Fantasy Racing: Pocono
Sunday August 2, 2PM ET, ESPN
Race Facts: Yeah, it’s not a race fact, but I can’t understand why NASCAR not only has two runnings of the “Take A Nap 500” every year, but has them so close together. Weren’t we just at Pocono?… There are only 43 drivers on the entry list for Sunday’s race, so everyone’s going to qualify after Derrike Cope withdrew… Carl Edwards is the defending champion of this race… Harry Gant is the oldest winner in Pocono history at 50 years and 5 months. Mark Martin would break that with a win on Sunday… I took Stewart, Kenseth and Ambrose as my drivers to watch last Pocono race, with Kahne as my stone cold lock.
Drivers to Watch:
Joey Logano: Logano did much better than everyone expected him to do last week with an 11th place finish, and his second trip to Pocono should show some marked improvement. Logano finished 23rd in June, but also won the ARCA race on that Saturday, in what were his first competitive laps on the 2.5 mile triangle. With a good set of notes from June, look for Logano and Zippy to be competitive right from the start of Friday’s practice and snag a top 15 finishing position.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Alright, admit it, how many of you immediately thought NASCAR conspiracy when “Juantoya” (as Dr. Jerry Punch seems fond of calling him) was caught for speeding on Sunday? As has been said 1000x before, Juantoya shouldn’t have been pushing it that hard with as big of a lead as he did. But he was, and he lost the win. (Although with the late restarts, it might not have been as much of a guarantee as it looked) I wouldn’t be surprised if EGR takes that Indy car to Pocono, but either way, Juantoya should be fast, and could easily surpass the 8th place finish he had in June.
Ryan Newman: Newman’s had some struggles recently, but he also struggled at Pocono in June. And finished fifth. That was a remarkable rebound considering that at one point during that race the team thought that a spark plug had gone bad, or even worse, a cylinder had crapped out. Of course, a late pit stop helped with the fuel mileage, but if Newman has a trouble free race this time, there’s no reason to think he can get his first win since last year’s Daytona 500.
Drivers to Watch Out For:
David Reutimann: Interesting stat from NASCAR.com’s power rankings this week: In races after Reutimann gets a top 10, he has an average finish of 26.2. And yes, Reutimann had a top 10 last week. However, Reutimann’s third place finish in June strongly suggests that trend may be bucked this weekend. To that, I say that Reutimann won’t come close to matching it, and will be outside the top 10 when the checkered flag flies.
Jamie McMurray: With McMurray’s newfound lame duck status, it may give him some extra motivation to do well, but at the same time, if he does do well, he’ll just get farmed out to Yates Racing. Does that seem like much of a reward to anyone? I’d certainly take my chances with the #1 car than move in with Paul Menard, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, McMurray has had a worse finish in the second Pocono race than in the first in all but two years. He finished 13th in June. Count on that trend continuing.
Casey Mears: It’s getting to the point where I wonder if Mears isn’t so much a product of bad racing luck over the last two years but that he’s not as good of a driver as people would like to believe. Sure, I think we can all agree that going to four teams was a mistake for RCR, but at the same time, look what Mark Martin is doing with the same team that Mears left. I don’t think that the gap between Martin and Mears is certainly that big, but you have to wonder what’s going on. Just stay away this week. And for the rest of the season for that matter.
Stone Cold Lock of the Week:
Denny Hamlin: Now here’s a candidate for worst racing luck of the last two seasons. It seems that whenever Hamlin can get himself into contention for a win, something goes wrong. Heck, even going all the way back to Atlanta in 2007 when he had water in the fuel tank. I think I’d run out of room describing all of the fluky things that have happened to Hamlin lately, including the bizarre transmission problem that plagued him at the drop of the green flag in June. If nothing crazy happens to Hamlin—a big if—he certainly hasn’t forgotten how to get around Pocono and he’ll be in victory lane.
To Watch: Kahne 7th, Ambrose 22nd, Bowyer 18th
To Watch Out For: Busch 38th, Vickers 5th, Truex 17th
Stone Cold Lock: Stewart 3rd