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Pocono 400 Predictions

Race: Pocono 400
Date: Sunday June 11, 2017
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 3 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

Well, well, well! Jimmie Johnson joins the ranks of history yet again after winning his 11th Dover race. He ties Cale Yarborough with 83 career wins. Thatís pretty darn impressive. Anyone who can be in the same sentence as Cale Yarborough deserves quite the accolades. Johnson gave credit where credit is due, thanking Yarborough for his contributions to the sport in his interview. Overall, two of my picks finished first and second.

Unfortunately, Kyle Larson took the runner-up position although he dominated much of the race. In fact, he led a race-high 241 laps prior to the last caution of the day. David Ragan was involved in a crash, causing Larson to lose his lead with only 4 laps to go. Somehow, Jimmie Johnson managed to rally from behind after starting at the rear of the field for an unapproved gear change and took Larsonís potential win away from him in the one attempt at overtime. For a track where track position is everything, Johnson certainly proved that anything is possible with a lot of skill and determination. Larson, understandably bummed, really gave a mature interview, though, putting into perspective that Johnson is the best of our time and maybe the best of all time. Being that heís so much more experienced than Larson absolutely gives him the edge. Larson chalked it up to needing more experience and executing those restarts as well as, if not better than, the veterans. Heíll get there. Second place is nothing to be ashamed ofÖunless youíre Kyle BuschÖbut did Johnson winning surprise him? Okay, Iím sorry. That was too easy.

This weekend, we are heading to *honestly* one of my least favorite tracks. Womp womp, itís time for Pocono. Iím curious if this race would be more interesting in person. The best race that I witnessed from the TV was when Jeff Gordonís brakes failed and he plastered the wall harder than most anyone I can remember in modern history. That being said, Pocono is constantly cursed with rain. Itís always delayed or rain-shortened. Ironically, the forecast shows a clear weekend so far, so weíll have to see how that actually pans out. This track is known as the Tricky Triangle. Itís an oddball track that rookies notoriously have a difficult time with. Itís a 2.5 mile asphalt triangle with 14 degree banking in turn 1, 8 degree banking in turn 2, and 6 degree banking in turn 3. I will say that the turns are all modeled after different race tracks, which is a pretty cool concept. I understand the concept behind it, but Pocono still is just not a fan favorite. Regardless, itís a race nonetheless, and weíll have to see how these guys handle everything this weekend.

Hereís the crazy part. In terms of best average finishes, Jimmie Johnson is your go-to guy again this weekend. Joining him are Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, both of whom are no longer present in the series as drivers. Now, all that being said, there are quite a few other teams to look at when it comes to a winner here. Thereís no doubt that Johnson will be competitive, but will he have enough for the Penske drivers? Namely, Keselowski is going to be one to watch this weekend. Heís had a solid run of bad luck, but as the best finisher at Pocono in 2016, I think heís going to be the guy to watch. His teammate should also do pretty well. Logano and Keselowski have the horsepower necessary to make it around this monster track. Although itís 2.5 miles, it actually is one of slowest of its size due to the low banking and the sharp turns. In all actuality, drivers who can manipulate their cars are going to be the ones to beat. Itís nearly impossible to set up a car here to tackle all three turns effectively, so those veterans who truly have an understanding of the track are going to prosper. Hereís a look at your potential winners this weekend heading into Pocono:

My Pick to Win: Brad Keselowski
Middle of the Road Pick: Kyle Larson
Dark Horse Prediction: Ryan Blaney

Ryan Blaney has two top 11 finishes in his last two races at Pocono. This kid is quite the talent. I think that heís really going to do a good job this weekend. Heís honestly pretty good at the longer tracks. Look for him to have a solid run. Kyle Larson, well, heís just good. Coming off a second place finish at Dover is certainly pushing some momentum coming into this weekend. It doesnít hurt that heís still very solid in the points, just behind Truex Jr. for the lead. Letís take a look at your points rundown after Pocono:

Get your wagers down on Virginia's picks or take advantage of some juicy matchup odds at Bovada!

Here are your current top 16 after last week's race:

1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kyle Busch
5. Jamie McMurray
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Chase Elliott
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Joey Logano
12. Matt Kenseth
13. Ryan Blaney
14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
15. Ryan Newman
16. Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch is currently barely hanging on. Lucky for him, heís got a race win holding his spot in the Chase. I think that this will be a Penske dominated weekend overall. There are a lot of drivers along with Kurt Busch who really need to get back in the game and lose that bad luck streak, with Brad Keselowski being one of them. Pocono, although not the most exciting race in the world, can still surprise at times. Stay tuned this weekend to see how these drivers recoup from last weekís race at Dover!

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