The 14th race of the NASCAR Cup Series season takes us to Long Pond, Pa. for some Sunday afternoon racing at Pocono Raceway’s tricky 2.5-mile triangle. It’s perhaps the most unique track on the circuit in that it only has three turns with each getting progressively flatter.
No driver can be set up perfectly for all three turns, but getting around the flat Turn 3 fastest has proven to be where most of the passing can be made.
Because of the long drag strip on the front stretch, teams that have shown the most horsepower this season will have an edge. Yes, Kevin Harvick will be favored again, but this track may bring something different to the table that will allow for one of his teammates or a Joe Gibbs or Penske driver to win. The last seven races at Pocono have seen seven different winners and Harvick isn’t one of them.
In fact, Pocono is on Harvick’s bucket list of things to do. In 34 starts he’s never won a race there. However, he’s been runner-up four times including both stops last season. All four of those runner-ups came within the last seven races there while driving for Stewart Haas Racing. He’ll certainly be good enough to win.
Harvick’s teammate, Las Vegan Kurt Busch, has been runner-up five times at Pocono. The difference between the two drivers is Busch has won there three times driving for three different manufacturers. His last win there came in this 2016 race, his third season driving for Stewart Haas.
Kurt’s younger brother Kyle Busch checked Charlotte off his bucket list last week and in the last Pocono race in July he did the same there. He’s won at every Cup Series track. It’s pretty amazing stuff, and after winning his fourth race of the season and showing some serious horsepower he’s going to be tough to beat. Even Harvick may have some trouble catching him, especially if Busch starts from the pole like he did in both races last season. Busch has led laps in the last five races at Pocono.
Almost on par with Kyle Busch’s horsepower are his two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones. Hamlin is the active leader with four Pocono wins and looking for his first victory of the season. This is a great spot for him. His last time at Pocono he both started and finished fourth, leading 18 laps. Jones appears to be getting more comfortable each week in the No. 20, and last season while driving the No. 77 finished third in this race and eighth in the fall.
In the end, I don’t know what the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Finals has to do with handicapping this race, but I’m feeling especially Vegas proud this week. So let’s go with the homer Busch quinella.