Pennsylvania 400 Picks

Race: Pennsylvania 400
Date: Sunday August 5, 2012
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 12 pm ET
By Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

Looks like 5-time is trying to prove he can be 6-time! Jimmie Johnson pulled into victory lane at Indy this past Sunday and kissed the bricks.He proved that he was a dominating force, edging out Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and teammate Jeff Gordon who rounded out your top 5. Brad Keselowski was in the news, trying to get Penske their first Sprint Cup win, but to no avail. Although he dominated on the Nationwide night, Keselowski struggled with his setup throughout the day on Sunday.

This Sunday, we are headed to the Tricky Triangle, also known as Pocono, for the Pennsylvania 400. Although Johnson is coming off a win, I think that he will struggle a bit here. This track can be either really great to drivers or really terrible. There’s not much in between. Just ask Jeff Gordon. He has had one of his most devastating crashes here resulting from brake failure. He managed to find one of the only spots on the track not protected with safer barrier and turned his car into a pile of scrap. On the other hand, this track has been very good to Gordon giving him 4 wins.

The trick to this track besides the difficult configuration is the rain. More often than not, we’re facing a rain delay of some sort, whether that be in qualifying, practice, or the race itself. It’s actually pretty frustrating, especially now since NASCAR is bound and determined to get to halfway just to be able to call the race.Regardless, this weekend we are looking really good as far as weather goes right now. My cynicism makes me believe this will change as we inch closer to the weekend.

Pocono is a 2.5-mile tri-oval with 14 degree banking in turn 1, 8 degrees in turn 2, 6 degrees in turn 3, and 2 degrees on the straights. The front stretch comes in at a whopping 3740 feet, with the backstretch not too far behind at 3055 feet. Overall, the biggest issue at Pocono is fuel mileage. This race turns into a fuel mileage race with or without rain.We are going to see pit strategy and track position play into the fuel mileage game here.

Taking a look at the winners for the weekend, I am going to say that Jeff Gordon is going to pull it out.He’s most definitely going to have some stiff competition from Denny Hamlin. He’s the other guy to watch, but with Jeff’s record and his need for a win, this is a great track for him to produce. We need to keep our eyes on Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and defending winner Brad Keselowski as well. Finally, Joey Logano broke the record here in qualifying this spring and also took away the win. Although he’s struggled quite a bit this year, Pocono should give him a bit of redemption.Here’s a complete look at your contenders this weekend:

My Prediction to Win: Jeff Gordon

Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer

Dark Horse Pick: Sam Hornish Jr.

Clint Bowyer has strong cars and bad luck, much like Jeff Gordon. If he can stay out of the wrong place at the wrong time, he should be able to put together a strong run here. Sam Hornish Jr. has experience with the fasttracks on the Indy side, so this 2.5 mile track should feel somewhat like home for him. Hornish Jr. is taking over the ride for A.J. Allmendinger, who has been yanked from the car because of 2 failed drug tests. Only time will tellif Allmendinger will get his ride back.

After last weekend, the points changed a bit. If you didn’t already hear from every news media outlet in the world, Dale Jr. is the new leader! Here’s the rundown of your current top 10 in the points:

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Greg Biffle
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Tony Stewart
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Clint Bowyer

Bowyer could really use a win or a strong finish this weekend to ensure his place in the Chase.Jeff Gordon HAS to have wins from here on out to even have a fleeting shot at making the top 10 this year.This weekend is a good start for him.We will have to wait and see how Gordon and the rest of the 42 car field handle the tricky triangle in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.