NASCAR: Pocono

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We have the fortune this week of having just seen the Brickyard 400, a track which runs very similar to this week’s track at Pocono. Whatever notes, data and information gathered from last week’s race all apply this week because of how similar the cars have to be set up for each.

To give a better look at just how similar Indy and Pocono are, let’s take a look at the results from last week’s race and the June 6 race at Pocono. Take top-15 finishers from the first Pocono race and then see where they finished at Indy. You’ll see that nine of them finished among the top-15 at Indy and two of them weren’t Jimmie Johnson and Juan Montoya – both of whom were in the top-10 at Indy and had two of the best cars last week only to finish poorly.

The correlation is strong between the two tracks, maybe even stronger than New Hampshire-Phoenix-Richmond mix or the high banked 1.5-mile SMI track correlation. If a driver does well on one, they are more than likely to do well on the other.

The King of Pocono has been Denny Hamlin who won the June race giving him four career wins on the track. He finished 15th at Indy, but should be expected to fare much better this week because he’ll likely be using the same chassis from the earlier Pocono race. He opted not to use that car last week for some reason, but would be crazy not to use it this week. That car he won with at Pocono is 3-for 3 in wins this season.

The chassis announcement will be released on Wednesday which should sway betting interest dramatically. Regardless of what car he does eventually bring, Hamlin is still the favorite based on his past success.

The driver that has had the best recent combined success at Pocono and Indy has been Tony Stewart. He finished third at Pocono in June and fifth last week at Indy making him and Kevin Harvick the only drivers to have top-five finishes in each race. Overall, Stewart has finished in the top-10 at Pocono in nine of his last 10 starts there.

Harvick and the rest of Childress drivers have all finished within the top-10 of both Pocono and Indy races this season. Clint Bowyer finished fourth last week with Jeff Burton coming home in sixth. All three should be considered live candidates to win this week as each of their practice and race performances at the two tracks have been carbon copies of each other.

Kyle Busch finished runner-up in the June Pocono race and had a terrific day at Indy after spinning out of the first lap and salvaged an eighth-place finish. Pocono hasn’t been historically good for Busch, but his runs this season make him a good candidate this week.

Juan Pablo Montoya may have had the best car last week at Indy for the second straight year and found a way to mess it up for the second straight year. He finished eighth in the first Pocono race.

The Roush drivers all looked vastly improved at Indy with Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards standing out the most. A Ford still hasn’t won the season, the manufacturer’s longest drought since the 1977 season. Edwards is a two-time winner at Pocono and is one of the nine drivers to have finished within the top-15 at both Pocono and Indy this season.

Kurt Busch is the top Dodge candidate once again this week and he too is one the nine drivers to have excelled on the similar tracks. Busch was sixth at Pocono’s first race.

We revealed a few weeks ago about the possibility of NASCAR awarding Las Vegas a second date to its 2011 schedule, and within two weeks, it should be a reality. It’s likely to be one of chase dates in the fall with the slight possibility that it becomes the season finale in conjunction with NASCAR’s possibly new Chase format.

Rumors have it that NASCAR wants to add some more excitement to the current 10 race Chase format that make it similar to other sports with a bracket type of format where it culminates with a game 7 type of atmosphere in the season finale. Under that type of scenario, there wouldn’t be a better place to have the glitz and fireworks of a proposed Game 7 or Super Bowl-type of atmosphere than having the race in Las Vegas.

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