Podium Preview: Pocono 400

Can Kurt Busch prove that one is the winning number in the Pocono 400? (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Can Kurt Busch prove that one is the winning number in the Pocono 400? (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

By all means, the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway is quite a unique affair for the NASCAR circuit.  For starters, it’s not quite a road course, but it’s not your typical speedway.

At 2.5 miles in length, Pocono’s quite the treacherous track in terms of its distinct corners.  For drivers, it means unique approaches on each lap while crew chiefs struggle to find the balance between handling and speed.

Still, there’s nothing quite like those race starts and restarts in which drivers will file out anywhere between three to six wide before reaching that first corner.  Certainly, a lot of action can happen in an instant at a track that may require road course thinking with pit strategy.

Presently, our columnists, Amanda ShoopmanAshley HobbsCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKobe LambethMatt Sisoler, and yours truly consider Denny Hamlin’s thoughts on the Coca-Cola 600’s length and contenders for today’s Pocono 400!

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Question 1
Denny Hamlin expressed his thoughts on the length of the Coca-Cola 600. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

Denny Hamlin expressed his thoughts on the length of the Coca-Cola 600. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

Last week, Denny Hamlin suggested that the Coca-Cola 600 should be shortened because of its length versus other races.  Was Hamlin’s suggestion reasonable in terms of the modern sports fans’ needs and attention?

Acero :  I believe NASCAR has a way of keeping traditions an ongoing thing in the sport and I highly doubt that they shorten the race to 500 even 400 miles. Guess what Denny Hamlin, fans get tired too! It’s a hike to sit on the couch for that long but I enjoy EVERY minute of such!

Cassidy :  This is not an unreasonable statement to make. For years, NASCAR has been cutting the length of races – I think the Coke 600 should be no different. Although it is a tradition, as time passes things need to change. Let’s be honest it is hard for a human in today’s society to focus for 600 miles. NASCAR let’s work to find new ways to make this race amazing with new traditions!

Hobbs :  Since NASCAR has been in the mindset of shaking things up a lot recently and taking big swings at trying to make things more exciting, I have a proposal for the Coca-Cola 600.

Said proposal is to keep the Coca-Cola 600. But, let’s turn it into 100 mile sprints over six days (ending on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend). Drivers earn “points” for where they finish only, with Playoff points awarded in each 100 mile sprint. Then, the points are tallied.  Whoever earned the most points is declared the Coca-Cola 600 winner, and regular points are awarded.

Question 2
Might this be William Byron's day to shine? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Might this be William Byron’s day to shine? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Pocono has been described as a superspeedway that drives like a road course.  Which drivers do you think will excel at “The Tricky Triangle” on Sunday?

Lambeth :  I think drivers such as Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin will be some of the main contenders at the Tricky Triangle. Elliott and Blaney have won the last two road course races on the schedule, while there used to be a time when it seemed like Hamlin was unbeatable at Pocono. Nevertheless, I am interested to see how the aero package will perform here.

Shoopman :  Obviously, I would love to see Ryan Blaney do well here. It’s where he got his first win, and I would love to see him get another one here. However I think we should expect to see drivers like Elliott, Logano, and Busch do well here.

Shoppe :  Ryan Blaney got his first win here two years ago so I expect him to be strong. Others that typically run great everywhere like Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick will be in the conversation. I think William Byron will surprise some people and have a strong run Sunday and maybe put the whole race together. The Chad Knaus lead team has been close lately having speed at parts of the race just not finishing the job.

Sisoler : There are a couple of drivers who have been shown to excel at Pocono over the years. Don’t forget this is where Ryan Blaney won his first Cup Series race, but tough, hard-nosed drivers such as Kurt and Kyle Busch also do well there. It’s up for grabs at the lone three turn track on the NASCAR calendar!

Tiongson :  If I was to base it off who’s excelled at road courses in recent years, I’d look at someone like Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, or Chase Elliott.  In all honesty, these three would be pretty solid picks for fantasy racing owners needing to make up points following Charlotte.

From an observational standpoint, I look at someone like Kurt Busch or Martin Truex Jr who have won races at Pocono in the past. They’re both gritty, aggressive racers who know how to manage their equipment. I look for these two to be factors at the front of the field.

Someone who’ll need a good run on Sunday is Kyle Larson.  After a promising start to May, a 35th in the Coca-Cola 600 pretty much puts the 42 team in a situation where they must win to make the Playoffs versus making their way in by points.  With a second in this race last year, perhaps Larson is a decent but sorta shaky racer to choose if you’ve maxed out on the perennial favorites.

We’ve taken you around the first two distinct corners for today’s Pocono 400!  Before making our way into the infamous third turn, let’s consider that marathon of a race last Sunday called the Coca-Cola 600!
Lucas snookered the field last Sunday.

Lucas snookered the field last Sunday.

In the meantime, the points race keeps on shuffling.

In the meantime, the points race keeps on shuffling.

As always, Ashley Hobbs drops for her “Crunching the Numbers” segment, Pocono 400 style!  Perhaps she may even shed insights on how to avoid raptors!
Not surprisingly, Pocono's quite kind to Hendrick and Gibbs.

Not surprisingly, Pocono’s quite kind to Hendrick and Gibbs.

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Pretty even for our Cup champs.

Pretty even for our Cup champs.

The race trends for Pocono since 2011.

The race trends for Pocono since 2011.

And your most recent five race trends at Pocono.

And your most recent five race trends at Pocono.

A day for the youth at Pocono?

A day for the youth at Pocono?

Now, let’s put some knowledge to work with our picks for today’s Pocono 400!
Might one of these Fab Four win today's Pocono 400?

Might one of these Fab Four win today’s Pocono 400?

Tiongson :  Suddenly, William Byron has looked like a dark horse pick wherever the Cup series races at on a weekly basis.  Sure, it helps to have legendary crew chief Chad Knaus atop the pit box.  However, Byron is starting to find his comfort zone in the No. 24 car. I look for him to possibly score his first ever win this Sunday.

Acero :  William Byron to VL. Don’t ask why! I need to swing for the fences and make up some points!

Cassidy :  Ryan Blaney.

Hobbs :  The younger drivers seem to have had a good handle on Pocono Raceway, so let us see what sort of magic Ryan Blaney can bring back to the Pocono mountains.

Lambeth :  Ryan Blaney knows his way to victory lane at Pocono, so I expect that he will have no trouble taking the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon.

Sisoler :  Seeing as I’ve mentioned in this preview already that his first Cup Series win came at the Tricky Triangle, I guess I’m looking to go for the only son of former Cup Series regular Dave Blaney, as Ryan Blaney goes to victory lane for the second time at Pocono!

Shoopman :  As the race is taking place on my birthday, I cannot imagine a better gift than a Ryan Blaney win.

Shoppe :  Clint Bowyer.

TPF Stats :  With a victory this year and one of the best statistics at Pocono Raceway, the math points towards Chase Elliott finding his way into victory triangle at the Tricky Triangle.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Pocono 400 at Pocono!

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 in 2019. 

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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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