Race: GoBowling.com 400
Date: Sunday August 4, 2013
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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And so we close yet another historic weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway! We wrapped up the Sprint Cup weekend with Ryan Newman taking the win from the pole after setting a new record during qualifying. Both times, Newman beat out Jimmie Johnson. You can only imagine the amount of applause and excitement from the crowd! In my opinion, Johnson had enough to win the race with the exception of falling behind on the last pit stop. Newman beat Johnson by just under 4 seconds. Johnson lost about that amount of time on pit road, which is rare for that team, on the final stop of the race. In classic Hendrick fashion, though, Johnson took the loss with dignity, stating that you win as a team and you lose as a team.
That being said, I am sure that Johnson is hoping for a better weekend this time around at Pocono. This is a race that we are never sure about. Generally, rain is part of the forecast. We will have to wait and see if that’s the case on Sunday. If it is, we always see fuel strategy play a huge role for the teams. There have been many races won and many races lost based solely on fuel. After we consider fuel, we always go back to track position and tires here. This track is long. It’s an unusual track and one that lends itself to brake and tire wear because of the long green flag runs that we tend to see. To a degree, this is a track of endurance on both the drivers, but more so to the equipment.
Pocono is a 2.5 mile tri-oval, the “Tricky Triangle”, as it is affectionately known. Turn 1 boasts 14 degree banking, 8 degrees in turn 2, and 6 degrees in turn 3. The frontstretch is 3740 feet with the backstretch coming in at 3055 feet. There is a “short” stretch here because of the 3 turns. That stretch is 1780 feet, which, for all intensive purposes, isn’t all that short in comparison to other tracks.
The guys that we usually see running strong here are those teams with the most solid equipment and those guys with patience. Not that there is a lot of opportunity here for huge wrecks, but the drivers who push their equipment to the max from the beginning of the race are bound to fall behind or break something before it’s all said and done. Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, and Denny Hamlin most notably have great records here. They’ve figured this place out. Hamlin and Gordon are strong in general. Logano has been very lucky on fuel strategy, although he’s comfortable with this track as well. When it comes down to picking winners for this Sunday’s race, I’m going to have to say that Gordon is going to take it. He’s hungry. He’s fallen in and out of those top 10 coveted spots throughout the season. He desperately needs a win to ensure a wild card spot in the Chase if that’s what it comes down too, and Pocono is a place where he is and should be strong. Here are your potential winners for this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Jeff Gordon
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Prediction: There are several drivers that are hard to count out altogether. Although I’m going with Gordon, there’s a lot of popularity surrounding his teammates, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne. Despite problems from the beginning, Kahne had a very strong car after getting back on the track earlier in the season at this same race. Johnson had a dominant performance as usual. He can’t be counted out of any race. Besides the Hendrick garage, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle are also a couple of guys to watch. They should be pretty strong this weekend as well. Martin Truex Jr. is my B lister for this weekend with A.J. Allmendinger as my C lister. Allmendinger has strong runs on the bigger tracks. He hasn’t been given the credit he deserves in my opinion. He’s spent the last few weeks struggling a bit, but I think that this is a track where he can play a little catch up and run strong.
Indianapolis moved the points around a bit. There were no changes from 1st to 8th position. Kasey Kahne moved up a spot to 9th with Gordon and Stewart in tow, both moving up 2 spots. The biggest loser of the weekend was Brad Keselowski. He dropped 4 positions falling out of top 12 altogether.
This weekend will be interesting. I don’t see a whole lot of movement in the points because this race isn’t all that dramatic in terms of taking out the best drivers like we may see at Bristol or Daytona. It can be a race where gains are made, though. Look for drivers to do their best to have the most solid runs possible by taking care of their equipment as we head to the endurance test known as the Tricky Triangle.