Race: Pocono 500
Date: Sunday June 7, 2009
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 12:30 pm ET
Jeff Gordon is probably not looking forward to this weekend as he lost the points lead at Dover and we are now heading to a track where Gordon has had one of the worst wrecks of his career. Pocono Raceway is a tricky track. It’s a large tri-oval that many drivers have tire problems with or equipment failures. I’m not sure what it is, but there are probably more equipment failures here than there are at the Coca-Cola 600, which is the longest race of the season.
Pocono is an endurance track. It’s a 2.5 mile tri-oval with different degrees of banking throughout the track. Turn 1 is 14 degrees, turn 2 is 8 degrees, turn 3 is 6 degrees, and the straights are a mere 2 degrees. Overall, it’s a pretty flat track. It’s fast and long and ultimately a battle of who has the best equipment. The front stretch is an amazing 3740 feet long and the back stretch is nothing to blink at with 3055. This track has what is called a shortstretch because of it being a triangle instead of an oval. The shortstretch is 1780 feet.
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Gordon had one of the worst equipment failures that you can have at a track with this amount of speed. He has had brake failures here on multiple occasions and has hit the wall in one of the hardest wrecks that I have ever seen. Gordon always runs strong here but seems to have trouble finishing. If he can finish, you can count on him being up front.
Who would you pick as the best endurance driver though? I’m going with Jimmie Johnson. Coming off a win at Dover last weekend, Johnson is back in the form we are used to seeing him in. Once he gets out front, Johnson can just pull away. He has the cars and equipment to leave everyone in the dust. But we can’t forget about second-place Tony Stewart at Dover. He did an incredible job, but even he admitted that no one had anything to stop Johnson. I’m looking for a repeat of last weekend in terms of 1 and 2.
There are a few other drivers who consistently perform well here. Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, and Carl Edwards all have wins here and all like this track; however, their performance this season leads me to believe that they will struggle this weekend as well. I think Edwards will be in the front pack, but his cars aren’t performing where they should. Kahne and Hamlin have seriously lacked consistency this year, although this weekend may be a weekend to prove us wrong. I’d look for them to do better than they have this season thus far, but I wouldn’t throw them into victory lane.
As clich as it may be, Johnson is going to be the one to watch.
Here’s a recap of your top 12 in points so far this season:
1. Tony Stewart
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kurt Busch
5. Ryan Newman
6. Kyle Busch
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Greg Biffle
10. Jeff Burton
11. Carl Edwards
12. Mark Martin
This weekend is going to be a long race for the drivers as they conquer this tri-oval. Look for Gordon to be conservative so that he can finish the race, but also look for him to be strong. Look for Johnson and Stewart back up front. We may see some surprises from sleepers this season like Hamlin and Kahne as they will more than likely be in the top 5 at some point in the race, although I wouldn’t think to see them in victory lane. Hang tight. Pocono brings some pretty wicked wrecks to the circuit.