kurt Busch keep the winning streak alive? … Busch has a fantastic record so far this season, and most recently has been putting up some stellar results. Busch has won the last two races, including the All-Star race, and hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 since Phoenix in April. Can Busch make it three in a row this weekend at Pocono Raceway? Past results say it is very possible. Busch has won twice at this racetrack and has completed 95% of the laps run here. If anyone has momentum right now, it’s the No.2 team and they’re going into Pocono with their eyes on the prize. Keep an eye on the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in Sunday’s Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500.
Is Denny Hamlin the favorite heading into the race? … He certainly seems to be! Hamlin, like Busch, has been running very well as of late, putting up some strong numbers at the halfway point in the “Race to the Chase.” Hamlin isn’t too shabby at Pocono either. Hamlin will be returning to the site of his first career victory, and to the track where he is the most recent winner. Hamlin has won three times in only eight starts at this racetrack, and only twice has he ever finished outside of the top 6. He has completed all but two laps and has always qualified 16th or better. It’s a very good track for a very successful driver on a very strong team. They’re the obvious choice for any serious fantasy player and will almost certainly be very competitive the entire weekend.
How boring will the race be? … I’ve already named three drivers that are potential shoe-ins for the victory, but that doesn’t mean all three of them will be fighting for the lead once the laps are winding down. Pocono Raceway isn’t particularly known for its exciting racing. In fact, if you ask race fans which is the most boring track on the circuit, most of them will respond by saying Pocono with no hesitation. Any driver that has ever won a race at this track has more than likely dominated with little or no threat from the other drivers. Double-file restarts made their debut here a year ago and seemed to spice up the racing a little bit. Maybe they can save the day again this year if one driver tries to stink up the show.
Who will Kyle Busch aggravate this weekend? … There’s no point into going in Busch’s career statistics at Pocono. Lately the story hasn’t been about his finishes or his performance. They’ve been about his feud with another driver. For two weeks in a row, all we’ve heard about is Busch having some sort of issue with a fellow competitor. First it was his teammate Denny Hamlin; then it was one of the most laid back drivers in racing with Jeff Burton. Maybe it’s time for Busch to lay low for a while instead of frustrating the people he has to race with. However, that’s highly unlikely. Busch is going to race hard against his competition without even a thought towards what they’re going to think of him afterwards. To him, nothing matters but winning and if he’s in Victory Lane it really doesn’t matter how the other drivers fell. It may not be a popular attitude, but it’s Busch’s style. Just don’t expect any of the other drivers to spontaneously move out of his way if they see him coming.
Bonus questions: If Pocono is the “Tricky Triangle” than why isn’t Indianapolis the “Reckless Rectangle”? … Does Pocono Raceway hand out complimentary sleeping bags at the front gates? … What will it be like to not hear “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” for the first time this season?