Race: Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 Predictions to Win
Date: Sunday June 7, 2015
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 1 pm ET
TV: FOX Sports 1
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Jimmie Johnson made history, winning his 10th race at Dover on Sunday. He’s part of the elite of Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Richard Petty who have all won 10 or more races at one track. My pick of Denny Hamlin ran well until a late race wreck ruined his chances of winning. This weekend, we are heading to another favorite track of Hamlin. Pocono will prove to be a challenge to many drivers, as the Tricky Triangle often challenges drivers and teir equipment as the race goes on.
Pocono is a track with only 3 turns. Turn 3 often is the challenging portion of the track for most drivers. The banking very mild, with turn 3 surprisingly having the least amount of banking at 6 degrees. Turn 2 comes in at 8 degrees and turns 1 with 14 degrees. The track is a whopping 2.5 miles of asphalt. That’s quite a change of pace from the concrete mile of Dover. The interesting part of Pocono is that despite its length, speeds are tempered due to the severity of the turns, thus the track doesn’t require the restrictor plates of Talladega and Daytona. Another interesting note is that because the turns are so sharp, the track is rarely referred to as a tri-oval. You could honestly probably play a drinking game during commentary because the term that you will hear most often will be “roval”. Thank Darrell Waltrip for that one.
Needless to say, this track is challenging. Although you would assume track position would mean a lot because of the length, most winners have starting positions that are in the teens or later. Another non-issue will be pitting. Pocono has some of the largest pit stalls on the circuit. We saw that there were some issues at Dover last weekend, especially with the speed on pit road being so low. I doubt that we will encounter those same issues at Pocono. What we do have to be mindful of is equipment and strategy on the pit stops. The issue that often presents itself at this track is rain. If not a delay, we will tend to see a rain-shortened race. Drivers and crews must plan for the weather and see what they want to do for fuel strategy and tires almost prior to arriving at the track!
Let’s talk drivers. Of course, Jeff Gordon has the most wins here with 6 total. This track actually has a lot of favor towards the veteran drivers. Mark Martin still holds the record for most top 5 and top 10 finishes. The veterans are the ones I’d look towards when picking a winner this weekend. Although I think that Jeff Gordon will certainly be competitive and be up front for the win, I am going with a repeat choice this week and going with Denny Hamlin. He knows this track and has been running very well, barring bad luck. Look for Denny to come out on top on Sunday. Here are your top choices this weekend at Pocono:
My Pick to Win: Denny Hamlin
Middle of the Road Pick: Kurt Busch
Dark Horse Prediction: David Ragan
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Busch has a very good average finish at Pocono. He’s going to be strong this weekend. I picked Ragan because pickings are slim on dark horses, but Ragan has a little more experience than most of the others. He was inside the top 20 last year in a different car, and should excel this year in the 55 car. Overall, I wouldn’t count out Earnhardt Jr. either. He swept Pocono last year, but I’m not too sure about picking him over Hamlin or even Gordon this weekend. He also fell a spot in the points after Dover. Let’s take a look at your driver standings coming into Pocono:
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Joey Logano
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Jamie McMurray
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Aric Almirola
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Paul Menard
13. Ryan Newman
14. Denny Hamlin
15. Kurt Busch
16. Carl Edwards
Aric Almirola continues to impress, jumping 2 spots and landing in the top 10 this week. Edwards is rounding out our top 16, but with 10 different winners this season, you have to wonder if the last 6 Chase spots are going to be taken up by 6 more winners instead of just point holders. Pocono tends to be either very exciting or rather dull. We will have to wait and see what this weekend brings. Do the anti-rain dance as we head into Pocono and hope for an exciting rain-free full day of racing!