Author Topic: Pocono Payoff  (Read 2452 times)

Quack

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Pocono Payoff
« on: June 09, 2007, 11:21:46 PM »
Alrighty then boys and girls, we head off to the Pocono Mountains this weekend for 500 miles of racing at the uniquely shaped Pocono Raceway, located in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  I love this track, as it provides high speeds (around 210 mph entering Turn 1), road course-like setups, and three completely distinct corners.  Each corner features a different radius and its own degree of banking.  Then there are the three straightaways, each drastically different in length.  There is no other track on the circuit that offers up anything quite like this 2.5-mile track.

<short editorial>
While I love Pocono Raceway, two races within six weeks of one another is simply too much.  I believe that NASCAR would be much better off if they were to eliminate one of the two races and add in another unique track to the schedule.  How about a return to Nazareth?  I haven't checked lately to see if and how well the track has been kept up with since NASCAR quit racing at Nazareth, so I don't know if it is even a viable option, but it is the first thing that comes to mind, since it is also a Pennsylvania track with unique characteristics.
</short editorial>

One of the interesting things about Pocono Raceway is that it is virtually impossible to set your car up to be perfect in each of its three corners.  Generally speaking, crew chiefs are forced to sacrifice being great in one corner so that they can get the car working well in the other two corners.  More often than not, the car that handles the short chute (between Turns 2 and 3) the best will win the race.  Doing so allows the driver to carry so much speed and momentum through Turn 3 and back onto the front stretch that it is nearly impossible for other cars to hang with them.

Case in point: If you watched the two Pocono races in 2006, you saw Denny Hamlin blow by car after car on the short chute and in Turn 3.  His car was simply amazing through that section of the track, and it allowed him to completely dominate while winning both of the races, leading 83 laps in June, and then leading 151 when the series returned in July.

Who to Watch
Who? #01, Mark Martin
Why? Mark has yet to win a Cup race at Pocono.  However, he has 19 Top-5 and 27 Top-10 finishes in 40 races at the track.  Those stats are pretty astounding, and when you combine that with the way he was run thus far in the #01 car, I think it bodes well for another visit to the media center after a podium finish.

Who? #11, Denny Hamlin
Why? I know, I know, I know.  It's a little obvious that Hamlin is a guy to watch.  Yes, I know he's 2-for-2 at Pocono, and both wins came in dominating fashion.  I really wanted to pick him to win this weekend, and he very well might do so, but I just have a gut feeling that he'll come up just short at the end.  It seems to be his modus operandi this season.  (If he does win, Hamlin will become only the third driver to win three straight at the 3-cornered track.  Bobby Allison accomplished the feat between 1982 and 1983, while Tim Richmond did the same between 1986 and 1987.)

Who? #99, Carl Edwards
Why? Like Hamlin, Carl won on his first-ever trip to Pocono back in 2005.  Unfortunately for him, he hasn't won anything at all since November of 2005, and is hungry for a win.  His motor coach driver vowed not to shave again until Edwards returns to Victory Lane, and he just might get to do so this weekend.

Who? #24, Jeff Gordon
Why? Gordon has three wins at the Pocono triangle.  He is running extremely well this year, and is again a threat to win each week.  In this race last year, Gordon had a Top-5 run going until, inside of ten laps to go, the #24 experienced a major brake failure going into Turn 1.  Entering the corner at nearly 210 mph, the ensuing crash was the second or third hardest hit that NASCAR had ever recorded (at the time).  When a good finish is taken away from him like that, Jeff is one of the best in the business at returning and taking back what he feels like he lost.

Who? #12, Ryan Newman
Why? So far in 2007, Newman is running as though it is 2003 again.  Ryan has finished in the Top 10 in 4 of the last 5 races, including a second-place and a fifth-place finish.  The only snafu during that stretch was at Charlotte when his motor let go.  Back in 2003, after winning at Dover in June, Newman took the #12 to a fifth-place finish at Pocono.  He returned to Pocono in July and lead the field to the checkers.  While he didn't win last week at Dover, he ran extremely well, leading 100+ laps and finishing second to Martin Truex, Jr.  He's been running so well of late, I think he is primed for a solid Top-5 run again this week at Pocono.

Who's Going to Win
The deeper we move into the season, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick the winner.  Early on in the season, you can see a couple of guys that really have it together and are running up front week in and week out, so it's somewhat "easy" to call.  We've seen that so far this year with the #24 and #48.  However, as the season wears on, the other teams inevitably start making gains on the front runners, which puts a lot more cars into the mix.  We've also seen this happen over the last 2 or 3 weeks, with the #29 winning in the All-Star Challenge, the #25 winning the Coca-Cola 600, and, most recently, with the #1 taking the checkers at Dover.

I could take the easy way out and stay with the Hendrick Love Train for this week's winner, but I'm going to go *waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy* out on a limb for this week's Pocono Payoff pick.  The guy going to Victory Lane this weekend will be Brian Vickers, in the #83 Red Bull Toyota.

Vickers has an excellent record at Pocono, owning three Top-5s in six races, including 3 of the last 4.  His worst finish at Long Pond is 14th (twice).  Average finish in 6 races?  8.5.  As a matter of fact, the only driver (with more than two starts) who can boast a better average finish for his career at Pocono is Jimmie Johnson (8.1).

"But," you say, "those finishes came while he was driving for Hendrick!"

You are correct, those finishes did indeed come while Vickers was driving the #25 car for Hendrick Motorsports.  However, it's pretty difficult to credit those finishes to the fact that it was a Hendrick car.  After all, Vickers' average finish in the #25 was 20.8.  Certainly not a stellar record, for sure.

Some people have made the statement that "there are horses for courses and courses for horses."  The uniqueness of Pocono Raceway requires a certain "breed" of "horse" to master the course.  Vickers has shown that he has the pedigree that it takes to win at Pocono.  In the 2005 June race, Vickers led a race high 121 laps in route to a second place finish.  While Denny Hamlin was dominating the 2006 races at Pocono, Brian Vickers quietly led 19 laps and finished fourth in each of the two races.

"Yeah, but he's driving a Toyota!?!?!"

Indeed.  And he's driving them quite well when he makes the show.  To date, Vickers *still* owns Toyota's only Top 5 and Top 10 finishes in the Cup series.

"That may be true, but come on, Quack, this is Toyota's rookie season in Cup.  If they win at all this year, it'll be really late in the season."

Take a look back to 2004.  That's the year that Toyota entered the Craftsman Truck Series.  The first Toyota win came in Race #13, the "mid-way" race out of 25 in the season.  The Pocono 500 will be Toyota's 14th race in the Cup series, which runs 36 races.  Instead of taking half the season to win, I think they'll improve on their percentage by winning just a little over a third of the way into the Cup season.

The final piece of the puzzle is Vickers' crew chief, Doug Richert.  In working for the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Sr and Greg Biffle, Doug has tons of experience at setting up race- and championship-winning cars, and has shown thus far in 2007 that he can bring a car to the track that Brian can compete in.  This weekend he'll setup yet another race-winning car.  Watch for the #83 in Victory Lane on Sunday afternoon.

Happy racing.


Scott

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Re: Pocono Payoff
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2007, 02:23:24 AM »
My bookie just called. He wants a word with me.
- Scott Spain

Quack

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Re: Pocono Payoff
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2007, 02:25:22 AM »
My bookie just called. He wants a word with me.

It's not my fault.

HERM

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Re: Pocono Payoff
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2007, 09:31:23 AM »
My bookie just called. He wants a word with me.
change your name, grow your hair out, get a short skirt and some high heels and he will never find you.

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Re: Pocono Payoff
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2007, 01:31:03 PM »
change your name, grow your hair out, get a short skirt and some high heels and he will never find you.

Please herm,
We could do without that thought. :D
Heeeer's yur sign!!!

HERM

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Re: Pocono Payoff
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2007, 01:53:19 PM »
Please herm,
We could do without that thought. :D
just letting him know it works....

canuck speed freak

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Re: Pocono Payoff
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2007, 03:12:22 PM »
sorry to put you under the gun Quack, but we need your Handicapping for the Michigan race. Bookie is on hold.
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Quack

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Re: Pocono Payoff
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2007, 03:36:52 PM »
sorry to put you under the gun Quack, but we need your Handicapping for the Michigan race. Bookie is on hold.

My how time flies!  I can't believe it's Saturday already.  WOW!  10-4 canuck.  It shall be here shortly.  ;)