NASCAR Pocono Pennsylvania 500 preview
THE STORY BREAKDOWN
While there are plenty of issues that will have to be dealt with during the race, there's also plenty of issues that will bear a great deal of scrutiny off of the track as well.
Certainly topping the news is the Tuesday night private plane crash suffered by Sprint Cup team owner Jack Roush. The private plane, registered to Roush Fenway Racing, crashed during a landing attempt at the Whitman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Roush, who was piloting the plane, and his friend Brenda Strickland were able to walk off of the plane under their own power.
Strickland was released from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon. Roush remains in the hospital and is being treated for severe facial lacerations. At this writing, he's still listed in serious but stable condition. Keep sending "the cat in the hat" those good thoughts.
Also during the Pocono weekend expect to hear some speculation regarding the pair of NASCAR drivers who were fined for making what was described as disparaging remarks about the sport of NASCAR. According to a report issued late Monday night by the Associated Press the fines were levied against two "high profile" drivers with one them reported to be fined $50,000. The Associated Press report also states that NASCAR warned their teams, sometime during the off season last winter, that this policy was coming and that "public criticism of the sport would no longer be tolerated".
This policy is actually in line with similar ones employed by the other major sports in this country. But the big difference is the fact that the other sports divulge the details to the media and the general public. NASCAR made it clear that they have no intention of releasing pertinent details including the names of the drivers.
Also this weekend fans can expect to hear the word "realignment" a lot. This will be in regards to proposed changes to the 2011 Sprint Cup schedule as well as a reported consideration to realigning NASCAR's Chase For The Championship
These issues have already created some rather interesting speculation regarding which race track will lose a Sprint Cup date and which track will be awarded a new date. There's already one confirmed change that was announced on Wednesday. Dover Motorsports Inc, owners of Gateway International Raceway, announced that they would not be able to host their annual two Nationwide Series races and their single appearance by the Camping World Truck Series next year.
The word realignment also seems to apply to the Chase format. There has been some vague references recently from NASCAR indicating they are looking at some ideas to tweak the current Chase format. We've already heard many ideas and comments from drivers and team owners on this subject. Look for more speculation on television this weekend while we wait for the final word.
It's also highly anticipated that we will be treated to rampant speculation over the 2010 silly season. We've already got a good dose of it on Tuesday when Marcos Ambrose announced he was leaving JTG Daughterty Racing, and their #47 Toyota team, at the end of this season. The team made quick work of announcing that former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte will take over the ride in 2011. Meanwhile Ambrose is rumored to be very close to signing a contract with Richard Petty Motorsports to take over the #9 ride that will be vacated by Kasey Kahne at the end of this season.
Kahne is of course the complete focal point of the 2010 silly season. That situation is highly unique and the rumor mill seems to be producing multiple scenarios regarding what team Kahne will spend next year with before he officially takes over the Hendrick Motorsports #5 ride in 2012.
There will also be speculative reports that says Budweiser has made a sponsorship decision and will sign on with Richard Childress Racing and driver Kevin Harvick. The rumor further states that an announcement will be made during the Watkins Glen Sprint Cup weekend.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN
So, who's going to win Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500? The Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE), likes Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing and has placed the team at four to one odds. That's a very logical choice because Hamlin is a four time winner at Pocono.
At six to one odds you will find Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. Johnson is a two time winner at the tricky triangle. Busch is still looking for his first win there but is always considered a threat to find victory lane on any given weekend.
At nine to 1 you will find four time champion Jeff Gordon who is also a four time Pocono winner. Right behind him, at ten to 1, is two time race winner Tony Stewart and series points leader Kevin Harvick. Richard Childress Racing team mates, and Chase contenders, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton are next in line at 12 to 1 and 15 to 1.
Looking at the middle of this week's WSE rankings there is a quintet of drivers ranked at 20 to 1 odds. Leading that list are double Pocono winners Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch. Also in that group is Kasey Kahne, another Pocono winner, along with Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya. Biffle and Edwards could turn out to be a tempting long shot wager. The law of averages says that sooner or later a Roush Fenway Ford driver is going to find victory lane. It would also make a perfect get well soon gift for Jack Roush.
Closing out the WSE rankings this week are Jamie McMurray and Mark Martin at 25 to 1 while Matt Kenseth stands alone at 30 to 1. The duo of Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr are ranked at 35 to 1. Finally, at 40 to 1 odds, we have the trio of David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Newman who is also a former Pocono winner.
Now for the weekly disclaimer. NASCAR wants us to remind you that these posted odds are for information and entertainment purposes. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their events. Instead you may want to consider actually going to Las Vegas where you can feed the machines, enjoy the live shows and the buffets. A weekend of feeding machines probably has better odds than a single wager on a NASCAR race.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 is 200 laps/500 miles around the Pocono Raceway's mammoth 2.5 mile triangle shaped oval.
The race has 45 entries vying for the 43 starting berths.
Ten of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning they are not guaranteed a starting berth because they are currently outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points. These teams will have to depend on qualifying speeds to make the race
The defending race winner is Denny Hamlin. But it's series icon Bill Elliot who tops the list of most wins at the triangle with five. Hamlin and Jeff Gordon are right behind them with four wins each. Chevrolet tops the manufacturer's list with 24 wins at Pocono.
When it comes to consistent finishes at Pocono another NASCAR icon tops that list. Mark Martin leads the finish stats with 19 top fives and 32 top tens.
Kasey Kahne holds the track qualifying record, 172.533 MPH, set back in 2004.
But, again, it's NASCAR icons who own the record for most poles there. Bill Elliot and Ken Schrader have five each.
There's a reason why the Pocono Raceway is called the tricky triangle. The 2.5 mile track has three turns that are virtually flat. Turn one is only banked 14 degrees. Turn two, also known as the tunnel turn, has eight degrees of banking while turn three is only banked six degrees. These turns are connected by extremely long straightaways. The front stretch measures 3,740 feet long. The Long Pond straight, between turns one and two, is 3,055 feet long. The shortest of the three straights, the north front stretch between turns two and three, is only 1,780 feet.
The Pocono Raceway presently has seating for 100,000 fans.
The weather forecast for the raceway region will start off nice with sunshine, some light clouds and daytime highs in the low to mid 70's on Friday and Saturday. But there could be a mother nature problem on race day Sunday. The forecast calls for increased clouds and a 30 percent chance of showers and thunder storms. If the race can't be completed on Sunday there may be yet another problem. The forecast also calls for rain on Monday.
The Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 will be broadcast live by the ESPN Network beginning at 12 pm eastern time. The race re-airs will be Monday morning, 230 am eastern, on ESPN2 followed by a Wednesday re-air, 12 pm eastern, on SPEED.
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