Martin Truex Jr. won the last race in Pocono, will he repeat?
From Truex to Busch to Harvick
At one point, Martin Truex Jr. was running as low as 14th in the Pocono 400 back in June. It was a bad pit stop that dropped him that low, but the No. 78 found his way to the front, holding off Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch and eventually took the checkered.
The victory was Truex’s second at what is known in the NASCAR world as the Tricky Triangle. That’s because the 2.5-mile asphalt track has three turns instead of four. Each has a different bank degree: 14 on Turn 1, 8 on Turn 2 and 6 on Turn 3. That leaves no three turns the same. And none the straightaways are equal in length, either, hence Pocono’s nickname.
So who fared best with the non-traditional track? Well if you’ve been following this NASCAR season (or this site’s NASCAR coverage), you know that three names have dominated the season – Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.
So I’m sure it won’t surprise you either that three of the four top finishers at the Pocono 400 were those same three names.
Busch Returns to Pennsylvannia
While you should always have an eye on Truex Jr., Busch or Harvick this season, we’re going to surprise you with a few names we haven’t talked about a whole lot in 2018. Among active drivers, Denny Hamlin actually has the best driver rating (104.0) at Pocono. He also has four victories at the track on his resume. His last Gander Outdoors 400 victory was in 2009.
There are six regular season races remaining before the NASCAR playoffs. Seven drivers are in on wins. That leaves nine slots still open for the 16-driver Chase Grid. So a lot of drivers in the field will be looking for this weekend for that elusive 2018 victory.
Hamlin hasn’t won a race this season, but has finished nine times in the Top 10 and three times in the Top 3. And while the Tricky Triangle may be considered by some a very odd tri-oval, a true tri-oval would be Daytona. Hamlin crashed at the Daytona 500 after just 53 laps.
Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson also have a history at Pocono, with three wins each at the track. They also have the second and third best driver ratings at Pocono with 103.3 and 101.3, respectively. Of the three unstoppables this season, only Kevin Harvick ranks in the top 5 driver ratings with a 97.0.
Then there’s Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski, Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth who celebrated their first-place finish in 2009, 2013 and 2015, respectively.
But it was Kyle Busch and his Toyota that took the pole and the checkered flag in the race last year. He did so when, on Lap 144 of 160, Harvick slowed in a corner and Busch shot past to take the lead.
Six to go
Including Pocono, there are six regular season races remaining before the NASCAR playoffs. Seven drivers are in on wins: Harvick, Busch, Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon. That leaves nine slots still open for the 16-driver Chase Grid. So a lot of drivers in the field will be looking for this weekend for that elusive 2018 victory.
So we’ve talked about the last year’s winner and the last winner at Pocono but what about the winner last week at the Foxwood Resorts Casino 301? That would be Harvick. The 42-year-old has dominated 2018 with six victories and top five finishes in 15 of 20 races. But he’s never won at Pocono.
Lucky No. 7
Maybe this race will be Lucky No. 7 for Kevin Harvick. Every time he’s won a race, he’s followed up with another victory lap the following week. First, he took the checkered in Atlanta in February, then won the next two races in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Then in May, he won in Dover and Kansas on consecutive Sundays.
So with his win last weekend in New Hampshire, the odds seem ever in his favor for his first victory at Pocono.