(Photo credit: NASCARmedia.com/257210Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
The Pocono Raceway is unlike any other track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. The unique triangular shape of the 2.5 mile track presents challenges to both the drivers and crews that they will not face on any other track. All three turns on the track are different. Turn one has banking of 14 degrees and is all but a “U” turn. Turn two has banking of eight degrees and has the least amount of change of direction into a short stretch before hitting the next turn. Turn three has the least amount of banking at six degrees. However, the change of direction is more than turn two and a bit less than turn one.
If the crew chief has a car handling well through one turn for a driver it will likely be a handful through the other two turns. That leaves the driver to typically make a choice of which turn to have the car working well through and just muscle the car through the other two turns. That leaves plenty of room for error through the 400 mile race at Pocono. If a car goes into a turn too fast, it will likely come out of the turn sliding sideways or spinning. Most of the time, this will result in that car hitting the outside wall. The car out of control can also collect other cars around it quickly as it slides through the turns.
Another way that multiple car accidents happen at Pocono is when one driver is driving timid while another is getting aggressive on the track. The timid driver may slow down a little too much heading into a turn while the aggressive driver comes rocketing into a turn. The faster car catches the slower car quickly and the two come together bumper to bumper. The result is often one or both cars spinning through the turn. Those two cars dropping speed quickly as they spin can then even collect more cars as they come up to the crash at race speeds. This track will require the drivers to be up on the wheel and the crews to be on their toes from start to finish in the Party in the Poconos 400.
Jeff Gordon has historically been the best of the active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers to figure out the “Tricky Triangle” of Pocono. Jeff has more wins than any other driver at the track with six trips to Victory Lane at Pocono including the fall race there in 2012. Jeff is win-less so far in 2013 and capturing back-to-back wins at Pocono would be a great way for him to get that first win this season. Jeff is also sitting in 11th place in points, but with no wins he could find himself out of The Chase.
Denny Hamlin is next on the list of most wins at Pocono having prevailed four times in Sprint Cup action on the track. Denny lost a lot of ground in points when he was forced to sit out several races due to a back injury. He is currently out of the top 20 in points with no wins for the 2013 Sprint Cup season. If Denny wants to make The Chase at the end of the regular season he will need to not only get into the top 20, but also get some wins to grab one of the two “Wild Card” spots in the twelve driver Chase field.
Ten other drivers have at least one win at Pocono Raceway on their Sprint Cup resume. Those drivers are: Bobby Labonte (3), Tony Stewart (2), Carl Edwards (2), Kurt Busch (2), Jimmie Johnson (2), Terry Labonte (2), Ryan Newman (1), Kasey Kahne (1), Greg Biffle (1), defending Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselwoski (1) and the winner of this race last year Joey Logano (1). These drivers will be trying to add to their racing resume with another win while those who never won at the track will be trying to get that first checkered flag at Pocono.
The bottom line is that the race on the “Tricky Triangle” is always a challenge for drivers and crews and exciting for fans to watch. The action gets started Sunday, June 9th at 12noon from Pocono Raceway in the Party in the Poconos MASCAR Sprint Cup race.
By: Buck Stevens