This week we go to the most unique track on the circuit located at what is called the magic triangle in Pennsylvania. Pocono Raceway is located exactly 90 miles from New York City and Philadelphia in one the East Coast’s most visited vacation destinations.
The actual layout of the track is a triangle itself. Each of the three turns are what makes this track so unique because each of them are of different degrees of banking and each of the straights are of different lengths. It’s routinely called the superspeedway that drives like a road course because it has the best of both worlds. This track really tests a driver’s skills.
The co-favorites this week are Tony Stewart (6-1) and Mark Martin (6-1) which may seem a bit odd at first considering neither has won at ÂÃ‚ÂPocono Raceway. However, what they do have going for them is consistency on this tricky course.
This season has been a rebirth of sorts for Martin following a tumultuous last three years where everything that could go wrong did both on and off the track. Martin experienced one tragedy after another and it was only natural that the mindset needed to focus on the race track was just impossible to obtain.
Only Jimmie Johnson (12-1) has more Top 10 finishes (9) than Martin (8). If it weren’t for an accident caused by Ryan Newman (22-1) last week, Martin may have won back-to-back races. Martin was extremely fast in practice and the middle early stages of the MBNA 400 at Dover which Johnson eventually won.
At Pocono, Martin had a tremendous stretch from 1997-2000 where he had Top-5 finishes in seven straight races. Despite an overall poor 2001 campaign, Martin managed posting a solid fifth and seventh place showing there. He’s been second a few times, but never a winner at Pocono.
Three weeks ago, Martin had never finished better than second in the Coca-Cola 600. Martin and his team seem to be peaking right now, which presents the best opportunities for the bettor to ride his coat tails in either match-ups or odds to win.
Stewart was unable to gain ground last week at Dover in the point standings. He is still seventh, 225 points behind leader Sterling Marlin (12-1). Dover, a place where Stewart performed at a high level, was very ordinary Sunday. The positive for him this week is that this is a driver’s track requiring more than just go around in circles.
Stewart has finished five of his six career starts in the Top-7 with his best performance (third) coming last year. Stewart’s teammate Bobby Labonte (8-1) has won three times in his last six visits to Pocono. Despite having a win this season, Bobby is a disappointing 18th in the standings. A win this week would be the perfect way to salvage something from the first quarter of the season.
Dale Jarrett (7-1) had one of the most remarkable stretches at one track in the history of NASCAR. Prior to a 41st place finish in the second race last season, Jarrett had posted 10 straight Top-5 finishes. Jarrett has two wins at Pocono and, off last week’s solid performance at Dover, may be at the point where Robert Yates Racing gets their act together.
Jarrett’s teammate, Ricky Rudd (8-1) won this race last season and is also having a subpar season. Look for both Yates drivers to finish high. A few other drivers to watch include Jeremy Mayfield (22-1) who has two of his three career wins at Pocono and Jeff Gordon (7-1) who has three victories on the track.
Johnson is the driver the whole racing world better start noticing. It seems Gordon gave that team a bit too much giddy-up. Johnson proved last week that he can win on a difficult track, but this week will be a bit tougher.
POCONO TOP 5:
1) #88 Dale Jarrett 7-1
2) #6 Mark Martin 6-1
3) #28 Ricky Rudd 8-1
4) #24 Jeff Gordon 7-1
5) #20 Tony Stewart 6-1)