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Late summer at Pocono is different than early summer. Just because someone finished in the top ten in June doesn’t mean the same will happen for them in August (although it could.) Coming into this weekend are several with the capability of winning on Sunday afternoon but which one will is the great question and before we actually find out, 500 miles will have to pass beneath the tires of the one who takes the checkered flag first.
One thing, in particular, stands out to this fan when it comes to this later race and that’s how many have found more speed and that alone makes this second race even more interesting and adds to the drama of the weekend.
Another thing about this race is the different agendas the teams are on when they arrive. Some have nothing to lose and can afford to experiment. Others absolutely must have a good finish to either stay in contention or move into position to be a participant in the important top twelve for the Chase. A few need a win just to help“seal the deal” for their place in those top spots, while others need to finish at or near the front just to put themselves in a place to be able to take advantage of winning a race and have a shot at those two wild card slots for the Chase.
From this fan’s view, it does seem there are some mind games going on amongst some of the teams. Already questions have been raised this week about the #11 FedEx Toyota of Denny Hamlin possibly sandbagging for an earlier qualifying draw and of course there is that possibility. If that was their plan, they absolutely needed it not to rain or they would have started way in the back anyway. So far, they are starting in a good spot.
Joey Logano turned the fastest lap during qualifying and will start on the pole (unless something happens between now and Sunday’s start to the race.) There is no doubt he drove a great lap and deserves to be on the pole. Now, the question remains, will it translate into a win for him on tomorrow?
From this fan’s view, the cloud cover did nothing but help all of the competitors and many of their qualifying speeds were well above what they ran in practice, (well, at least the first practice.) The obvious observation from that is if the sun is shining, look for the speeds to be slower.
Judging from the qualifying session, (which I really don’t like to do), shows another weekend where the Chevys didn’t show they had the fastest speeds. In fact, the Toyotas are looking very strong with four of them starting in the top six. One of them was Kasey Kahne and he had a very fast car at Indy last weekend. Although his finish didn’t show it, he was fast enough to win last weekend, had things gone a little different. I’m still mulling it over but I think he has a chance to be up front at the end of the race. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he is going to win, I’m just saying he has looked strong both of the last two weekends.
The Hendrick Chevys just weren’t fast during qualifying. Of them, Jimmie Johnson will start closest to the front on Sunday afternoon, but that is only in eighteenth spot. Of course Dale Jr starts in nineteenth so I guess both of them have a chance to move up but they will have a lot of cars to pass.
Now this is just this fan’s view, but I still think Jeff Gordon had the fastest of the actual Hendrick team Chevys. Had he not slightly over-driven turn three and hit the wall, he was on pace to take the pole. Instead he will start thirty first and that is not at all what he wanted to do. Since he won the race in June at Pocono, this fan still thinks he has a chance at sweeping the Pocono races, but he definitely has his work cut out for himself. Say what you will, but there is no way I’m counting out Jeff Gordon as a possible winner on Sunday at Pocono, but I will admit this… if he does win, he will have to run strong for 500 miles and pass a lot of cars.
As for the Childress Chevys, they looked good and I think unless misfortune happens, they have a good opportunity to get some continuity back and possibly a win for one of them. They seemed to all be running about the same and they all have as good a chance as anyone to finish at or near the top and come away from Pocono with a little more confidence as they move into the last several races before the Chase. Of all of the Childress teams, Jeff Burton needs the biggest miracle over the next several weeks to even have a chance at getting into a Wild Card spot for the Chase. A win this weekend could sure help, but I don’t expect him to be able make the cut by the time they start the Chase.
With a little of the pressure off now with the contract negotiations of the points leader, it will be interesting to see how all of the Roush teams fare this weekend, especially Carl Edwards. Do I think he will win, it is a definite possibility, but I’m more looking to likes of Denny Hamlin (who almost always seems to run well at this track) or possibly someone that has been running well this season but hasn’t won like, Tony Stewart or Clint Bowyer.
Pocono is a place where running consistent lap times is a must and I am sure it will come down to a fuel mileage race once again. If it comes down to a green-white-checker finish, I expect it to be a very interesting ending and, as is usually the case, anything can happen…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 6, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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