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Race 14 – Pocono 500 Preview

Posted by chadmusselman on June 6, 2008

The boys are on the triangle track in Pocono this weekend. This will be the first of six races that TNT will broadcast. Kyle Petty will be joining the announce crew.

Will this race be more exciting than last week’s at Dover? Probably not. Historically Pocono doesn’t have much side-by-side racing, and I expect it to be extra hard to pass with the new car. Don’t expect much passing for the lead on the track, as the pit crews will probably play a big part in determining the winner.

One interesting stat from NASCAR.com is that “Four of the past five races at triangular-shaped Pocono have been won from the starting row — twice from the pole by Denny Hamlin and twice on the outside by Kurt Busch.

Now, on with my picks.

Four with a real shot to win
Kyle Busch
Kyle is going to race the Truck, Nationwide, and Cup series this weekend, which mean he’ll be doing a lot of flying. The truck race, Friday night, is in Texas; the Nationwide series, Saturday night, is in Nashville; and the Sprint Cup race is Sunday afternoon in Pocono. Will he be able to hold up to all the racing and flying form city to city? We’ll find out, but one good thing about it is that he’ll probably get out of sponsor commitments, fan meet and greets, etc. that the drivers normally have to do. This will allow him to focus on driving and nothing else.

Kyle really hasn’t done much at Pocono in his career with only two top 10s in six career races, but with how he’s running this year, how can you not pick him? The question is, will all of the travel and racing in the other series take his attention away from Sunday’s race? Qualifying 10th is a nice way to start things out. The kid’s on a roll, and I say take him again this week.

Kurt Busch
Kurt has had a horrible season so far, but he’s done well at Pocono, and looks to contend for the win on Sunday. In fourteen races at Pocono he has two wins and seven top 5s, five of which came in his last seven races. He has a 1st and two seconds in three of the last four here, with a 14.6 place average finish. 11th place qualifying position should help Kurt stay in the lead pack early.

Denny Hamlin
With four races at Pocono he has two wins, 3rd, and 6th place finishes which is an average finish of 2.8. Denny is my pick to win the race. At one point this season Denny had four consecutive top 5s, but has finished 24th and 43rd in his last two races. Denny is too good of a driver to have that trend continue. Add that to his great record at Pocono and that makes him my pick to win the race.

Tony Stewart
Tony hasn’t had a great season, but he still finds himself in 9th place in the points which isn’t too bad. He has a good history at Pocono finishing 6th, 5th, 7th, and 3rd in the last four here. In eighteen career races he as one win, five top 5s, and thirteen top 10s. In the last three races of this season Tony finished 21st, 18th and 41st. He’s past due for a good run.

Two others that should do well
Jimmie Johnson
In twelve career races at Pocono Jimmie has seven top 10s, four top 5s, and two wins. The 10.7 place average finish is pretty impress also. Jimmie has three top 10s in three of his last four races at Pocono.

In the last five races of this season Jimmie finished 13th, 30th, 13th, 39th, and 7th. I have faith that Jimmie will buck the trend of good finishes every other race and be able to string two together. I don’t know if Jimmie will contend for the win, but he should be in the top 10. Qualifying 2nd is a good way to start a top 10 run.

Jeff Gordon
Remember after race 9 when Jeff was 14th in points and everyone wrote him off thinking he wasn’t a serious contender for the title? Well, he’s cranked out four consecutive top 10s which includes three consecutive top 5s moving up to 6th in points, and is back in the mix. Jeff finished 4th, 1st, and 3rd in his last three races at Pocono. In 30 career races here he has four wins, fifteen top 5s, and twenty one top 10s with an average finish of 10.2. Jeff should keep rolling and get another top 5 or 10 finish. A poor qualifying effort doesn’t help Jeff out any, but he should be able to slowly pick his way through the field and get close to the top 10 in the first 30 or so laps.

Darkhorse
Brian Vickers
Vickers finds himself 16th in points with only two top 10 finishes and five top 15s. It’s not a very good season so far, but he has been impressive in races, leading a lot of laps only to have some bad luck take him out. Pocono can be different for him, as he does have two 4th place finishes in his last four here (qualified 4th for both). Look for him to be in the top 10 on Sunday, as he was able to qualify in the 15th position.

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