Track Talk: Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono

Alex Bowman hopes to channel some Philadelphia Eagles winning spirit for today's Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono.

Alex Bowman hopes to channel some Philadelphia Eagles winning spirit for today’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeJose Acero Jr, Kathleen CassidyKatie Copple, and Stephen Conley contemplate Kevin Harvick’s bump and run on Kyle Busch at Loudon and the prospects of a true fourth best championship contender.

Question 1
Nothing like the sweet suds of Victory Lane with some Buschhhhhhhhhhh. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Nothing like the sweet suds of Victory Lane with some Buschhhhhhhhhhh. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Kevin Harvick used the old chrome horn on Kyle Busch to win his sixth race of 2018, this time at Loudon.  When it comes down to those final laps, is it fair game? Or did Harvick have the chance to pass Busch without the bump and run?

Acero :  So, the saying that goes something like this – damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I mean, what is it that NASCAR “fans” want? They would throw a fit if a driver settles in and finishes second then they start talking how come this how come that.

Now that Harvick does what we want more of, those same fans complain saying; “that was so dirty”; personally I loved it. We (fans) need more of that bump and run race endings. I didn’t watch the race so I can’t say Harvick could have made a clean pass, but let’s say he did what was needed to get the W!

Bowman :  For sure, it’s fair game! Every point counts and these drivers know that. If drivers were passive and simply courteous to each other can you imagine how boring races would be? This kind of intensity and passion to win is what creates and retains fans and that is really what we need right now.

Cassidy :  Being two of the “Big Three’ this season, you are going to see Kyle and Kevin race each other hard. From the look of the replays it appears are though Harvick had the faster car and Busch was holding him up. Fair game.

Conley :  I’ve heard people upset about this since the moment it happened. I don’t get it. This is what fans have been clamoring for. Close racing for the lead, minor contact, battle between the big 3. Not to mention, Harvick ran behind Busch for several laps prior to that bump looking to make the pass anyway he could. Circumstances just dictated that the bumper would be needed. It was a great move. It wasn’t a “dump and win,” it was a perfectly executed bump and run. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one, and I loved it.

Copple :  Every time a bump and run happens to close a race, we have this debate. It’s a race. Drivers, especially guys like Harvick and Busch, are going to do everything and anything they can to win. It’s what makes them champions. Harvick didn’t dump Busch and completely wreck him, he moved him over and took the lead and the win. Busch would have done the exact same thing if roles were reversed, as would many of the other drivers out on that track.

Hobbs : Of course, it is fair game! Could Harvick have passed without a bump? Yes; it may have taken another lap or two, but I think he could have done it. Harvick was faster than Rowdy, so the pass would have happened. As a Rowdy fan, I am not angry that he got bumped; I am sad that he just did not have the car at the end to keep Harvick behind enough.

Hull :  Absolutely! As Kevin Harvick stated, Kyle Busch did the same thing at Chicagoland. There is nothing wrong with a bump and run. Nobody wrecks, and it makes for great racing.

Lucas : It is absolutely fair game! “Rubbin, son is racing,” the famous line coined by Harry Hyde in Days of Thunder said it best. Under 10 lapas to go, anything can and will happen. Word of advice though, some drivers have longer memories than others; be advised.

Shoppe : The move was certainly fair game! NASCAR needs more moments where the guy in second will do whatever it takes to get the win! No more of that “top five was a good points day for us” crap! I love that Harvick did what he had to. He may have gotten a chance to get underneath Busch cleanly at some point, but he likely would have just burned up his tires behind that 18 and faded back. It was a now or never move with that uncertainty of what can happen later.  

Question 2
Listen up, Ryan Blaney. There's hope for you yet as a contender!

Listen up, Ryan Blaney. There’s hope for you yet as a contender!

Aside from the three leading title contenders, which racer has what it takes to make some noise at Pocono and potentially as a fourth true championship challenger?

Acero :  Slowly but surely making noise to get that fourth spot is Ryan Blaney. Erik Jones is another amongst the other potential fourth driver. I see Pocono to be the race that catapults Blaney into the title mix as that fourth driver to contend for the coveted Cup.

Bowman :  Larson is close to that breakthrough moment, but Pocono might be where Blaney shines. Both drivers have been consistent this year and I see them being championship contenders in the years to come. As for becoming a fourth championship contender for this season, I don’t really know that anyone is making big enough waves for that.

Cassidy : The next strongest team has got to be the 42. Kyle Larson and his crew have shown tons of consistency over the last few seasons and the ability to be competitive this season. A race win is coming for the 42 car before the playoffs.

Conley :  I still think that 4the spot comes down to Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, or Ryan Blaney. Until someone upsets the apple cart, you can’t look away from the big three though. With that said, I am picking a surprise in my fantasy league.

Copple :  Larson and Blaney have been strong this year and could win at Pocono. But, as far as being the fourth driver to contend for the Championship? I don’t think so. Now, I know that this has to eventually come down to four drivers at Homestead, but let’s be honest here, it’ll really be the final three.

Hobbs : That driver has to be Kyle Larson, with a sleeper in Brad Keselowski. Larson has made more noise than Keselowski this season, but the Tricky Triangle is good to Bad Brad. However, this race track is good to Larson as well. It will take a lot for someone to shake up the Big Three though, but I think one of these two is capable.

Hull :  Other than the three dominant contenders, Ryan Blaney or Kyle Larson have a shot to win Pocono. Both are doing well this year, and could beat these three, since both are good at Pocono.

Lucas : The four cars with multiple wins will continue to dominate heading into the playoffs. As for the other drivers at this moment, everyone else will be dogging for points, which could make things very interesting for stage points. It will be more of a matter of what crew chief can outsmart the others on pit road.

Shoppe : I am going to say somebody different here, Aric Almirola! The 10 team has been quietly out performing their best season by huge proportions. Almirola has had a few races now where he has not only kept up with this big three but has had a chance to win races heads up against them! If small issues like at Chicago and Loudon stay away from this SHR team, they could be a huge upset to the usual suspects up front to make it to Homestead!

A flawless two laps around Pocono means none of the crew missed their shifts!  Before dropping the hammer for a win, let’s review last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway!
Kyle Busch's second place finish didn't disappoint many.

Kyle Busch’s second place finish didn’t disappoint many.

However, there's only a handful of races before the playoffs!

However, there’s only a handful of races before the playoffs!

Time to sweep the leg, Johnny. We’ll show no mercy by making our race picks for today’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono!
Can one of these magnificent seven win at Pocono?

Can one of these magnificent seven win at Pocono?

Tiongson :  News flash, y’all. Martin Truex Jr sweeps the races at Pocono because he’s owning it this year.

Shoppe : Martin Truex Jr gets the Pocono sweep!

Hobbs : I am looking at the big 3 here (shocker); I like Martin Truex Jr to sweep Pocono this year.

Bowman :  It is so hard for me to bet against Hamlin at Pocono, but I’m going to choose Ryan Blaney.

Cassidy :  Ryan Blaney.

Hull :  Ryan Blaney for the win!

Acero :  Kevin Harvick is using his winning Las Vegas chassis that led 214 of 267 laps this week at Pocono. It also finished fourth at Pocono in June for its only other 2018 race. Combined with three starts last season, this chassis has never finished worse than fourth. Sick ride! A very Happy Harvick for the WIN!

Conley :  After having the best car all day long in Loudon, and needing a race that rolls flat corners, Aric Almirola gets redemption in Pocono.

Copple :  I’m going to go on a limb here and say Kyle Larson gets the win at Pocono.

Lucas : A driver NOT named Harvick, Busch, Truex Jr, or Bowyer will win this weekend. Brad Keselowski finally gets a W, not that he actually needs one based on points, but because it’s about freaking time. Cheers 2 you Brad!  

TPF Stats : The magic in the stars points towards Erik Jones.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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