Race: Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400
Date: Sunday June 5, 2016
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
This weekend’s race at Charlotte was nothing short of domination by Martin Truex Jr. Leading virtually the entire race with the exception of only a few laps that were led by other drivers when he was on pit road, Truex earned his very first win of the season, securing his position in the Chase this Fall. This was a very emotional win for him and his team, as they’ve struggled through a few very rough years with the team arrangements and also with his girlfriend battling cancer. She was there for the first time in quite a while through the whole race to see his win. It was a very meaningful scene in victory lane to say the least.
Overall, Charlotte was actually a very uneventful race. As stated, there wasn’t a pass for the lead virtually at all during the race. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick made some strides. They were really the only ones who were racing each other throughout the night. Kevin Harvick drove to a second place finish. Rounding out the top 5 were Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski. Interestingly enough, there were a ton of pit road penalties. Probably one of the worst was when Carl Edwards was too fast entering and had to make a pass through. When coming in to serve his penalty, he was speeding once again. That second violation is a lot tougher and the driver has to come in for a stop-and-go. This causes a huge loss in track position, reflected in Edwards’ 18th place finish. Joey Logano also had a penalty, but drove his way back into the top 10 for a 9th place finish. A lot of drivers just couldn’t get their cars setup quite right this weekend, including both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. These guys are going to be looking for some better setups coming this weekend at Pocono.
This weekend, we are headed to the mountains of Pocono, also known as the Tricky Triangle. This track is not kind to rookies. It also has a tendency to be a challenge to the veterans. Pocono has an interesting configuration, leading drivers to battle speed while also maintaining their ability to brake into the turns. Tires are a huge part of the race, as is fuel mileage. We often see rain play a factor in the race here more often than not unfortunately. This 2.5-mile asphalt oval has 3 turns, all with different banking. The first turn has 14 degrees. The second turn boasts 8 degrees. Finally, the third turn is a mild 6 degrees. This variation in banking helps to play a part in tire wear as do the long straightaways that the drivers gain so much speed on. Another tricky part to this track is that along with the different degrees of banking through all 3 turns, they all have a different configuration. Building a setup to handle so much variation is virtually impossible. It just doesn’t happen.
Choosing a winner at Pocono takes a little bit of educated guesswork. Ultimately, it’s important to focus on the drivers who are coming on strong this season. Although there are drivers who have some good experience and wins here, they ultimately do not determine this track’s winner. Denny Hamlin, for example, has 4 wins here, but I really don’t think we are going to see him in victory lane on Sunday. While I do believe he will be a strong top 10 and even top 5 car, I don’t know if he’s had the consistency to really pull through this weekend.
When it comes down to it, I think that Kevin Harvick is going to be the man to beat. He’s been second more than anyone I can ever remember, even here at Pocono. He was leading last year before blowing a motor. His cars are strong, and I believe that he will make another trip to victory lane this weekend. Hot on his heels will be Truex Jr. He has some serious momentum with one of the most dominating performances in NASCAR’s history last weekend at Charlotte. He’s also the defending winner of this race, but to see Truex Jr. make it 2 in a row would be a pretty tall order. I like Truex and I think that he’s got a lot going for him and also has a lot more to come, but I don’t believe he’s got the consistency quite yet to make it 2 in a row this weekend. Look for him to make a strong run along with a few others, but Harvick should pull away and be the class of the field. Here’s a look at your potential winners this weekend heading into Pocono:
My Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Prediction: Ryan Blaney. Bet your Axalta 400 pick using your credit card and to get a generous sign-up bonus at Bovada Sportsbook!
Yes. Martin Truex Jr. is a middle of the road pick. He’s still a B-lister and definitely your best choice from that group if you are looking at those rankings. Blaney is a dark horse because of his confidence level. He’s been getting better and better, with the exception of a few hiccups along the way. In terms of the rookie group, I really believe he’s got them all beat this weekend. Elliot has the power of Hendrick, but Blaney may have something that Chase just doesn’t have, and I think we’ll see that this weekend with Blaney coming out on top in that C list group. Overall, we are seeing Blaney hang on to his position in the top 16. Several other drivers are having a hard time doing just that.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Kurt Busch
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kyle Busch
5. Carl Edwards
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Chase Elliot
9. Joey Logano
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Austin Dillon
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
14. Jamie McMurray
15. Ryan Blaney
16. Ryan Newman
Heading into Pocono, it will be interesting to also see how crew chief suspensions play a role. Three teams, including Greg Biffle, AJ Allmendinger, and Kurt Busch will suffer through Pocono without their main crew chiefs due to infractions at Charlotte. Tony Stewart’s crew chief
wasn’t suspended, but he’s been placed on probation until December 31st. Hopefully, these guys will do alright with temp crew chiefs heading into Pocono. We will have to wait and find out how it all plays out at the Tricky Triangle this Sunday! Wager on this race and ALL NASCAR races at discounted odds at 5Dimes! They offer tons of race day props too!