The NASCAR Cup Series visits Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile tricky triangle for the second time this season. Sunday’s 400-mile race will the 21st race of the season and also the 11th race using the race package that features engines with 550 horsepower and aero ducts.
The type of racing with this package has been very competitive with the exception of one race, the June 2 Pocono race.
I had truly believed the racing at Pocono would be better than ever with the new package, but I was dead wrong. There were only 13 lead changes among nine drivers, but six of those drivers led nine laps or less and led laps only after the leaders pitted. Kyle Busch led four times for 79 of the 160 laps for his third Pocono win. All three of those came have come in his last four starts there.
What I found interesting in that race was Busch scrapping all plans to win any stage points and geared all strategy to win the race. He didn’t finish in the top-10 in any of the two stages. Kyle Larson won both stages but finished 26th, a lap down.
Because it’s been such a short turnaround since the last Pocono race we should see something similar on Sunday so let’s review who did well that day. William Byron won the pole, led the first 22 laps and finished ninth. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott would finish fourth. Brad Keselowski was second, Erik Jones was third and Clint Bowyer was fifth. It was a nice mix of Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet all looking fairly equal.
Parity is great for the sport and it’s been on display with the last seven races producing seven different winners and the last four races were won by a driver grabbing their first win of the season. Two of the drivers, Alex Bowman at Chicagoland and Justin Haley at Daytona, won for the first time in their Cup careers.
With Kevin Harvick finally winning last week at New Hampshire (We had him in our Top 5 picks) there are now 10 different drivers to win this season. Other quality drivers still looking for their first wins of 2019 are Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Larson, and Jones.
Of those drivers, the one I’m doing the most odds shopping for is Jones. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has him at 20-1 odds to win.
What’s to like about Jones this week? The first thing is him driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and having equipment like Busch, Truex and Denny Hamlin who have combined to win 10 of the 20 races this season.
He’s also in great current form, finishing in third place in his last two starts and also finished third at Pocono in June. In five career Cup starts at Pocono he’s got three top-fives and his 9.6 average finish is best among all drivers. This is a good spot for his first win of 2019.
The active leader in wins at Pocono is Hamlin with four, but the last time was in 2010. He splashed on to the Cup scene as a rookie in 2006 and won his first career race at Pocono, and when the series came back a few weeks later, he won again. They were his only two wins of 2006. In 27 starts he has 17 top-10s and has led 694 laps.
Kurt Busch has three Pocono wins just like his younger brother and he leads all active drivers with 14 top-five finishes between his 36 career starts. Harvick has 12 top-five finishes but doesn’t have any wins in 37 starts. Truex has won twice at Pocono, the last coming in 2018. Keselowski won there in 2011 and has 10 top-fives in 19 starts.
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