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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pocono: By the Numbers...and beyond

The tricky more track that hasn't been checked off of my bucket list yet. Who's hot? Who's not? Let's see....

Kasey Kahne holds the qualifying record with a 172.533. Kasey had a bad finish in the spring race after being involved in a wreck and finishing 27th. Even though he historically qualifies well at Pocono Kahne will have to bring it on hard to improve on his 17th place in the Cup Points standings. Denny Hamlin swept both races in 2006 and came out on top in this year's spring race. Even after Denny's wins in '06 he was critical of the 500 mile race, saying that Pocono would be better suited for a 400 mile race. Many other drivers agree.

Jimmie Johnson has the best average finish on the Triangle with a 9.5 and Mark Martin has finished with the most top fives coming into this second 2010 race with 19 top five finishes plus another 13 races that saw Mark finish in the top ten. Mark has struggled in recent weeks and I expect him to come back with a vengeance this weekend. He needs a solid finish to get him back into the Chase - he's sitting over 100 points out of the top 12 currently.

Tony Stewart won in 2009 and had a 3rd place finish at Pocono earlier this year. Tony raced hard last week and came out with a nice 5th place finish at the Brickyard and sits in 9th place in the Series Points. Tony should continue his pattern and see another top ten this week, at the least. Kyle Busch would love to finish better than his runner up position in the spring; with the determination that Kyle has shown this season I would guess that we will either see him in the top five or in a big wreck due to his aggressive winner-take-all driving style...of course we also know that if there is a wreck involving Kyle Busch it could never be his fault (you hear the sarcasm there folks?).

Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon also have wins under their belts at the Triangle. With Carl on probation through the end of the year he has to be careful of how aggressively he drives at every race from here on out. With a good car, the right set up, and without getting caught up in an accident Carl could very well come out on top this week. Jeff Gordon was caught up in a wreck in the spring race at Pocono and finished a lap down, he did not have a good finish at Indianapolis last week. Jeff will be looking to gain on Kevin Harvick, the points leader in the Cup Series Points standings as the Race to the Chase is ticking away.

Let's talk about Clint Bowyer. Clint has quietly been improving this season. A fourth place finish at the Brickyard last week, he has got to be feeling good going into Pocono. He had a good run at the spring race at Pocono and finished ninth. Clint cracked the top 12 in Cup Points after his 4th place finish at Chicago, moving up two spots. Sitting in 12th is a dangerous place to be, however, with just six races to go before the Race to the Chase closes out. Clint will be looking for any way possible to break into the top five and improve his place in the Points by the end of the 500 mile race on Sunday.

Our current points leader, Kevin Harvick finished 16 laps down at Chicago with a 34th place finish but came back to finish 2nd last week at the Brickyard. With a fairly comfortable 184 point lead over Jeff Gordon, Harvick has some breathing room but doesn't want to let Jeff close the gap. Finishing in the top five is important at this point to keep Harvick solidly in that top spot in the Points. Kevin typically doesn't qualify well at the Triangle, with an average start of 19.94 through the 18 Cup races that he has run there. Looking at Harvick's average finish at Pocono he shows a 15.27. He finished 4th in the June race at the Triangle, 2nd last week, 34th at Chicago, and was the winner of the July race at Daytona. Provided Harvick stays out of any wrecks and avoids mechanical trouble we should see him finish strong this week.

My pick for the top ten includes Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, and Kasey Kahne. I'm going to predict that Juan Pablo Montoya will be involved in a wreck that will take him out of competition and Dale Jr will finish just outside of the top ten. My pick for the win this week is Mark Martin.

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