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Pocono Sprint Cup Preview

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, June 02, 2009

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Pocono is a unique challenge
43 of NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup teams will be busy this week preparing for a road trip to Long Pond, Pennsylvania where they will have to take on the always challenging Pocono Raceway. This uniquely triangular shaped track has three turns along with one short and one extremely long straightaway.

That means Sunday's race is going to be a physical challenge for the drivers. It will also be a test of endurance on the cars. This track is notorious for taxing engines, transmissions and brakes. It also means the crew chiefs are going to seriously earn their paychecks. Pre-race setups for such an oddly shaped track often becomes a case of "it is what it is" and adjustments during pit stops will be the order of the day. The chiefs will also be taking a lot of notes this weekend because the series will be returning to this track on August 2nd.

Making Sunday's race even more interesting will be the likely debut of double file restarts. By the time you read this, NASCAR will be expected to make an official announcement regarding the initiation of the double file restart program. This essentially means that, following a caution flag, the drivers on the lead lap will line up two by two based on their running order in the race. The consideration for this move has already been lauded by many. It's expected to add an additional element of excitement especially during the latter stages of the race. More importantly it's also a safety issue. The double file restart means the leaders won't have to endure the trauma of dealing with slower lapped cars lined up on the inside of the track.

THE RACE BREAKDOWN.

The Pocono 500 is 200 laps/500 miles long.

The track is a massive 2.5 miles in length. It's shaped like a triangle meaning it only has three turns.

Despite its size the speedway is basically flat. Turn one only has 14 degrees of banking, turn two is banked 8 degrees and there is only 6 degrees banking in turn three.

The track presently seats 100,000 fans.

The pit road speed is 55 MPH.

The Pocono Raceway opened in 1968 as a three quarter mile oval. It was remodeled to its present shape and size in the early seventies. The first race on the 2.5 mile tri oval was in 1971.

The very first NASCAR Cup race was staged there in 1974 and was won by Richard Petty.

Bill Elliott has the most all time wins at the raceway with five.

Chevrolet has the most manufacturer wins with 23.

Hendrick Motorsports has the most team wins with 11.

The defending race winner is Kasey Kahne.

Carl Edwards won the second race in August of last year.

Kasey Kahne also holds the track qualifying record, 172.533 MPH, which he set last year prior to winning the race.

Historical archives indicate that qualifying is extremely important at Pocono. In 62 Cup races 21 percent of them has been won from the pole position.

In 22 of those events the race winner has started from the front row.

44 of those race winners started from within the top ten of the starting field.

The TNT Network begins its stint broadcasting NASCAR races this Sunday. The race will be aired Sunday at 1230 pm eastern. The re air can be seen on Wednesday, June 10th, at 12 noon eastern on the Speed Channel.

THE VEGAS REPORT

The Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, WSE, is telling us that the safe bet on the Pocono 500 lies with Jimmie Johnson whom they rated at 5 to 1 odds.

Kyle Busch, every body's favorite bad boy, is ranked at 7 to 1 to win the race.

Ranked at 8 to 1 odds is the trio of Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon. The Hamlin ranking is a little interesting here and could turn out to be a good bet. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win at the track and swept both races in 2006.

Ranked at 12 to 1 this week are drivers Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch. I'm not sure about this ranking for defending winner Kahne or the red hot Stewart. Either one might turn out to be a very good bet.

Matt Kenseth stands alone ranked at the 15 to 1, Ryan Newman is set at 20 to 1.

The WSE also tells us that the time is not right for Dale Earnhardt Jr and his new crew chief. The team is ranked at 30 to 1 as is Brian Vickers.

The WSE is also not showing any love for the members of Richard Childress Racing. Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick are shown at 35 to 1 odds while team mate Clint Bowyer is ranked at 40 to 1.

Now for the weekly disclaimer. The part of the column where we tell you that NASCAR considers these rankings as a source of entertainment only and does not condone the placing of wagers on their races.

Instead of gambling you might want to consider dialing up the Fox Sports/NASCAR website and invest some money into official "Digger" merchandise. That little fat rat, or whatever he is, won't be seen on television until next year's Daytona 500 and he probably needs the money.

Enjoy the Pocono 500 this Sunday. It's expected to be a very good race.

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