Pocono International Raceway has dialed up one of the Top 10 Days of the Year for the Windows 10 400 today. The sun is shining brightly, the excitement is palpable, and the speculation is rampant as to who will win today’s second event at the Tricky Triangle.
There are some who believe this race should be renamed The Kyle Busch Invitational, as there is no denying the luck and great speed Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team have had of late. He is, of course, the pole winner for today’s race. Although he has never won a Sprint Cup race at the Tricky Triangle, Busch earned his first win at the track yesterday in the NCWTS Pocono Mountains 150. If ever a driver were primed to win, Busch is it.
As is evident in NASCAR this season, there are no guarantees.
There are other camps that feel Busch’s teammate at JGR, Denny Hamlin, may be primed to win. He is starting in 11th place, but he can certainly find his way to the front. Back in 2006 Hamlin came to Pocono for the first time and swept both races. Hamlin returned in the fall race of 2009 to pick up a win and followed that with a victory in the spring 2010 event.
One can never count out the Silent Assassin, Matt Kenseth. Kenseth begins the race in seventh, but his career consistently shows that he can fly under the radar and pick up a win where people least expect he will.
Carl Edwards begins today’s race in eighth spot. Edwards has two wins at Pocono but the latest one was in August 2008. With JGR Edwards could put another W in the Pocono column today.
Some schools of thought highlight that fact that winners at Pocono often come in clumps like the aforementioned Hamlin. Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept last season’s two races. His qualifying spot is 15th today and his confidence in his car has not been high, but Earnhardt Jr. has a lot of recent memory muscle at Pocono.
His Hendrick Motorsports teammates had been dominate in recent seasons, too. Jeff Gordon won for the sixth time in a rain-shortened race back in 2012. Today Gordon makes his last start at Pocono in 10th. Time is running out for the four-time champion to win a race and easily secure a spot in his last Chase. Pocono just may be the place he’ll do it.
Jimmie Johnson won the spring race at Pocono in 2013, his third win at the track. In the fall contest of the same year Kasey Kahne took top honors, his second total win at Pocono. Today they start in the 12th and 16th spots respectively.
Martin Truex Jr., it would seem, would be the logical winner of today’s race based on that clump theory as he won at the Tricky Triangle back in June for the first time. He’ll start today in 13th place.
But Brad Keselowski has shown speed this weekend as has his teammate Joey Logano. The Penske teammates are competitive of late and this is a track both drivers have won. Keselowski found victory in the fall of 2011 and Logano followed up in the spring of 2012 with his first win. Logano stated this week that Pocono is a track he truly loves to run.
Kevin Harvick is a threat to win every week at any track. He starts second today. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch was also fast in practice and will take the green flag in sixth place.
Austin Dillon starts fourth today. Although he’s never won a Cup event at Pocono, he won the NCWTS Pocono Mountains 150 last August.
Finally, Tony Stewart will begin today’s race in the fifth spot. Stewart has two wins here, the most recent in June of 2009. It’s been a rough couple of years for Stewart but his fans still believe that “Smoke Will Rise”; perhaps it will at Pocono today.