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Pocono 500 News and Notes

Pocono 500 News and Notes

Pocono 500 preview
By Micah Roberts 

This week’s race is at Pocono Raceway, perhaps the most unique track on the circuit. It is the 14th race of the season and will be the first of two races held there. The second Pocono race will be held the first weekend of August, a week after the Brickyard 400. Both of the races run at Pocono this season will be run with the “Old Car”. The “Car of Tomorrow” gets a three-race break until it hits New Hampshire.
Pocono always has had two races prior to the Brickyard 400 in years past, except this season they flip-flopped with the brickyard date going before the last Pocono race. The flat tri-angular Pocono Raceway with tough turns has one track that is similar to it and that is Indianapolis. Both tracks require lots of horsepower to get around the long drag strips of the 2.5 mile tracks, but have to handle properly enough to get around the tight sweeping turns of each. The correlation between the two tracks is as strong as the trio of Phoenix, Richmond, and New Hampshire.

So just as a note to self, keep all of your Pocono data accumulated this weekend from the practices, the chassis chosen, and what actually happened in the race because you’ll be able to use it to have a great edge against the books before they even practice for Indy.

Last season Denny Hamlin won both Pocono races in dominating fashion. What is so impressive is that Hamlin not only swept as a rookie, becoming the 6th driver ever to ever sweep there, but that he had never driven a lap at Pocono before. Hamlin’s sweep last season continued a long string of success at Pocono for Joe Gibbs Racing with four wins there already. Bobby Labonte had three wins there including a sweep in 1999, and then won again in 2001. Incidentally, Labonte sandwiched a Brickyard 400 win in 2000. Tony Stewart won at Pocono in 2003 and took Indy checkers in 2005.

Hamlin wheeled chassis No. 121 at Texas this year to a 9th place finish. That is the same chassis they ran last season when sweeping. No confirmation as of yet, but it is likely that they’ll bring the same car. This season, Hamlin has only one top 5 while not driving the COT. He finished 3rd in Las Vegas driving a brand new chassis. In all, Hamlin has six top 5 finishes this season.

Hamlin’s top competitor last season was Penske’s Kurt Busch who finished 2nd in both races. In Busch’s last Pocono race with Roush in 2005, he won the race. In his last three Pocono races with two different teams, Busch has a very impressive stretch going. Don’t expect it end this week. Both Penske teams have been getting better and are showing great horsepower, something they have been missing for the last two seasons. Ryan Newman fits the mold also. He’s a driver who won at Pocono when it took some real skill with down shifting around turn 1 and 3 to win when he did it in 2003.

The gear rule which was put into place 2005 mandated that all cars have their gears set up the same which took a lot of excitement away from the race. Teams used to have vastly different set-ups in attempts to out think each other, and then was also the operator error of shifting that made for some great racing. Some drivers would down shift too early or too late allowing the driver who was perfect over the course of the day to gain an advantage because of his driving skills.

It’s not quite as fun anymore, but because the track is so different, it still makes it very cool to watch on the television.

Last season, all four Hendrick cars were awesome in both Pocono races. Surprisingly, they were led by the No. 25 car of Brian Vickers who had two 4th place finishes in the two races. The car that ran in those two races was chassis No. 334, which Casey Mears ran this season at Texas to a 23rd place finish. The team made some changes to that chassis prior to the Texas race, but because of the Pocono success last season it would be a good idea for them to bring it and build off their big Charlotte wins two weeks ago.

Jimmie Johnson swept the 2004 season at Pocono. As a rookie in 2002, he impressed the heck out of me with a 3rd place finish in his first race at the track. That blew my doors off then, so you imagine how I felt when a rookie won the first Pocono race in back to back seasons. Carl Edwards did in 2005 and then Hamlin last season. However, I still think Johnson’s 3rd was more impressive because of the gear rule changes. A rookie winning on his first time on the track…..two years in a row, are you kidding me? The only driver to ever win at Pocono his first time out was Richard Petty and that was the inaugural race in 1974.

Is there any chance of a rookie winning this year? Probably not. There is a Roush car driven by a rookie, David Ragan. Unfortunately he hasn’t picked things up as quickly as the Cat in the Hat thought. Two years ago Roush swept the season with a rookie in Edwards and then Kurt Busch in the 2nd race. The other rookie driver that may have a shot is Juan Pablo Montoya. If this would have been three years ago without the gear rule, I would like Montoya much more.

The Roush drivers have been very pretty strong over the years, but that sweep in 2005 was the first wins Roush ever had at Pocono. Mark martin had a record six 2nd place finishes while driving for Roush. Jeff Burton had two 2nd place finishes while driving for Roush. Matt Kenseth’s best finish was 3rd in 2003 and he had a 5th last year giving him a total of three top 5’s in his career.

Mark Martin has always run well at Pocono and should continue to do so this week with “The Old Car.” If it was the COT this week, he wouldn’t be considered much of a candidate. Simply because of the car and how well they have run in the “Expired cars”, they are a great candidate for a top 5. They have the horsepower it takes to compete as evident by their great runs on the 1.5 and 2-mile tracks this season.

A few long shots to take a look at this week that are completely off the scope of sanity when discussing candidates are Jeremy Mayfield and Brian Vickers. The two Toyotas were very impressive at Charlotte and could signal a turn for the first year manufacturer’s engine program. We have already discussed how well Vickers did last year with his 4th place finishes. Mayfield goes a step further than that for his career. He’s won twice at Pocono. The 2nd win he got there in 2000 was one of greatest last laps in NASCAR only because of who was on the other end of getting bumped.

Heading into the last turn of the lap at Pocono, the “Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt was leading the race. Turn 3 was the equalizer for everyone because a driver has to use lots of break, downshift, and execute it all smoothly in fluid motion, or else…….Well, the or else happened when Jeremy Mayfield did it better and faster than Senior. Mayfield came in with a “Giant SET”, bumped the “Intimidator” out of the way, and won the race.

You can imagine Dale Sr. wasn’t too happy after the race. It was really nice to see the bully of the block get punched in the mouth. This guy was bumping not only chumps out of the way, but he was also taking out Champs like Terry Labonte and Dale Jarrett.

It’s nice to reflect a bit on memories and the characters of NASCAR. The only problem is it makes you miss it more than ever, with “it” being characters. Where are the rivalries, divided crowds, and drivers that just don’t like each other? I’m not talking about brats like Kevin Harvick or Tony Stewart that just make stupid comments, I’m talking about guys that really walk the talk. Dale Earnhardt, whether you liked him or not, really left a void when he passed.

TOP 5 Pocono Finish Prediction:

1) #2 Kurt Busch (7/1)
2) #20 Tony Stewart (7/1)
3) #17 Matt Kenseth (12/1)
4) #11 Denny Hamlin (6/1)
5) #24 Jeff Gordon (10/1)

The Car of %#@?)?//#$%&^*

What is the name of the car they’re running this week? How about “The Old Car”, “The Car of Yesterday”, “The Days are Numbered car”, “The Traditional Car”, or “The Expired Car”?

The name game of this car, the current car, today’s car, and tomorrow’s car is so silly. By setting a precedent and calling the Car by a special name, does that mean NASCAR will always have a Car of Tomorrow? Or, will they live in the past by using the car that was deemed “Tomorrow” that they did “Yesterday” and maybe then do it, “Forever”? Or, will they strive to never see tomorrow by keep telling us there is a “Car of Tomorrow” and it won’t run until “Tomorrow”? They should call it the “Car of Infinity”, but Toyota might have some gripes about that since they spent a chunk of cash on sponsorship/entry fee into NASCAR.

This cycle goes on and on and I think only George Carlin or Stephen Wright can make sense of it and what it truly means in the end, if it ever does end.

The entire name thing is just too chic for me. It’s like the next step for me as a fan, every time I cringe when I have to say “Car of Tomorrow”, is to wait 10 minutes for my $6 Starbucks Mocha Frappa-LaLatte with my name on the cup. Then I’m going to go eat some keesh, see Muffie, Chaz, and Chip at the polo match, and ask some guy in a Bentley if he’d kindly mind if I used some of his Grey Poupon.

Simplicity, that’s all I want out of my NASCAR future, not James Caan in “Roller Ball” showing me the game of the future. What would the Soprano’s do? They’re simple, what would they call the “Car of Tomorrow”? I think it would go like this:

Tony: “Hey, this new thing we got…..we’re running it tomorrow.”
Paulie: “What about the other one?”
Tony: “So, What about it?”
Paulie: “What do you want me to do with?”
Tony: “What do I care? Make it disappear, get rid of it!”

That’s it, so simple!

VEGAS? 2nd Date? ……not so much

The race schedule for 2008 won’t be announced until August. Bad news is in however; it is very unlikely that Las Vegas will get a 2nd race date. The problem is that NASCAR isn’t adding any extra dates to the schedule. The only way Vegas could get another race is if SMI bought Pocono, which isn’t for sale, or move one of the SMI tracks current dates to Vegas, which they have already said they will not do.

I honestly thought Vegas would get the date. I thought SMI President Bruton Smith would do all he could in his power to bring that date to Vegas, even if it meant giving up one of the Atlanta dates. He spent so much money on the new track at Vegas, revolutionizing how all will make tracks now. A facility like Atlanta that never sells out would be the perfect swap for SMI only because they’ll make much more money in ticket and concession sales, not to mention the amount they could command for race sponsorship and TV revenue from the higher ratings.

Pocono is the track that should have one of their races removed if there wasn’t so much red tape involved. The unique track configuration would definitely be missed because of how all the others are cloned after one another. However, on a financial level you have to wonder how the sponsors, NASCAR, and TV Networks allow for this track to have two races making less than every other facility. Furthermore, how do they justify having one race there, let alone two? The races don’t sell out, they have no sponsorship, and the races are the last ones picked by the networks. This week’s race is the first being televised by TNT this season. These races used to be on the Nashville Network delayed, right after Hee-Haw re-runs.

The song I’m writing and sending to Kenny Chesney is inspired by the jilted city called, “Goodbye Pocono…and Hello Vegas!” It’s snappy tune, very peppy, and very fun with lots of fiddle.

That’s all, enjoy the race and make a few C-Notes!

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

mvbski wrote:

The Car of %#@?)?//#$%&^*

My thoughts as well on the COT  tongue

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

NASCAR - Pocono 500 - Odds to Win

Jimmie Johnson     5-1

Tony Stewart     7-1

Jeff Gordon     5-1

Matt Kenseth     12-1

Kevin Harvick     15-1

Denny Hamlin     5-1

Kyle Busch     12-1

Dale Earnhardt Jr 20-1

Jeff Burton     20-1

Kurt Busch     12-1

Mark Martin     20-1

Carl Edwards     20-1

Kasey Kahne     25-1

Greg Biffle     25-1

Clint Bowyer     30-1

Jamie McMurray     50-1

Martin Truex Jr     35-1

Ryan Newman     18-1

Juan Pablo Montoya     100-1

Casey Mears     50-1

Scott Riggs     100-1

Elliott Sadler     100-1

Reed Sorenson     100-1

Bobby Labonte     100-1

David Stremme     100-1

Joe Nemechek     100-1

Dave Blaney     100-1

JJ Yeley     100-1

Jeff Green     100-1

Ricky Rudd     100-1

Tony Raines     100-1

David Gilliland  100-1

David Ragan     100-1

Field (Any Other Driver) 60-1

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Week 14: The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 12 - And Beyond

Jun 05, 2007

1 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)

The File:

• 35-years-old from Vallejo, Calif., 78 career wins

• Three wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10s

• Five poles

• Average finish of 7.1 this season

• Led in 10 of 13 races for 674 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• Three wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s; two poles

• 10.714 average finish

• Finished 34th and third, respectively, last season

• Led in 18 of 28 races for 844 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• Average Running Position of 9.586, second-best

2 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)

The File:

• 31-years-old from El Cajon, Calif., 27 career wins

• Four wins, eight top fives, nine top 10s

• Average finish of 10.3

• Led in eight of 13 races for 612 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• Two wins, three top fives, six top 10s; one pole

• 8.1 average finish

• Finished 10th and sixth, respectively, last season

• Led in four of 10 races for a total of 275 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• Series-high 440 Fastest Laps Run

3 – Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford)

The File:

• 35-years-old from Cambridge, Wis., 15 career wins

• One win, six top fives, nine top 10s

• Average finish of 8.5

• Led in 11 of 13 races for 253 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• Three top fives, six top 10s

• 15.286 average finish

• Finished fifth and 14th, respectively, last season

• Led in six of 14 races for a total of 26 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• Series-high 4,343 laps run on the lead lap

4 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet)

The File:

• 26-years-old from Chesterfield, Va., two career wins

• Six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole

• Average finish of 9.9

• Led in seven of 13 races for 612 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• Two wins; two poles

• 1.0 average finish

• Won both races last season

• Led in both races for a total of 234 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• Average Running Position of 10.752, third-best

5 – Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet)

The File:

• 39-years-old from S. Boston, Va., 19 career wins

• One win, five top fives, seven top 10s

• Average finish of 13.2 this season

• Led in five of 13 races for 27 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• Six top fives, 13 top 10s

• 17.154 average finish

• Finished ninth in both races last season

• Led in 15 of 26 races for 104 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• Series-high 849 Quality Passes – passes of cars in the top 15 under green flag conditions

6 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford)

The File:

• 27-years-old from Columbia, Mo., four career wins

• Two top five, four top 10s

• Average finish of 14.9

• Led in four of 13 races for 55 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• One win, two top fives

• 17.250 average finish

• Finished 25th and 39th, respectively, last season

• Led in two of four races for 47 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• 3,375 Laps in the Top 15, sixth-best

7 – Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet)

The File:

• 36-years-old from Columbus, Ind., 29 career wins

• Two top fives, eight top 10s

• Average finish of 16.7

• Led nine of 13 races for 647 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• One win, four top fives, 11 top 10s

• 13.250 average finish

• Finished third and seventh, respectively, last season

• Led six of 16 races for 97 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• 303 Fastest Laps Run, third-most

8 – Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet)

The File:

• 27-years-old from Emporia, Kan., zero career wins

• Six top 10s; one pole

• Average finish of 16.4

• Led in five of 12 races for 23 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• 31.0 average finish in two races

• Finished 21st and 41st, respectively, last season

• Led in one of two races for eight laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• 2,594 Laps in the Top 15, 11th-best

9 – Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet)

The File:

• 31-years-old from Bakersfield, Calif., 11 career victories

• One win, two top fives, five top 10s

• Average finish of 17.3 this season

• Led in six of 12 races for 176 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• One top five, four top 10s

• 16.750 average finish in 12 races

• Finished 13th and fifth, respectively, last season

Loop Data Highlight:

• Series-high 1,388 Green Flag Passes

10 – Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet)

The File:

• 22-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., four career wins

• One win, three top fives, six top 10s

• Average finish of 18.9

• Led in seven of 13 races for 87 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• One top five

• 19.25 average finish in four races

• Finished 22nd and 12th, respectively, last season

Loop Data Highlight:

• 173 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most

11 – Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

The File:

• 28-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., 15 career victories

• Two top fives, three top 10s

• Average finish of 19.2 this season

• Led in seven of 13 races for 302 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• One win, six top fives

• 15.667 average finish

• Finished second in both races last season

• Led in six of 12 races for a total of 172 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• 832 Quality Passes, third-most

12 – Mark Martin (No. 01 U. S. Army Chevrolet)

The File:

• 48-years-old from Batesville, Ark., 35 career win

• Four top fives, six top 10s; 8.6 average finish

• Led four of 13 races for 44 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• 19 top fives, 27 top 10s

• 10.9 average finish

• Finished 17th and 19th, respectively, last season

• Led 25 of 40 races for 376

Loop Data Highlight:

• Average Running Position of 12.473, sixth-best

15 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet)

The File:

• 32-years-old from Kannapolis, N.C., 17 career wins

• One top five, five top 10s

• Average finish of 17.1

• Led five of 13 races for 237 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• Three top fives, four top 10s

• 18.786 average finish

• Finished 14th and 43rd, respectively, last season

• Has led in four of 14 races for 89 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• Second-fastest Green Flag Speed

38 – Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota)

The File:

• 23-years-old from Thomasville, N.C., 1 career win

• One top five, two top 10s

• 21.1 average finish; Led four of 13 races (Vickers has qualified for seven) for 84 laps

Pocono Raceway Outlook:

• Three top fives

• 8.5 average finish

• Finished fourth in both races last season

• Led three of six races for 141 laps

Loop Data Highlight:

• 60 Fastest Laps Run, 17th-most

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RacingOne Power Rankings

Driver Ratings

The latest edition of the RacingOne NEXTEL Cup Series Power Rankings as the series heads to Pocono Raceway for Sunday's Pocono 500, which features NASCAR's comprehensive statistical ratings system using a detailed formula to calculate each driver's performance.

1. Jimmie Johnson - Put on big comeback bid at Dover before finally wearing down at the end.

Pocono Finishing Average: 8.1
Pocono Wins: 2

2. Jeff Gordon - Dover mediocrity continued, but a top ten finish enough to maintain the point lead.

Pocono Finishing Average: 10.7
Pocono Wins: 3

3. Tony Stewart - Has to hope his usual second half performance is on the horizon after mostly forgettable first half.

Pocono Finishing Average: 13.2
Pocono Wins: 1

4. Denny Hamlin - Did great at Pocono last year after seeing it only on his XBOX. With two wins there last year and a new XBOX 360, has to be the favorite this weekend.

Pocono Finishing Average: 1.0
Pocono Wins: 2

5. Matt Kenseth - Turned in another top five finish at Dover to stay with the big boys on top of the standings.

Pocono Finishing Average: 15.3
Pocono Wins: 0

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Not a bad Monday for a while, but wound up with a 22nd place finish.

Pocono Finishing Average: 18.8
Pocono Wins: 0

7. Kurt Busch - Looked like his brother had somehow grabbed the wheel of the No. 2 car with the pit road move on Stewart Monday.

Pocono Finishing Average: 15.7
Pocono Wins: 1

8. Mark Martin
- A legitimate shot to make the "Chase" driving only a handful of races.

Pocono Finishing Average: 10.9
Pocono Wins: 0

9. Jeff Burton - Quiet yet again this year but still piling up the points.

Pocono Finishing Average: 17.2
Pocono Wins: 0

10. Kyle Busch - Seemed like the sane Busch brother this week.

Pocono Finishing Average: 19.2
Pocono Wins: 0

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2007 Pocono “1” Driver Handicaps

Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won at Pocono three times, but his most recent victory here came way back in 1998. Still, Gordon’s overall stats at this track remain high, with Top 10 finishes in four of the last six Pocono Cup races and an average finish of eleventh here over 28 starts.

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson pulled a season sweep here in 2004, heading to Victory Lane while pretty much stinking up the show in both cases. In the last six Pocono races, Johnson hasn’t finished worse than twelfth, and his career average finish at the track is eighth over ten starts.

Matt Kenseth – Kenseth has been lukewarm at Pocono, with six Top 10 finishes in fourteen career starts at this facility. He finished fifth in this race last year but, on average, this hasn’t been a great track for Roush-Fenway prepared cars.

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin won both races here one year ago, starting from the pole in each one. Last year in the Spring event, he even overcame a green flag pit stop to change a deflated tire that put him at the back of the pack. I’ll pick Hamlin as this weekend’s favorite.

Jeff Burton – Burton has Top 10 finishes in half of his 26 starts at Pocono, but his average finish here is a ho-hum seventeenth. He finished ninth in both of the Pocono Cup races last year.

Carl Edwards – Edwards won at Pocono in his very first Cup start at the Pennsylvania Triangle. Unfortunately, every race since has yielded a worse result than the one before, a downward spiral that bottomed out with a 39th place finish last July (courtesy: Tony Stewart).

Tony Stewart – Speaking of Stewart, he won here in 2003 and has Top 10 finishes in eleven of sixteen Cup starts at Pocono. He’s currently riding a streak of three consecutive Top 10s at the track.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer hopes for better luck the second time around at Pocono; he didn’t get it done in his first two career starts here, finishing outside the Top 20 in both races.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick has struggled at Pocono, particularly early in his career, but he does have Top 10 finishes in three of the last four Cup races here.

Kyle Busch – Busch finished fourth in the first of his four Pocono Cup starts, but hasn’t run worth a lick here since. I guess that’s a little harsh; let’s just say Busch has run better than he finished, but they don’t pay points for decent runs early.

Kurt Busch – Busch won here in 2005 (while still driving for Jack Roush) and finished second in both of last year’s Pocono Cup events. He also has a total of four second place finishes at this track. You know what they say about close only counting in horseshoes…

Editor’s Note: As this is written, rumors continue to circulate that Busch may be suspended for this weekend’s event for his pit road incident in Dover on Monday. NASCAR has not yet announced any penalties, and plan to hold off on making any sort of final decision until after Bill France, Jr.‘s funeral on Thursday.

Mark Martin – Strange but true: Martin has run 40 Cup races at Pocono but has never won here. He’s come close a lot, though, with five second place finishes and 27 Top 10 results throughout his career.

Martin Truex, Jr. – Truex finished 24th in this race last year but rebounded with a tenth place result in last July’s Pocono race.

Jamie McMurray – McMurray’s average finish here in eight Cup races is twentieth. If he’s going to improve on that, Roush-Fenway’s pretty boy is going to have to work on picking up the pace. Of course, at Pocono “getting a bunny” can often be done literally.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.- Junior has had four good races at Pocono, including a spectacular run here in 2001 when he almost held off a hard charging Bobby Labonte for the win. But other than that, the rest of Earnhardt’s starts here have been less than stellar. He’s finished 25th or worse in four of the last five Pocono races, including placing dead last here last July.

Ryan Newman – Newman won a Cup race here in 2003 as well as an ARCA race here in 2000, making him a strong contender for Sunday. The ARCA win was not without controversy, however; Newman wrecked the leader in the tunnel turn to take the win late in the race, and Roger Penske had to buy that fellow a new car as a result.

Bobby Labonte – Labonte won both races here in 1999 and scored another victory at Pocono in 2001. Oddly enough, he has just two other Top 5 finishes in 28 Pocono starts.

Greg Biffle – Biffle has just two Top 10 finishes in eight starts here and an average finishing position of seventeenth.

J.J. Yeley – Yeley finished fifteenth and eleventh here in his first two Pocono starts last year.

Elliott Sadler – Sadler’s recent struggles in Nextel Cup shouldn’t come to a stop at Pocono. He has two Top 10s here in sixteen starts and an average finishing position of just nineteenth.

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Fantasy Picks N Pans:

Cami’s Race Rewind:

Not even a blown tire and spin in the grass could deny rookie Denny Hamlin in last year’s Pocono 500. Hamlin started from the pole and led all but one of the first 50 laps. Things seemed on cruise control for the No. 11 car before all of a sudden, Hamlin’s tire let go and sent him spinning down the straightaway and into the grass. But after several trips down pit road to make repairs, Hamlin worked his way back through the field to win his first Nextel Cup Series race. Ironically, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, new BFF’s after Dover last week (yeah, right), finished second and third. Meanwhile, one of the scariest moments of the year occurred when the brakes on the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet let go, sending Jeff Gordon hard into the turn one wall. Luckily, Gordon was unhurt and able to walk away from one of the more badly mangled cars he’d wrecked throughout his career. Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth rounded out the Top 5.

Mike’s Keys to the Race:

Pocono Raceway is one of the most uniquely shaped ovals raced on anywhere. The track is 2.5 miles long with three individual corners. Turn one is banked 14 degrees, turn two is eight degrees, and turn three is six degrees. The radius of each corner is also different, ultimately resulting in every team having to compromise in some shape or form with their handling package. There is no way to make a car work perfectly through all three corners, so the teams that can get the most out of all their car in two out of the three will be the ones to run near the front. Expect Joe Gibbs cars to be formidable considering Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart have both won at the track. Hamlin actually swept both races last year, adding to Bobby Labonte’s three wins here under the JGR banner. Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports has had a handle on Pocono since Tim Richmond dominated the track back in the mid-1980s. Jimmie Johnson swept the races at Pocono in 2004, and Jeff Gordon has won at the track three times.

Those are the obvious choices, but if you’re looking for a sleeper, don’t be surprised to see Casey Mears run near the front and possibly win this weekend. Brian Vickers was strong at Pocono in the No. 25 with three top 5s and no finishes lower than 14th in six career starts.

Mike’s Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:

Jimmie Johnson has been a consistent performer at Pocono Raceway in the past. In 10 races at the track, he has never finished lower than 15th with two wins and six top 10s. Johnson is also enjoying a strong run as the defending champion of the series and drives a Chevrolet, which seems to be nearly mandatory to win a race on the circuit this year. Finally, he also drives for Hendrick Motorsports, which has fielded the winning car in nine of the 13 races this season.

Carl Edwards has been running more and more like he just might break his winless drought over the last few weeks. He has two Top 5 finishes in the last three races and has also led laps in all three. Add to that the fact that he won the very first time he ever raced a Cup car on Pocono Raceway, and the chance of Carl’s Truck driver finally shaving is looking rather good for this weekend.

Sit ‘Em Down:

Elliott Sadler is simply not feeling the love. After starting the season strong at Daytona, he has only been able to notch one Top 10 and three Top 15 finishes all year long. He also drives for Evernham Motorsports, who have apparently lost the handle on how to make Cup cars run well. Sadler needs his own magic formula; he’s scored just two Top 10 finishes in his entire Cup career at Pocono. Clearly, don’t count on Sadler to make any big improvements on his subpar season this weekend.

Reed Sorenson is still only in his second year of racing at the Cup level. That is often forgotten by many of his critics, but that simple fact can most certainly have a negative impact on his success at Pocono. Outside of Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards, most rookies don’t fare well here, in large part due to the tricky nature of the three varying corners. While Sorenson has run better this year, he’s still not shown a consistent pattern of results, and Pocono is just too difficult of a track to expect him to step up and finish well on.

Roll the Dice:

Casey Mears won the race at Charlotte over Memorial Day weekend, and many people predicted that would merely take the lid off of what would surely be many more wins. Add to the fact that he now knows how to win, the No. 25 team has long run well at Pocono, and Hendrick Motorsports has notched 10 victories at the track, and you can feel some confidence that Mears is going to put on a good performance this weekend.

Cami’s Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:

OK, this may be the obvious pick but I’ll remind you anyway. Denny Hamlin has an average finish of first at Pocono, making him one of the obvious pre-race favorites. Plus, Hamlin has been so close to winning this year that you just know his time is coming soon. Perhaps Pocono is a too obvious choice for that first win, but you can’t pass up a hot driver on a track he clearly excels at. Look for Hamlin to deliver win number one of the year or at least another solid Top 5 or 10.

After last week’s run-in with Kurt Busch, you know that Tony Stewart is going to be a man on a mission. His poor finish at Dover knocked him back to seventh in the standings. Normally, I don’t read too much into numerology, but go with me on this for a second: Smoke has finished seventh at Pocono five times in his career and is currently seventh in the standings. That was just too much coincidence for me to pass up. Plus, he’s a past Pocono winner who has 11 Top 10 finishes in 16 starts and he’s more than a bit ticked off. Look for Stewart to be near the front at the end of the day.

Sit ‘em down:

So far there hasn’t been much of a sophomore slump for Clint Bowyer but unlike his rival from the freshman class of 2006, he hasn’t had the same kind of fortune at Pocono. Last year he finished 21st and 41st in both his starts here, though; those are not really promising finishes that make you want to use him for your fantasy team. Bowyer has been on a roll as of late, but he has a tendency of not being able to keep a hot streak alive. That being said, please hold off using Bowyer for one more week.

Another driver who can’t get on a roll is Kyle Busch, he’ll be up one week and down the next. In the last three non-CoT races, Busch has finishes of 37th, 30th and 17th. Other than a fourth place finish at Pocono in his first time out, he has an average finish of 24th. Wait until the next CoT race before thinking of planting Shrub on your team.

Roll the Dice:

This could be the wildest wildcard pick I’ve made. But if he can find a way to get into the race, look out for Brian Vickers this weekend. In recent week, Vickers has been the class of the Toyota field and was in contention for the manufacturer’s first win at the Coca-Cola 600. During his time in the No. 25, Vickers posted three Top 5 finishes at Pocono with no finish worse than 14th. If your fantasy game lets you make picks after qualifying and Vickers makes the race, I believe he’s a solid choice this weekend.

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This week's NASCAR news and notes
Wed, Jun 6, 2007
By Associated Press

Rusty Wallace is one of many current and former drivers who are going to miss their periodic chats with former NASCAR boss Bill France Jr.

France died Monday at the age of 74 after a long illness.

''I knew this day was coming, I just hoped it never would,'' said Wallace, a former champion and now an analyst for ESPN. ''Mr. France was definitely old school, just like I was. I considered him a great personal friend and mentor who gave me a lot of advice on things on and off the track.

''And, he was influential on my decision to retire (in 2006). I remember him saying, 'Hey Wallace. You've accomplished everything in the world. How much longer do you have to push it?'

''Without him creating NASCAR and making this wonderful sport for many thousands of people, I would have still been a newspaper delivery boy and vacuum cleaner repairman living in St. Louis,'' Wallace said.

Wallace, like many others, credits France with taking the foundation that his father, NASCAR founder William H.G. France, gave him and building a hugely successful sport on top of it.

''Fortunately, when Bill became sick he had already begun transferring the leadership of NASCAR and making sure the right people were in place,'' Wallace said. ''It shocked the NASCAR community when Mike Helton was named president of NASCAR because we all thought that Bill was going to rule with an iron fist forever. And then, he took his own son (Brian France) and named him CEO, with (daughter) Lesa France (Kennedy) running the tracks.

''Bill put everything in place and I think he's got NASCAR on a railroad track for success.''

SEAT TIME: David Reutimann is a NASCAR Cup rookie and he knows his limitations.

Having qualified for just eight of 13 Cup races this season, Reutimann, a member of the struggling Michael Waltrip Racing team, is looking for as much seat time as he can get.

That's why this week he will attempt to race in the Saturday Busch Series event in Nashville, Tenn., and the Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, as well as practicing and qualifying a Toyota at Pocono on Friday for Josh Wise, who will race that night in a NASCAR truck series event at Texas Motor Speedway.

''The logistics of it all is crazy,'' Reutimann said. ''In order to do what we have to do to get (back and forth) involves a lot of moving pieces. But that is what I enjoy.

''We're just hoping for a better weekend than what we've experienced in the past two weeks,'' he said, noting he failed to qualify for the Cup races at Charlotte and Dover. ''We're really focused on improving our Cup program. I've learned a lot by running both series and we are determined to get better each week. The last two weeks have been hard, but we are looking ahead to make improvements.''

Reutimann had a second-place finish in a Busch race in Nashville in April and is fifth in the series points. But he is trying to raise his game in Cup, too.

''Any track time will help me learn and be more competitive for my (Cup) sponsor, Burger King Corporation,'' Reutimann said. ''I have one ARCA start at Pocono and we finished second. I have tested a truck there a few times and made a lot of laps. I don't know what will transfer over, but any track time is beneficial.''

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Pocono 500 HOT! Sheet 

One of the most famous last names in Indy car racing is starting to become one of the most recognizable in stock car racing. That’s because Casey Mears has started to find success in his first year at Hendrick Motorsports in the #25 car. He has qualified 16th or better in five of the last six races. The team parlayed that with a gamble at Charlotte and it paid off in the form of his first ever Cup victory in the longest race of the season. The only time in the last 6 races when he qualified poorly was last week at Dover when he started 41st. However, he made his way through the pack and wound up with a solid 13th place showing. We look for another strong run this weekend.

One of the hottest commodities out there right now is Carl Edwards. After finishing in the 20s in the first two races of the season, he has posted 9 top 15s in the last 11 events. He has led at least one lap in each of the last three races. At Darlington, he was out front for 33 laps and ended up with a very solid 5th place showing. The 600 didn’t start well (39th) but he still managed to lead a lap and go home 15th. Then at Dover, he won the Busch race and took his Cup car to the hauler with a 3rd place run. Adding to his NASCAR success, he won the pay-per-view dirt track race on Wednesday night. He’s a former winner at Pocono, and we won’t be surprised if number two comes on Sunday.

Speaking of former winners at the triangular track, Jimmie Johnson swept both races there three years ago and he heads in to this weekend on a roll. In the last 6 races he has an average finish of about 6th. Included in that span are four in a row in which he placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Then on his sponsor’s home track he led nearly ¼ of the race and placed 10th. Last week things didn’t go as smoothly with a 27th place starting position. However, he still managed to go home 15th. Since a top 15 is considered a slip-up for him, I think we state the obvious when we advise you to put him on your roster.

Slipping up has become the norm for the #44 team of Dale Jarrett this season. He missed two events after failing to qualify, and in the 11 that he did manage to make the show he only finished inside the top 30 in three of them. His best showing came in the season opening Daytona 500 when he managed to come from very last at the beginning up to 22nd at the end. In each of the last 3 events, he was scored 40th or worse with a DNF due to engine failure. Until the Toyotas can start to show consistent progress, we’d stay away.

Being a rookie in the sport is never easy, especially if it’s your first season ever in a stock car. That’s what Juan Pablo Montoya is figuring out. He has yet to post a DNF, however he only has four finishes inside the top 20. His best run in the last six races came at Darlington where he managed a 23rd place performance. In that span, his average finish is about 29th. It’s going to be a learning process all season, and at a track like Pocono there’s probably more to learn than any other. Therefore, he’s not a very good option this weekend.

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By the Numbers: Pocono
By Jarrod Breeze

As a rookie Denny Hamlin went to Pocono this time last year, qualified on the pole, led 83 laps and won the race, his first in Nextel Cup. A few weeks later he returned there, started from the pole, led 151 laps and won again.

On the other end of the spectrum Mark Martin has never won at Pocono. His 40 starts there are the second-most of his career at any one track without having a victory. Martin is 0-for-44 at Daytona, where in February he came agonizingly close to winning the 500 only to have Kevin Harvick streak past him at the finish line.

Will Martin be able to climb the mountain in Pocono? His career numbers state a pretty good case for the part-time veteran.

Predicating Martin's track record at Pocono on wins is misleading, much in the same manner as basing the four-time series runner-up's career on championships would be.

At no track does Martin have more top-fives or top-10s than at Pocono. His 19 top-fives are a career-high, matched only at Dover; his 27 top-10s are a feat equaled only at Michigan. He has won four times each at Dover and Michigan, but his 10.9 average finish at Pocono is better than at both of two tracks. In fact, at only four of the 26 tracks at which he has started in a Cup race does Martin have a better career average finish.

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

mvbski wrote:

On the other end of the spectrum Mark Martin has never won at Pocono. His 40 starts there are the second-most of his career at any one track without having a victory. Martin is 0-for-44 at Daytona, where in February he came agonizingly close to winning the 500 only to have Kevin Harvick streak past him at the finish line.

Will Martin be able to climb the mountain in Pocono? His career numbers state a pretty good case for the part-time veteran.

Predicating Martin's track record at Pocono on wins is misleading, much in the same manner as basing the four-time series runner-up's career on championships would be.

At no track does Martin have more top-fives or top-10s than at Pocono. His 19 top-fives are a career-high, matched only at Dover; his 27 top-10s are a feat equaled only at Michigan. He has won four times each at Dover and Michigan, but his 10.9 average finish at Pocono is better than at both of two tracks. In fact, at only four of the 26 tracks at which he has started in a Cup race does Martin have a better career average finish.

I think Martin will have a huge race this week at some very nice odds now that he has Hendrick horsepower under his hood. I think he never had the horsepower at Rousch to win before at Pocono where it is a must.


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Roush Fenway Racing Fast Facts for Pocono Raceway
Jun 07, 2007

* David Ragan competed at Pocono Raceway in the ARCA REMAX Series twice in 2005.

* Ragan started 11th in the Pocono 200 on June 11, 2005 and finished 26th.

* Ragan also competed in the Pennsylvania 200 on July 23, 2005 starting fourth and finishing fourth.

* Ragan is currently 26th in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship point standings.

* Ragan is currently second in the Nextel Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year Race. He trails Juan Pablo Montoya by five points.

* Last Spring, Greg Biffle was running second when it was clear he had a tire going down. He pitted under caution and restarted 10th with five laps remaining. Biffle picked up four positions in the closing laps for a sixth place finish.

* Biffle’s sixth place finish in Pocono last season was his fifth top-10 in a streak of seven top-10 finishes in a row.

* This weekend Biffle will pull his first double duty non-companion Busch and Cup race weekend, racing in both Pocono and Nashville. Biffle will be driving the No. 37 Brewco Motorsports entry in the Busch race.

* Biffle was the first driver ever to complete a full season in both series when he ran every Nextel Cup and Busch Series race in 2004.

* Biffle finished sixth last week in Dover and currently sits 18th in the point standings, 96 points out of the top 12.

* This weekend Biffle will run the black and red Dish Network paint scheme.

* Matt Kenseth is the only driver in the NEXTEL Cup Series that has completed every lap to this point in 2007, a total of 4,453.

* Kenseth’s average finish in the NEXTEL Cup Series this season is 8.5, second only to Jeff Gordon.

* Kenseth’s 8.5 average finish this year, makes 2007 tops among that category, so far. By comparison, Kenseth averaged a 9.8 finish in 2006 and a 10.2 finish in 2003, when he won the championship. For his career, Kenseth’s average finish is 14.7.

* Pocono is one of 15 tracks (including North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham) where Kenseth has scored three or more top-five finishes in his career.

* Kenseth has led only 26 laps in 14 races at Pocono, the lowest total number of laps led at any track where Kenseth has eight or more starts.

* Kenseth will be one of the featured drivers this week on DirecTV’s HotPass.

* With a 12.8-average starting position, Pocono Raceway ranks as the best qualifying track for Jamie McMurray.

* McMurray’s average finish at Pocono Raceway is a 19.8.

* In eight starts at the 2.5-mile, tri-oval track, McMurray has one NEXTEL Cup pole and two top-10 finishes.

* McMurray will run the IRWIN Industrial Tools blue and yellow paint scheme in this weekend’s Pocono 500 race.

* McMurray is currently 14th in the NEXTEL Cup point standings and only 24 points out of the “Chase. ”

* Carl Edwards is currently sixth in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings with 1,584 points, 475 points behind leader, Jeff Gordon

* Edwards win at Pocono in June 2005 marked the first win at the track for car owner Jack Roush. It was also the first time Edwards had raced at the track. He’s the only driver to win at Pocono in his first attempt with the exception of Richard Petty who won in 1974 when the inaugural Cup event was held at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

* In four starts at Pocono, Edwards has one win, two top-five and two top-10 finishes

* Edwards has led a total of 47 laps at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track

* This is the first of three consecutive weekends that Edwards will travel to complete both the Cup and Busch races. Next weekend Edwards travels between Michigan and Kentucky and following that he will travel between Sonoma and Milwaukee. This is not new for Edwards, as he has competed full time in both series since 2005

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Driver Handicaps: Pocono

This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 500. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 200-lap event.

Who's HOT at Pocono
* Denny Hamlin swept both races in 2006.
* Jimmie Johnson has an 8.1 finishing average in 10 starts.
* Kurt Busch has one win and two runner-up finishes in his last three starts.
* Mark Martin leads all drivers with 27 top-10 finishes.
* Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in laps led with 844.
* Tony Stewart has finished seventh or better in his last three Pocono starts.

Keep an Eye on at Pocono
* Matt Kenseth will be driving a chassis that has yet to finish worse than fourth in four races in 2007
* Bobby Labonte has three Pocono wins and finished eighth last July.
* Last year in this event, Greg Biffle was running second until his No. 16 Ford has a tire go down. He still finished sixth.
* If he can qualify, Brian Vickers has finished in the top 15 in his six Pocono starts.
* After winning the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream, Carl Edwards will be going for the triple with possible wins at Nashville and Pocono - both tracks he has won at.
* Since 2004, the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports team has never qualified outside of the top 10 at Pocono and has three top-five results there.

Pocono Rookie Report
None of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates have made a NEXTEL Cup Series start at Pocono Raceway. David Ragan is the only one of the group with experience on the 2.5-mile speedway, finishing 26th and fourth, respectively, in the ARCA/REMAX Series in 2005. Rookie Standings

Qualifying Tidbits
Last year, Denny Hamlin swept both poles at Pocono Raceway to give Chevrolet their fourth pole in the last 10 events dating back to the June race in 2002 when qualifying was cancelled due to rain. Kasey Kahne, driving a Dodge, is the current track qualifying record holder after recording a lap of 172.533 mph in the 2004 June event. Jamie McMurray's 2005 July pole was the fifth Pocono pole for Dodge since 2002. Ford won their last pole at the track after Todd Bodine took the top spot in this event in 2001.

Looking For Speed
Brian Vickers, who is making his first start at Pocono in the No. 83 Toyota, leads all drivers that are required to qualify on time with a 4.5 starting average at Pocono. Bill Elliott is second in average at 11.5 and has a past champion's provisional to fall back on. Kevin Lepage, who has qualified for one race in 2007 driving the No. 37 Dodge, holds the worst average start among the group at 32.2 in 12 races.

*RacingOne Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Carl Edwards
Pete Pistone: Carl Edwards
Jorge Mondaca: Tony Stewart
Rachael West: J.J. Yeley

Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

1. Jeff Gordon
(Points: 2059): In 28 starts at Pocono Raceway, Gordon has captured three wins, two poles, 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. His last of four Pocono DNFs came last year in this event after he lost the brakes and crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall. Gordon leads all drivers in laps led at Pocono with 841.

2. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -152): Johnson swept Pocono Raceway in 2004, leading 63 percent of the laps there that season. He has finished in the top 15 in everyone of his 10 starts, and earned one pole in the 2003 June race. His 8.1 average finish is the best among all active drivers that have started three or more races. This weekend, Johnson will be behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 385) that he ran in the Goodyear tire test last month at Indianapolis.

3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -190): Kenseth has yet to reach Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway, but has posted six top-10 finishes in 14 starts. In 2005, he finished 30th or worse in both Pocono races for the first time in one season. Kenseth, who has led in six races for 26 laps, has a 15.3 finishing average at the 2.5-mile track. He will race chassis RK-317 that won at California in February.

4. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -217): Last July, Hamlin became the sixth driver in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series history to sweep both races at Pocono Raceway. He led a combined 234 laps en route to the wins, which both came from the pole.

5. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -355): Last year, Burton turned around his luck at Pocono Raceway with a pair of ninth-place finishes, which ended a streak of finishing 19th or worse in the four previous races. All but three of his 13 top-10 finishes came with Roush Racing from 1996-2004. This weekend, Burton will be back behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 165) that won at Dover in 2006.

6. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -475): In 2005, Edwards won this event in his first career start at Pocono Raceway. He won the race from the 29th starting position, which is the furthest back a driver has started and won a race at the 2.5-mile track. The victory was also the first for owner Jack Roush at Pocono. Edwards, who suffered his first finishes outside the top five at Pocono in 2006, will drive the same car (chassis: RK-270) that started from the pole and finished third in last month's NEXTEL Open at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

7. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -486): In 16 Pocono starts, Stewart has one victory and 11 top-10 finishes. Stewart ended a four-race streak of finishing 27th or worse in the 2005 July race when he finished seventh. He followed that up with a third and seventh-place finish. His top-five run in this event last year came in his first full race back after sustaining a shoulder injury at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has led a total of 97 laps and has a 13.2 finishing average.

8. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -534): Bowyer's Pocono finishing average took a big hit last July after Tony Stewart made contact with his No. 07 Chevrolet on the frontstretch early in the race. NASCAR penalized Stewart one lap for aggressive driving after the accident, which saw Bowyer slide down into Carl Edwards before it was over. After finishing 21st in this event last year, Bowyer's average fell to 31.0 after a 41st-place finish.

9. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -541): Last July, Harvick captured his fourth top 10 at Pocono Raceway. In that event, he finished fifth to mark his best finish in 12 career starts. Harvick, who has yet to lead a lap at Pocono, will race chassis No. 151 in the 200-mile race. This is the same car that finished second in the 2006 All-Star Challenge.

10. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -588): In the 2005 June race, Busch finished fourth in his first start Pocono Raceway. In the next three races he finished 39th, 22nd and 12th, respectively. Last July, Busch captured his best qualifying effort at the track last when he started ninth. Busch also made one start in the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Pocono. In that event, he finished 25th after starting from the pole. The No. 5 has gone to Victory Lane twice at Pocono with Geoffrey Bodine (1988) and Terry Labonte (1995). This weekend Busch will debut a new car - chassis No. 422.

11. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -620): Busch captured his first win at Pocono Raceway in the 2005 July race in his last track start with Roush Racing. In his previous nine starts at the speedway with Roush, Busch posted four top-five finishes, with a pair of runner-ups in the July event in 2002 and 2003. Last year, Busch scored a pair of second-place finishes, and led a combined 35 laps, in his first two track starts with Penske Racing.

12. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -624): Martin will make his first start (41st overall) in a Chevrolet this weekend at Pocono Raceway. He currently owns a 10.9 average finish and has led a total of 376 laps at the 2.5-mile track. His 27 top-10 finishes lead all drivers.

13. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -632): Truex Jr. heads to Pocono Raceway fresh off his first career NEXTEL Cup win after a dominating performance at Dover. He will try to use that momentum to try and score his second top 10 in his third start at Pocono. he will make that attempt driving the same car (chassis No. 053) that finished 42nd at California earlier this season.

14. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -648): McMurray has raced at Pocono Raceway eight times, with a best finish of ninth in the 2004 June race. His best start came in the 2005 July race when he captured his first pole at the 2.5-mile speedway with Chip Ganassi Racing. Last year, McMurray finished 18th and 20th, respectively, in his first two track starts with Roush Fenway Racing. He will race the same car (chassis No. RK-428) that finished 19th last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

15. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -655): Earnhardt Jr's last of four top-10 finishes at Pocono Raceway came in the 2004 June race, and his best finish came in the July 2001 race after leading 31 laps en route to a second-place finish. In the 2004 July event, Earnhardt handed the controls of the No. 8 Chevrolet over to John Andretti on lap 52 after the second-degree burns he suffered in an American LeMans Series accident made it too difficult to finish the race. Junior's finishing average took a hit last year after a 43rd-place finish dropped it to 18.8 in his 14 starts. Junior will be back in the same car (chassis No. 042) that most recently finished 14th at Atlanta.

16. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -670): Newman's last of four top-five finishes at Pocono Raceway came in the 2005 July race. His only Pocono victory came in July of 2003 after winning his only pole position at the 2.5-mile track. Newman has led in seven of 10 Pocono races for a total of 140 laps. This weekend he will drive the same car (chassis No. PRS-104) that finished 12th at California in February.

17. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -719): Labonte has competed in 28 races at Pocono Raceway scoring three wins and nine top-10 finishes. Labonte, whose last win at Pocono came in the 2003 July race, finished 12th and eighth, respectively, in his first two track starts with Petty Enterprises in 2006.

18. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -720): Last year in this event, Biffle scored his second top 10 at Pocono Raceway with a sixth-place finish. In that event he also equaled his best starting position, qualifying seventh. In 2005, the team experienced brake problems and finished 30th and 17th, respectively. Biffle's other top 10 came in the 2004 July event when he finished fourth.

19. J.J. Yeley (Points Behind: -746): Yeley Finished 15th and 11th, respectively, in 2006 at Pocono Raceway. He will look to score his first top 10 at the track driving the same car (chassis No. 138) that finished second at Lowe's Motor Speedway last month.

20. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -792): Sadler has two top-10 finishes in 16 starts at Pocono Raceway. His best finish at the 2.5-mile track came in the 2003 June race, when he led 35 laps and finished ninth. Sadler has been running at the finish in every Pocono race he started, which leads all active drivers. His finishing average at Pocono is 17.9. This weekend will mark his first track start with Evernham Motorsports.

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Newman captures third straight pole
Sporting News

LONG POND, Pa. -- Rocket man Ryan Newman won his third straight NASCAR Nextel Cup pole and fourth of the season Friday, taking the top starting spot for Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.

With a lap at 170.062 mph (52.922 seconds), Newman beat fellow front-row starter Denny Hamlin, who won both Pocono races from the pole last year, by .245 seconds. The pole was Newman's 41st in 202 career starts, an average slightly better than one pole in every five attempts.

Martin Truex Jr., Monday's race winner at Dover, qualified third at 168.710 mph. Kyle Busch (168.139 mph) was fourth, followed by Clint Bowyer (168.058 mph). Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers and Jeff Burton will start in positions six through 10 for Sunday's 200-lap race.

"The track picked up so much grip, it felt like, over practice," said Newman, who picked up 1.262 seconds from his fastest lap in Friday's practice session. "We completely bypassed the 53-second bracket and went from a 54.18 to a 52.90--whether that's the racetrack or just the guys stepping it up a notch."

Hamlin said he wasn't as optimistic about winning the pole this year, but he expects the No. 11 Chevrolet to race extremely well on Sunday. "Our car was really, really good in race trim," Hamlin said. "We ran about five laps or so (in practice). We have a little graph on our monitors that stipulates where your lap times go, and we were just making straight lines.

"That's really good at this racetrack, especially when the tires do wear here. I'm really happy where we ended up. We definitely have a car that can win on Sunday."

The third starting position is the best of the season for Truex, whose fortunes are on the rise.

"We've been on a steady climb in the standings since California (the season's second race), where we were 42nd," Truex said. "We've had a good season, but things are just finally starting to go the way we need them to.

"We've had great racecars with not much to show for it for a good part of the year, so it feels good to be able to show it finally. I'm really happy with our race team. They're doing a great job."

Notes: For the first time in three races since taking over the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford from Ken Schrader, five-time Pocono pole winner Bill Elliott failed to qualify on time and had to use the first of his six available past champion's provisionals. … Toyota driver Dave Blaney, the last of the go-or-go-home drivers to make a qualifying attempt, knocked fellow Camry driver Michael Waltrip out of the race. Blaney will start 14th after a lap at 166.939 mph. … Points leader Jeff Gordon will start 18th but thinks his car will perform well in race trim.

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Top 5 and 5 to watch: Pocono
Sporting News

Here's a look at the top five in points and five drivers to watch in Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. All statistical references are for Cup races at Pocono unless otherwise indicated.

1. Jeff Gordon. No driver has led more laps at Pocono than Gordon, but he hasn't won there since 1998. His performance there of late has been ho-hum: In the past four races, his average start is 15.8 and average finish is 14.8. Maybe he gets bored on the two-mile triangle just like most fans.

2. Jimmie Johnson. Johnson won both races in 2004 and since has posted finishes of sixth, 12th, 10th and sixth. If the 48 team has its car dialed in, Johnson will finish in the top five. If it's not, he'll finish in the top 10. You can't say that about too many teams.

3. Matt Kenseth.
Don't let Kenseth's 17th-best driver rating (80.9) among active drivers fool you. He finished 14th and fifth last year; his number is pulled down by finishes of 32nd and 36th in 2005. As long as his car is in reasonable shape, Mr. Consistency will post a top 10 finish.

4. Denny Hamlin.
No surprise here: Hamlin has the best driver rating at the track at 143.1. In his rookie season last year, Hamlin won two races, both at Pocono. He also started from the pole each time. He is winless this year with a number of near misses. He's the early favorite.

5. Jeff Burton.
Burton is winless in 26 Cup races at Pocono but finished ninth in both races last year. After starting the season on a tear, he has cooled since winning at Texas - his average finish in the past six races is 22.7. He did finish 12th last Monday at Dover, so that's a positive.

Five to watch

Carl Edwards, 6th.
This will be a busy weekend for Edwards because the Busch race is at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. Cup qualifying is Friday afternoon, and Busch qualifying is Saturday afternoon with the race starting at 7 p.m. ET. Sunday's race at Pocono begins at 2 p.m. ET. The Nashville race is 300 miles; Pocono is 500. Even for the well-conditioned Edwards, fatigue could be a factor.

Mark Martin, 12th. Martin has never won at Pocono, but in 40 races, he has 19 top fives and his average finish is 10.9. Of course he wants a victory. But if he doesn't have a winning car, you know he'll get the most out of it. And if enough strong cars decide to wreck each other this week (see Dover), Martin will finish in the top 10 again.

Martin Truex Jr., 13th. The last time Truex dominated a race as he did at Dover on Monday, he was winning back-to-back Busch Series titles in 2004-05. He finished 24th and 10th last year as a Cup rookie at Pocono. He's knocking on the door of the top 12 in points. Expect another good day.

Ryan Newman, 16th. Is the Rocketman back? I think so. He has won two straight poles, and his finishes in his past five Cup races are 9, 6, 4, 39 (engine problems) and second Monday at Dover. At Pocono last year, he finished 11th and 18th.

Brian Vickers, 38th. Vickers has the second-best Pocono driver rating (119.1) the past two years. He finished fourth in both races last year and 14th and second in 2005. Better yet for Vickers is that he qualifies well: In six Pocono races, his worst start is eighth. And because the No. 83 is 38th in owner points, Vickers must qualify on time to race on Sunday.

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

NASCAR news and notes
Fri, Jun 8, 2007
By Associated Press

NASCAR's youth movement grew this week, when Roush Fenway Racing's announced it has signed 18-year old Colin Braun to its driver development program.

Braun will compete in select ARCA races this season and full time in 2008.

''This is an incredible opportunity,'' he said. ''I look forward to learning as much as I can, and growing as a driver and a person.''

Braun's just the latest precocious youngster signed by a NASCAR team.

Among them, Joe Gibbs Racing is already running a pair of 16-year-olds, Joey Logano and Marc Davis, in the Busch East Series, and 19-year-old Brad Coleman drives part-time in Busch. Dale Earnhardt Inc. is running The Intimidator's 17-year-old grandson, Jeffrey Earnhardt, in Busch East.

Braun began racing at age six in Quarter Midgets in his home state of Texas. By 14, he was racing in the National Auto Sport Association's Fran-Am1600 Pro Series, where he won eight of 11 races and a championship. The following year Braun won eight races in a row and a second championship in the 2000 Formula TR Series.

In 2005, he advanced to the Grand-Am series, where he currently drives for Krohn Racing and is third in the points standings. At 16, he became the youngest ever Rolex Prototype driver. The following year he took home his first Grand-Am win at the Daytona 250.

''You know, these kids have so much talent that it's unbelievable,'' said longtime NASCAR star Mark Martin, who discovered Logano and is mentoring his 15-year-old son Matt.

''The thing is, they already have 10 years of experience by the time they hit 16,'' he elder Martin said. ''And it's good experience, driving good equipment in tough competition.''

CONFIDENT JUNIOR: Coming off a 22nd-place finish Monday at Dover, where he had problems with two flat tires, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains confident his team is on track for a spot in the 12-man Chase for the championship.

Entering Sunday's Pocono race, Earnhardt, who plans to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the end of the season, is 15th, just 31 points behind 12th-place Mark Martin.

''Forget the 22nd-place finish,'' Earnhardt said. ''That car was among the top five cars from the start of practice on Friday until the race ended. If the rain hadn't washed all the rubber off the concrete, I think we would have been right there battling Martin (Truex Jr.) for the win and not wearing our tires down to the cords.

''We can't worry about the bad luck that's in the past. ... Despite everything that's happened - all the bad breaks and the flat tires and being penalized 100 points - we're only a few points out of 12th place.''

AMERICA'S PASTTIME: Former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch has loved baseball since he was a little kid, despite the longtime struggles of his beloved Chicago Cubs.

''Many people know that I'm a big baseball fan and that it's a big goal of mine to visit every current stadium,'' Busch said. ''A lot of people won't believe it, but I will be visiting Yankee Stadium for the first time in a couple of weeks. That will narrow it down to eight stadiums remaining.

''Our schedule has just been so busy this year that we're doing everything we can to fit in games here and there. We're planning a trip up to Wrigley (Field) in early August to see my Cubbies play. We're not going to make any big deal out of it - just go and have fun as fans.''

UNIQUE TRACK: Pocono Raceway, where the Cup series is racing this week, is probably the circuit's most unusual track.

The 2.5-mile track is fast, basically flat and has three distinctly different turns, which makes it very hard for teams to get the cars' balance just right.

''There are a couple of places on the track where you can make some pretty costly mistakes,'' Cup driver Clint Bowyer. ''You have to hit your marks, because it is pretty easy to drive there, get to running around and lose your focus. Next thing you know, your crew chief (is) calling your lap times and 'Oh man, I have fallen off two-tenths (of a second), I need to pick it up.' You are so (much) by yourself at that place.

''You have one mile of straightaway, and, sometimes, you can't see anyone out of your windshield or out of your mirror,'' Bowyer added.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Mark Martin is 12th in the current Cup points, despite sitting out three of 13 races this season as part of his limited schedule. Martin has made the most of his seat time with four top fives, six top 10s and an average finishing position of 8.6.

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

A Trying Triangle
By Matt Tuck
June 8, 2007

Pocono Raceway is the only triangular race track on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series schedule. It is a mixture of an unrestricted, intermediate speedway and a short track, with long straightaways that are good for drafting and a short chute that goes into a flat turn lightning quick speeds.

Normally, Pocono is not a place for the inexperienced, but that has not been the case lately. Ryan Newman won in only his fourth career attempt there in 2003. The next season, Jimmie Johnson swept those races in his third season on the tour. In 2005, Carl Edwards took the win in June in his first try at the tri-oval then followed that with a fourth in July. Last year, "Super Rookie" Denny Hamlin swept both races from the pole. This gives reason for fantasy owners not to doubt the youngsters this week.

Hendrick Motorsports will get a lot of media attention this weekend, but they will be overshadowed by Joe Gibbs Racing on race day. The Gibbs Chevrolets have nearly always run well on the tri-oval and all three drivers have proven they can compete with the best on that track.

How can fantasy owners not like Hamlin this weekend? He is a two-time Pocono winner and he has only been to the track in a Nextel Cup Series car twice. Moreover, the "Hamlinator" has been superb on all the flat tracks since he got into the winner's circle last June. Those Pennsylvania wins give him seven top-fives and nine consecutive top-10s in a row on the flat tracks. What else is an owner looking for?

For Tony Stewart, Pocono is a tune-up for Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He is a streaky driver when it comes to Pennsylvania. From 2001 to 2003, he rattled off five straight top-10s, which he capped with a win. After that, he suffered through four races of 27th or worse, but he is back on his game with three consecutive top-10s, including his third in the 2006 Pocono 500. Stewart is a flat track driver and he has a win and nine top-10s in the last 11 low-banked races to prove it.

After seeing what Toyota can do with its new engine package at Lowe's Motor Speedway, fantasy owners do not want to be too quick to count them out this week on a track that tests a motor's strength and durability. Understand that anyone in a Camry is not going to be a favorite, but some of those cars that consistently found speed in Charlotte will find speed again at Pocono.

Brian Vickers has come closer to victory at Pocono than anywhere else on the circuit. For his career, he has never finished lower than 14th there. In June 2005, he was the runner-up, and then he was fourth in both Pennsylvania races last year. All those results were in the No. 25 Chevrolet, now occupied by Casey Mears. Now he is driving the No. 83 Toyota, which puts him at a distinct disadvantage compared to last year. However, Vickers was very strong with Toyota's revamped engine at Lowe's despite losing the power steering about halfway through the race. That makes him the best dark horse in the field for Sunday.

The first-time winners have been the talk of NASCAR recently and Pocono has been good to the less-experienced lately. This adds up to a potentially good weekend for J.J. Yeley. It is no secret that he is driving for his job with Gibbs, so he needs another strong run to push things in his favor. As a rookie, he went to Pocono and picked up a 15th in June and an 11th in July. Considering the No. 18 Chevrolet's success there—Bobby Labonte won there twice in 1999 and once in 2001 with that same team—Yeley has the tools and the talent to succeed in Pennsylvania.

Red Flags
Kurt Busch should be an easy favorite. After all, he has been either first or second in the last three races at Pocono. The problem for him is that he is embroiled in controversy that could witness him serving some heavy fines after he got a little too close to one of the No. 20 crew members after on-track contact with Stewart at Dover International Speedway.

The younger Busch may not be the Hendrick driver fantasy owners will want on their rosters Sunday. Kyle Busch notched a fourth in his first try in the 2005 Pocono 500, which looks good on the resume. Since then, however, he has not had another top-10. He has been excellent on the smaller flat tracks, but he has averaged a 24th-place finish in his last three tries at Pocono. With the No. 5 Chevrolet team's bad luck lately, this is a good week to let him hide out in the garage.

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

Montoya can continue Pocono trend
FOX Sports

If you've got the talent to be a good road racer, it will help you at Pocono Raceway. Denny Hamlin won the Busch race at Mexico City last year, and he had a feel for what he needed to do with the shifter. It helped his confidence heading to Pocono, where he swept both Cup races.

Even though drivers don't shift at Pocono the way they once did, they set up the same way mentally as they approach the corners and let the car roll through the center of the turns. A lot of a driver's success is helped by the way he brakes. If you approach Pocono like a road course, it can be very beneficial.

Who to Watch

Juan Pablo Montoya: A great road racer, Montoya may take to this roval — part road course, part oval — like a duck to water. He could surprise a lot of people and be in contention to win, joining Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin as drivers in their first full seasons to win this race the last two seasons.

Denny Hamlin: Expect Hamlin, who won both races at the track last year, to press the issue pretty hard.

Tony Stewart: The two-time champ may be left scratching his head by these two new Nextel Cup drivers, but expect Stewart to be strong.

Jeff Gordon: Even though Gordon had a decent 9th-place finish at Dover, he wasn't able to challenge for victory lane like he's been able to do for most of the season so it will be interesting to see if he can rebound. His three wins and 19 top-10 finishes at Pocono suggest that he will, but the track hasn't been kind to him

What to Watch

Short week: Before Monday's rain-delayed race at Dover, several crew chiefs told me that they were totally prepared and ready to stay in Delaware until Tuesday to finish the race. It's going to be a tough turnaround, a little bit like going to California and getting back for an East Coast race. It puts more of a burden on the truck drivers than anybody else. Since we were racing the Car of Tomorrow at Dover and will be racing the current car at Pocono, the shop prepared the Pocono cars so the crew only needed to fine-tune them before loading up Wednesday at lunchtime. The truck drivers rolled out of the Charlotte area late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning as business went right along as usual.

Missing Mr. France: Losing Bill France Jr. on Monday adds another chapter to a really strange season. We're without the captain of our ship. It's going to be very strange not having him there. We've had two consecutive first-time winners, and three of the last four point races have been postponed by rain. As I've said since the start of the season, it's a very bizarre year, and the twilight zone isn't done yet.

Extra pit stop: Sunday's race will be one of the first run with a smaller fuel cell at Pocono. Automatically, we're going to have to make an extra fuel stop at least to make the end of the race. Playing the fuel mileage game, a lot of teams will be planning ahead so they can make it all the way around this 2 1/2-mile, three-sided track. I'm interested to see what happens with the tires and how they will allow teams to approach this race with shorter stops than we've had in the past.

Aggressive driving: In the past, drivers took it easy and conserved a little bit because this can be a very hard race on engines and brakes. Knowing they will have to stop for gas and get tires at least once more, drivers can be more aggressive.

Double duty: Nine drivers are entered in both the Cup and Nashville Busch race. Even if you're locked into the race as one of the top 35 teams in owner points, getting the Cup car ready to race is still the priority. Don't get swayed worrying about the Busch Series. I'm not trying to diminish the Busch Series, but Cup is their bread and butter. If I'm the crew chief, I'm hoping and praying they've got a good backup driver working on their Busch program so my driver doing double duty can jump in the seat and go when he gets to Nashville. Pocono is a big points race, and you don't want to let it slip through your fingers. For David Reutimann, who isn't locked into the Cup race on owner points, he can stay focused on the Cup ride because his Busch car is locked in on points. He's got to rebound from slapping the wall and missing the show at Dover to try to get that Cup No. 00 car back on track.

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

McCumbee Wins at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. - Chad McCumbee prepped for his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut by winning Saturday’s Pocono 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race in the No. 62 Victory Junction Gang Dodge.

McCumbee, who won earlier in the year at Nashville Superspeedway, ended the string of nine different winners in the RE/MAX Series this season.

McCumbee, who started fifth, took the lead on lap nine, moments before the first of seven cautions waved – many of them for right-front tire problems. Four laps after the restart, McCumbee cut a right-front to bring out a caution – and fell to the back of the field.

McCumbee, who won earlier in the year at Nashville Superspeedway, ended the string of nine different winners in the RE/MAX Series this season.

McCumbee, who started fifth, took the lead on lap nine, moments before the first of seven cautions waved – many of them for right-front tire problems. Four laps after the restart, McCumbee cut a right-front to bring out a caution – and fell to the back of the field.

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

mvbski wrote:

McCumbee, who started fifth, took the lead on lap nine, moments before the first of seven cautions waved – many of them for right-front tire problems. Four laps after the restart, McCumbee cut a right-front to bring out a caution – and fell to the back of the field.

I hope this race doesn't turn into a tire issue race.  :-","xx

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