Pocono 400 Preview – Picks to Win the Race

Race: Pocono 400 Preview and Picks to Win
Date: Sunday June 8, 2014
Track: Pocono Raceway
Time: 1 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

As predicted, Jimmie Johnson dominated and took the checkers into victory lane at Dover on Sunday. He carried momentum to earn his second win of the season and is proving that he still has what it takes to be in championship form. This weekend, we are headed to a much different beast.

The tricky triangle of Pocono is a much bigger track than Dover. It’s an odd shape and a track that is plagued by rain delays and rain-shortened races. It’s not necessarily a super speedway despite its length. We don’t see bumping and drafting like we do at Talladega and Daytona because there aren’t 4 corners. There are only 3 here at Pocono. That is its defining characteristic.

Where tires played a large role at Dover, we don’t see that quite as much at Pocono. Tires are certainly something that the drivers must maintain. The biggest challenge that drivers face here is track position. Leaders have a tendency to easily put 3 to 4 seconds on the 2nd place car. Staying out front is the priority. That means that pit stops are going to be key. That’s something that we’ve seen quite a few teams struggle with this season. If the pit crews on the top of their game, the drivers are going to have a hard time this weekend. Some races lend themselves to making up time from pit road errors but Pocono is not one of those places.

Let’s talk winners. Jeff Gordon is the man to watch on Sunday. He’s had bad luck and great luck here, but he knows how to get around Pocono. With his consistency this season and his strong runs, he is going to give everyone a run for their money. Gordon will have to contend with 2 other major contenders. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano from team Penske are going to show strength here. Logano has notable success while Keselowski thrives on these type of tracks. Look for them to be up front and giving Gordon some major competition.

My Pick to Win: Jeff Gordon
Middle of the Road Pick: Greg Biffle
Dark Horse Prediction: Kyle Larson

So, even though Biffle hasn’t won here since 2010, he typically runs well at Pocono. The Roush guys tend to know how to drive this place pretty safely. I’d expect at least a top 10 out of Biffle. This is certainly a place where he can turn around the bad luck he’s been suffering from lately. Kyle Larson has actually never raced at Pocono. That makes him a really, really, really big long shot, but with an 11th place at Dover, this kid is coming on strong. The rest of the C list garage is rather pitiful at Pocono as it is anyway.

Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:

1. Matt Kenseth
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Carl Edwards
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Joey Logano
7. Kyle Busch
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Kyle Larson
11. Ryan Newman
12. Kevin Harvick
13. Brian Vickers
14. Paul Menard
15. Austin Dillon
16. Greg Biffle

Overall, we are starting to see the landscape of the top 16 change into the drivers who have wins versus the drivers who do not sitting outside the top spots. While NASCAR was looking for drivers to focus on wins, it looks like consistency and wins are still working together to create the field. The biggest loser after Dover was Kyle Busch, who dropped 4 positions. He should do well this weekend at Pocono as he will mostly be battling the track. There’s a lot of room to stay away from other drivers who may potentially cause Busch to lose his temper. Stay tuned this weekend as we head to the Tricky Triangle at Pocono!

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