Race: Overton’s 400
Date: Sunday July 30, 2017
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 3 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Well, that was interesting…Kasey Kahne ended up winning at Indy after some questionable calls by NASCAR. There are a lot of folks who have previously called out the organization for phony cautions and the likes, but this one is a big one the fans are not too happy about. NASCAR waited the entire stretch before throwing a caution, ultimately securing Kahne’s win. He’s one of those drivers that needed a win to get his spot in the Chase secured also. The bottom line is that NASCAR is losing fans left and right. Between the major changes from season to season to the lack of catering to us older fans, the stands are and will continue to stay half filled. Indy was a good example. Looking at the stands on the front stretch, they were nearly empty all the way down.
That being said, we have another driver secured into the Chase run. Kasey Kahne got lucky in my opinion, and sometimes all you need is a little luck I guess. I just don’t think that he’s up to par with the rest of the Hendrick garage and certainly hasn’t performed in a manner justifying a championship run. But hey, that’s the way it goes. He won kind of fair and square. I guess being that the race went on for more than 6 hours anyway, NASCAR was ready to call it. They waited for Kahne to pass the overtime line after Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon, and Paul Menard got into a wreck, making Kahne the winner. Ultimately, we don’t get to make the calls, but it’d sure be nice if NASCAR remained consistent in their practices. That’s really what’s driving everyone nuts. They can’t stick with anything for longer than about 0.2 seconds.
This weekend, we are heading to a vastly different track than Indy. Pocono is actually a much different track than most on the circuit. We’ve been here once already this season, and it was surprisingly a much better race than usual. Pocono is notoriously not one of the best races. Typically, there’s little excitement and usually it rains. Fuel strategy becomes a huge factor here because of that. This place is a 2.5 mile asphalt triangle. Yep, it’s the Tricky Triangle, as it’s affectionately known. The turns all have different degrees of banking as well. Turn 1 has 14 degree banking. Turn 2 has 8 degrees of banking. Turn 3 has 6 degrees of banking. These turns are all modeled after a turn from a different track. That’s an interesting concept if nothing else. It seems to work, giving the drivers a challenge at properly setting up their cars. I’d venture to say that it’s nearly impossible to get the cars just right due to the variables in banking, necessity of brakes, and also the need for horsepower given the long straights.
Coming into Pocono, the best drivers will be the ones with the most horsepower. Strong motor packages are a must here. With that, we should see the Penske drivers do very well here. Brad Keselowski is coming off a second place finish from Indy and also off a newly signed contract with Penske, extending his stay for several years. There’s a lot to celebrate here, and a win at Pocono would make it even sweeter. Take into consideration that Kevin Harvick did well here in June with Ryan Blaney holding him off to take the win. That’s odd at Pocono to see a rookie fare so well, but Blaney managed to do it. He’s definitely going to be one to watch again on Sunday. Here’s your full rundown of potential winners this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Brad Keselowski
Middle of the Road Pick: Kyle Larson
Dark Horse Prediction: Ryan Blaney
Again, Blaney won here in June. Larson had a top 10 finish, and Keselowski rounded out the top five. This is a good group of drivers right here. There will be a lot of competition, but these guys are all solid. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are a couple of other drivers to you’re your eyes on. Hopefully, there will be more drivers that are able to stay on the track this week. Indy resulted in only 19 drivers still being on the track when all was said and done. Honestly, that’s another point of contention that I have with NASCAR and these new rules. The five minute rule is dumb. The rule stating a car that goes to the garage for repairs can no longer race is dumb. Do you know how many fans you ostracized after Jr. had to go to the garage at Indy to make repairs? Oh wait. They just pack up and go home because what’s the point of wasting your time trying to make repairs. You don’t get to race anymore. That means that drivers don’t get to contend for points by trying to get back on the track, which is simply another element of stock car racing that NASCAR has decided to nix. We’ll see what Pocono brings us, but there are still a lot of drivers who could use those valuable points to drive their way into the Chase, with Jr. being one of them.
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Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Matrin Truex Jr.
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kyle Busch
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Jamie McMurray
8. Chase Elliott
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Jimmie Johnson
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Ryan Blaney
13. Joey Logano
14. Kurt Busch
15. Ryan Newman
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
So, now there are 5 drivers inside the top 16 without a win. There are 2 drivers outside the top 16 with a win. That means as of right now, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer are on the chopping block if they can’t come up with a win or secure a vast amount of points to jump up in the standings ahead of the other non-winning drivers. This is a feat easier said than done for sure. This weekend, let’s see if we can find a happy medium between the chaos that was Indy and the boredom that typically ensues at Pocono. Stay tuned for Sunday’s running of the Overton’s 400!