Podium Preview: Gander RV 400

All things considered, Kevin Harvick could make it a gnarly Gander RV 400 at Pocono. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

All things considered, Kevin Harvick could make it a gnarly Gander RV 400 at Pocono. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

At first glance, the Gander RV 400 at Pocono may seem like a copy and paste race for teams.  After all, drivers and teams competed at this 2.5-mile triangular superspeedway just last month.

However, that’s where the similarities end.  Instead, NASCAR competitors will contend with a far different track.  For starters, the traction compound has been applied to the corners in efforts for maximum grip and competitiveness.

In addition, the weather conditions greatly differ from the race in June.  Indeed, springtime weather transitions to the heat of summer, even with overcast skies.  Most importantly, teams and drivers’ performances may greatly differ from the spring event.

By all means, our columnists, Amanda ShoopmanAshley HobbsChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen Cassidy, Kobe LambethMatt Sisoler, and yours truly contemplate about the varying pit strategies at Pocono plus the heroes and villains of NASCAR today!

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Question 1
Conversely, will teams risk track position for stage points during the Gander RV 400? (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

Conversely, will teams risk track position for stage points during the Gander RV 400? (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)

During last month’s Pocono race, we saw teams on split agendas with some opting for stage points while others set up for a chance to win it all in Stage 3.  Will we see more of the same for this Sunday’s race?

Shoopman :  I believe we will see the same. Right now, the teams strategies are going to be aimed at making sure they get into the playoffs, so we will be seeing the teams doing the strategies that they need to do to make the playoffs. 

Shoppe :  We certainly will! Some teams are safely locked into the playoffs or have a comfortable points cushion. They will likely be the ones to pit before the end of the stage giving up points to position themselves better for the next stage while those who are sitting dangerously on the playoff bubble must do whatever it takes to get those few stage points.

Drivers like Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson are going to hope to have a good enough car to easily get stage points. If not, look for them to stay out to get more when possible. 

Sisoler :  Absolutely we will. Teams who are secure in a playoff spot but need stage points will opt to stay out to the end of the stage to get those points/a stage win, while teams that are on the playoff bubble or otherwise need a win to try and lock themselves into the postseason will come in and surrender the Stage 2 points to try and go for the race victory.

Tiongson :  Honestly, I can’t see why not.  However, it all depends on where teams are running in the points standings and if they’re locked into the Playoffs.  If I’m Kyle Larson, I would probably opt for stage points.

Then again, for someone like Kurt Busch or Joey Logano, you’ll be OK about giving up points in the first two stages to go for the win in Stage 3.  With the addition of the PJ1 track substance, I’m curious to see how much of a factor it plays with strategy. We didn’t see a lot of action in the June race so if we see competitive action in the early going, it makes it easy to be aggressive for stage points.

Question 2
Without a doubt, Ryan Blaney appears to be a hero for fans. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Without a doubt, Ryan Blaney appears to be a hero for fans. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

NASCAR seems to have cycles of heroes and villains that fans express strong thoughts and emotions towards on a weekly basis.  In your opinion, who would be some of the sport’s heroes that fans love and the villains that fans love to hate?

Acero :  Oh man, heroes and villains you say. Well, for starters, I see the fans siding with Chase Elliot, Ryan Blaney, etc. Maybe it’s the whole “young guns” thing in NASCAR, but that’s who I see the people side with on a positive.

Now, you want to talk villains, only one comes to mind and it’s Kyle Busch and the whole JGR drivers except Erik Jones. I mean, if things don’t go their way, they are always blaming others and fans are not very cool with that. I also notice a lot of hate towards Harvick. Why? I don’t know. People just love to hate. 

Bowman :  I feel like I have heard it all from fans over who they love and who they boo and who they love to hate. Kyle and Kurt Busch are the obvious villains. Chase Elliot and Truex Jr. seem to be on the hero side of things.

Really, it’s all about perspective. You could have a Harvick fan that thinks Larson is the spawn of satan for whatever reason. There could be a Hamlin fan who has it out for Logano. The best part about heroes and villains is that it keeps everyone relevant. So no matter what side you find your driver on, as long as he/she is being talked about is all that matters. 

Cassidy :  100% depends on who you are talking to! A common villain pair will always be the Busch Brothers for most of the NASCAR fans out there. It’s hard to like domination I guess? These bad guys need some heroes for fans to cheer for – Ryan Blaney is definitely in the good books!

Hobbs :  Talking modern day drivers, it seems to be hard to find hate for the young drivers; and maybe that’s because they haven’t done anything yet to piss off fans. There always seems to be a lot of love for Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson – just to name a few.

Now, when it comes to villains, I think the field has the edge over heroes. It seems most drivers end up a villain at some point. Even, in my view, nice guys like Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. have gotten villain tags. If you listen to fans today, guys like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano get a lot of hate AND also have a lot of on track drama to go with it.

Over time, we’ve seen drivers go from hero to villain and villain to hero and this is a cycle that won’t end. All sports need athletes to love, and athletes to hate. Our sport has no shortage of either.

Lambeth :  It seems like drivers such as Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace are some of the heroes in NASCAR. Fans always show those three a lot of love. On the other side, if I had to pick three villains, I think it would be Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. 

Two laps around Pocono without incident feels like a victory!  Now, here are our race and points reports from last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire!
Kobe Lambeth succeeds at Loudon!

Kobe Lambeth succeeds at Loudon!

However, the infernal machines extends its points lead!

However, the infernal machines extends its points lead!

In the meantime, Ashley Hobbs swings by, “Crunching the Numbers” for today’s Gander RV 400 at Pocono!
JGR and SHR thrive at the second Pocono race.

JGR and SHR thrive at the second Pocono race.

Since 2004, the race winner's average starting spot is 11.8 while leading an average of 66.7 laps at Pocono.

Since 2004, the race winner’s average starting spot is 11.8 while leading an average of 66.7 laps at Pocono.

Meanwhile, Johnson enjoys July racing at Long Pond.

Meanwhile, Johnson enjoys July racing at Long Pond.

Now, we present the trends at Pocono since 2009.

Now, we present the trends at Pocono since 2009.

Next, here's the trends at Pocono since 2014.

Next, here’s the trends at Pocono since 2014.

Lastly, here's the machine's thoughts on its projected race winner.

Lastly, here’s the machine’s thoughts on its projected race winner.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives in our preview!  Let’s reveal our picks for today’s Gander RV 400 at Pocono!
Will one of these picks win today's Gander RV 400?

Will one of these picks win today’s Gander RV 400?

Acero :  I know he has won there before and it’s time to do it again – Ryan Blaney

Shoopman :  Blaney, please. I’m tired of asking. I NEED him to win. My Fantasy League NEEDS him to win.

Cassidy :  Kevin Harvick.

Sisoler :  Kevin Harvick may not have won at Pocono in his Cup Series career, but he’s on pole for today’s race and I think he will break through for his first victory at the Tricky Triangle in his 38th MENCS start.

TPF Stats :  Believe it or not, Kyle Busch does not place on the podium this weekend. The math powers points towards success at the Tricky Triangle this weekend for Erik Jones.

Shoppe :  Erik Jones.

Bowman :  Denny Hamlin.

Hobbs :  Brad Keselowski may not have had a great time in the Poconos in June, but he will put that behind him and have a stellar day.

Lambeth :  Kyle Busch goes for the sweep at the Tricky Triangle. 

Tiongson :  Joey Logano will put the spurs to his No. 22 Ford back into Victory Lane at Pocono!

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Gander RV 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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