When NASCAR shows up at Pocono to face the treacherous triangular tri-oval, it is anybody’s guess who will walk away with the victory. It is another one of those tracks that has a list of drivers that perform well there, but they don’t necessarily perform that well all day long.
I do find it fascinating that lately some of the most unexpected drivers and teams seem to look strong during practice and qualifying. Maybe to some these performances aren’t unexpected, but, honestly, the real story won’t be known until the race is over Sunday evening.
As a fan I can’t expect to know what anyone else thinks qualifying and practice times tell us about how the racing will go at Pocono, I can only speak for myself. I am not alone in thinking running one fast lap, or maybe two, is really nothing at this unique track, but running consistently fast, lap after lap, is quite a bit harder even with the expected speed drop-off of the tires.
For me, there will be two things that will work wonders for the person trying to win the, (now here’s a name for you), Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 presented by Target. (Wow, that’s a name about as long as the front straight away.) The first is not making any mistakes in the pits and the other is being fastest longer than anyone else in a fuel and tire run.
At this track, no one expects to master all three of the turns with the handling of their race car, but they do hope to be fastest in at least two of them. This is also a track that seems to suit the driving style of certain drivers over others. Some have mentioned those that do well are also well-suited to road racing tracks and flat tracks as well. I think they are probably right about that in some ways, but the biggest thing I see is having a lot of horse power under the hood and making the most of every turn with what you have.
A lot of names come to mind when I think of who could win the race today at Pocono. Not all of them qualified near the top of the list, but past performances tell me they will be strong contenders at the end of the day.
Let me say right up front, I will be completely surprised to see a Ford sitting in Victory Lane when all is said and done today. I just don’t see the speed in them I do in others, at least in a long green flag run. The Chevys and Toyotas look to be the strongest and, of course, there are a couple of Dodges that I can’t completely rule out.
So, who will be at the top of the scoring when this day is done? Personally, I think there are a number of names and possibilities. I don’t think anyone can rule out the strength that Kurt Bush and his crew chief, Steve Addington have shown over recent weeks; they have to be considered as possible winners.
Kyle Bush qualified on the pole but admits he has trouble running consistently fast during a long green flag run and also just running consistently fast over many laps. The track just doesn’t seem to suit his aggressive style.
The Richard Childress camp is another possibility and at the top of my list for possible winners would be Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton. Both proved they are fast during practice and qualifying, (although admittedly, Jeff Burton looked better in the last practice than his actual qualifying run.) I don’t even rule out Kevin Harvick. He always seems to be there at the end.
Most look at Denny Hamlin’s performances since coming to NASCAR and put him at the top of the list for today’s race. I can’t totally disagree with that assessment although I do think he will struggle to stay at the front today even though I do think he will be near the front at the end.
I do think there is the slightest possibility of the EGR teams being in contention at the end also. I don’t expect it but one can never rule out Juan Pablo Montoya and some say he is due for a good finish and a win on an oval. (Now, I’m not saying I agree with them, but I do know Pocono is a place where stranger things have happened.) I don’t even rule out the possibility of Jamie McMurray taking the victory, but I do admit, he’s not at the top of my list (for whatever that’s worth to you.)
Unfortunately, that only leaves the Hendrick cars to mention, even though not all of them are really under the Hendrick roof. Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon have a lot of wins and top finishes at many places, including Pocono. I’m not opposed to the possibility of one of them taking the checkers today and I do think Jeff Gordon didn’t show all he had in practice. It looked to me as though they were experimenting a bit.
That leaves Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson as honorable mentions for possible victors in today’s race and all of the above mentioned drivers and teams have a chance today. It just depends on whether or not there is a caution at or near the end. Otherwise, Pocono has tendency to show the winner well before the last laps although not always.
Hey, even Dale Earnhardt Jr qualified third and could surprise all of us with a great finish… but then, well… you how that is…
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 6, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
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