Pocono, Kyle unique

Jun 3, 2008 7:02 PM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

Roberts Top 5 at Pocono 500
1. #2 Kurt Busch
12-1
2. #18 Kyle Busch
7-1
3. #11 Denny Hamlin
8-1
4. #8 Mark Martin
19-1
5. #48 Jimmie Johnson
8-1
     
EVENTS
WINS
TOP 10s
18
11
58 of 95

Panoramic Pocono Mountains, site of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race, is a triangle shaped 2½-mile track.

It’s without a doubt the most unique track on the circuit.

Pocono combines the three vastly different turns that is flatter than the next with three monstrous straight-aways that give it a feel of being a road course combined with a superspeedway. Among all the cookie- cutter tracks on the circuit, Pocono is always a welcomed attraction for NASCAR viewers across the nation.

The Pocono 500 will be the first time we’ll see the Car of Tomorrow at the track. Along with the 1½-and 2-mile tracks, Pocono wasn’t raced on last season. The only real clues we have to go on is to use past history of the drivers at Pocono and what we have seen this year on all tracks.

It’s safe to say Las Vegan Kyle Busch is pretty good on just about everything. He has a nice 142-point lead over second place Jeff Burton in the standings on the strength of four wins in 13 races. Kyle is on his way to what looks like a dominating season, similar to Jeff Gordon’s success in the late 1990’s.

It doesn’t matter what kind of track it is, the fact is that Busch is fast everywhere in anything.

We already know Busch is going to be fast this week and that he is the 7-1 favorite. In Kyle’s first start in 2005, he finished fourth, accompanied by all three of his Hendrick teammates in the Top 10. His recent history at the track hasn’t been as successful as that first run, which was also the first year of the new gear ratio rule that took the shifting element away from Pocono.

Kyle is going to have plenty of power and the support of his two Gibbs teammates who haven’t finished outside seventh place in the last four Pocono races. Denny Hamlin swept the 2006 season while Tony Stewart has been in contention for a win in just about every Pocono start of his career.

Stewart combined his road course skill and down-shifting ability to be one of the elite Pocono drivers. Down-shifting doesn’t come into play anymore, but there still is a little road course experience required to hit those turns precisely to maximize speed and minimize wiggle.

Last week all the Sprint Cup teams went to Pocono for a test session because the COT had never been on the track. The results of the session looked exactly like the old car because it was the same cast of characters that had been fast previously along with a few names from open wheel road racing that can’t seem to cut it on stock car ovals.

Leading the way in testing was two-time Pocono winner and Kyle’s big brother, Kurt Busch, still seeking his first win of the season. Many thought that after the big 1-2 Daytona 500 finish from the Penske drivers that there was a possibility Kurt could be a championship contender. There was no way to know that the Penske COT program was so far behind just about every other major racing program.

The Pocono test session is the first real sign that Penske has made strides with the COT. Thus far, Kurt is languishing in 21st position in the points chase with his only Top 10 finish coming at Daytona when he finished behind winner Ryan Newman.

The driver that finished just behind Kurt in the test session was Mark Martin, followed by open wheel drivers Patrick Carpentier, A.J. Allmendinger and J.J. Yeley. Martin has been one of the best Pocono drivers of all time with 29 Top 10 finishes in 42 career starts, including a track record six runner-up results. Needless to say, Martin is a contender this week with what looks like an obviously improved DEI program.

Kyle is everywhere

One weekend, three races, at three separate race tracks. And one driver, Kyle Busch, racing in all three events.

Kyle starts his weekend at Texas Motor Speedway for Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, the Sam’s Town 400. Then, on Saturday night, he’ll be in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Nashville Superspeedway for the Federated Auto Parts 300 presented by Dollar General. And, of course, he’s in Pocono on Sunday.

No driver has ever attempted to run in all three NASCAR national series on one weekend at three different tracks. Due to the intense travel challenges, Busch will take part in only one qualifying session at Pocono in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

At Nashville, Busch will be in the No. 32 Toyota for Braun Racing. Tennessee native Will Allen will sub for Busch during practice and qualifying. At Texas, Busch will be in the No. 51 Toyota for Billy Ballew Motorsports, but qualifying and practice in the truck will be handled by J.R. Norris.

Hit PT’s to watch Kurt

Should Kurt Busch come through at Pocono, you want to be at any one of the 36 PT’s Pubs in Las Vegas. Not only will you get a free Miller Lite, but $20 of free slot play.

This is the week so we’ll see you there.

NOTE: Micah Roberts is a race and sports director with Station Casinos, who has contributed to GamingToday for the last 11 years.

BEST RESULTS AT POCONO
Bobby Labonte has the most wins at Pocono since 1998, but Denny Hamlin has
been the most successful driver with two wins and no finish worse than sixth in
his four starts. Points leader Kyle Busch is 0-for-6. (s=spring race, f=fall race)
Driver
starts
wins
T-5
T-10
05 s
 05 f 
06 s
06 f
07 s
07 f
ave
Denny Hamlin
4
2
3
4
1
1
6
3
2.8
Jeff Gordon
20
2
11
13
9
13
34
3
1
4
9.9
Jimmie Johnson
12
2
4
6
6
12
10
6
42
5
10.7
Mark Martin
20
0
10
14
7
3
17
19
7
9
11.7
Tony Stewart
18
1
5
5
29
7
3
7
5
6
12.4
Bobby Labonte 
20
3
5
7
26
8
12
8
19
30
13.4
Ryan Newman
12
1
5
6
34
5
11
18
2
7
13.6
Brian Vickers
8
0
3
3
2
14
4
4
35
29
14.4
Kurt Busch
14
1
7
7
22
1
2
2
16
1
14.6
Kyle Busch
6
0
2
2
4
39
22
12
8
12
16.2