By all means, NASCAR Cup Series drivers and teams are prepared for a doubleheader at Pocono with the Pocono Organics 300 and Pocono 350. However, will drivers feel like they’re seeing double vision with “The Tricky Triangle?”
Moreover, will drivers exercise aggression or patience in these races? After all, in one weekend, a driver’s season could take a turn for the better or worse at Pocono.
Then again, the likes of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Jimmie Johnson always drop the hammer. With this in mind, Pocono Raceway serves as a perfect host for intense NASCAR action.
Each week, The Podium Finish’s panelists, Ashley Hobbs, Chrissi Luttrell, Cody Shoppe, Isabelle Beecy, Kobe Lambeth, Matteo Marcheschi, Sean Folsom, Stephen Conley, Terra Jones, and yours truly will share their thoughts on the latest happenings in NASCAR.
First, we discuss about NASCAR’s embracing of inclusivity and those race start times.
Podium Preview: Pocono Organics 325 and Pocono 350
We’ve seen a lot of the NASCAR community rally around Bubba Wallace. What stood out to you with the industry standing alongside Wallace during these tough times?
Jones : I loved seeing the entire garage literally stand with Bubba on Monday. I was curious as to what was in store after comments from various drivers that morning on social media. Ultimately, I thought it was an incredible show of solidarity. In addition, you hear over and over how, even though they will beat and bang on the track, off the track, they’re family, and this was a shining example of that.
Hobbs : The fact that all the drivers and all the teams stood with Darrell Wallace Jr. shows one unified voice in the sport; not just this weekend, but the past few weeks. While drivers may have beefs on the track, and some might not be friends off the track, at the end of the day, they are family and will stick up for their family. Every driver made a statement by standing behind Wallace this day – literally and figuratively. I have always felt NASCAR was a welcoming sport as whole, and I think this proves that.
Tiongson : I saw a lot of incredible unity on Monday at Talladega. It was awesome to see drivers band together with Bubba Wallace by embracing him and standing alongside him prior to the race. And the outgoing support from his fellow racers on social media and in the public was touching.
While I am appalled by the very disgusting and awful reactions from those who call themselves race fans, particularly those insulting Wallace, I love seeing the sport’s existing fans embracing him and new racing fans. Recently, I had a longtime friend renew her interest in NASCAR because of the recent shift with the series.
Realizing the sport is embracing a paradigm shift for the betterment of its competitors and fans is a NASCAR that I can support and proudly associate myself with for the long run. I applaud the drivers, industry leaders, and fans who support Wallace and equality.
Lambeth : Love. Equality. Unity. Family. While it turns out that a true threat never existed, I applaud NASCAR’s leadership for taking this seriously. It shows their commitment to ensuring Bubba Wallace’s safety and simply doing the right thing as human beings. The pre-race scene was extremely powerful and moving.
Watching all drivers and teams rally behind Bubba was such a special sight to see, especially the emotional moment between Bubba and The King, Richard Petty. To paraphrase a quote from Clint Bowyer, “When you mess with family, you’re messing with us all.”
That message applies to all the horrible people on the internet intentionally spreading lies about the sport to fit their own agenda. Just know that you may win some battles but you won’t win the war. Trust me. Love wins over hate. Always.
As NASCAR presses on with the season, should the sport reconsider earlier start times with its races?
Marcheschi: This is a tough one. While obviously I’d love to say yes and leave it at that, there’s way more to it. NASCAR is at the mercy of FOX and NBC and the broadcast windows they offer up. I do think that once a race gets rain-delayed, and especially when more rain is in the forecast, the schedule should take into account the forecast when determining a start time.
In Monday’s case, an earlier start time definitely could have avoided some pain, but it did work out. Looking at it from purely a weather perspective, they’ve gotta start these summer southern races earlier, between the heat and the storms, that is, if you don’t have lights. If you do, the Saturday night lights are calling. I’m looking at you, Texas!
Shoppe : I believe many races should have earlier start times! I would say in the 12-2 pm EST range would be ideal. Giving a decent window of time for any delays (rain or any other issue like many have addressed) while also not making west coasters get up too early on their Sunday! I don’t really see it as just a weather issue. Instead, it’s just weather that you are waiting around for a race to start or not is a factor for fans.
This is just for a Sunday event I’m talking about, if we did go to regularly scheduled weekday races they certainly should be later (around 5-8 pm) for obvious reasons While I don’t honestly know all the TV network red tape that some say is dictating these current late start times, I do know when I look to see what’s on FOX or NBC at noon or 1 pm, it’s often just a paid programming slot just saying.
Folsom : I think they should think about earlier start times not only for the drivers and crew members but also for the fans. With the summer heat starting to happen now and the heat the driver goes through in the cars is definitely difficult for them to function after the race. And now with them going through almost a whole weekend in the car, a earlier start time might be a little cooler for them.
Conley : I absolutely think it’s time to change. I’ve been a firm believer that setting a race time so one coast can possibly join in is detrimental to the other. Later start times, especially at race tracks without lighting, puts the whole weekend at risk. Then, as seen this past Sunday, if you have a postponement due to rain on Sunday then start your race at 3 in the afternoon during the summertime, you’re enhancing that risk. Todd Gordon said they were really pushing Pocono preparation with the Monday race, and if had gone and later, there was going to be a lot of concerns for the doubleheader.
Beecy : I think it depends on the location of the race and what time of year it is, to be honest. Anywhere where a storm is a likely possibility, such as Texas or Florida, it should be an earlier start time. I think we all know those areas in the summer are guaranteed to have a storm in late afternoon. I honestly prefer earlier start times; however, I know it’s become a hot topic in recent weeks because races get delayed due to late afternoon storms.
Luttrell : I do believe that certain tracks should require an earlier start time. Those tracks who do not have lights (such as Talladega) should definitely have a starting time of no later than 1 pm. Seeing how this season has been going so far, NASCAR has not had much luck with Mother Nature, as we have had rain delays almost every weekend. These summer storms have a tendency to roll in the mid to late afternoon, which has been around the time each race has been scheduled to start.
Monday races have been fun, but I know there are fans who are unable to watch postponed races due to work. This is unfortunate for both fans and the sport itself, where viewership and ratings can be detrimental to its success. I think trying out earlier start times could at least help get a majority of a race in when threatening weather is looming near the track.
A doubleheader around Pocono provides plentiful thoughts! Now, let’s review Monday’s action from Talladega with our race and points reports!
Next, Ashley Hobbs crunches the numbers because it’s a great idea to be enlightened with statistics for Pocono with a bowl of cereal! First, here’s her stats for Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325!
Now, let’s present our picks for Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325!
Hobbs : At a track where qualifying is quite important, it is hard to be positive when saying who will win. But, when it doubt, I look at the numbers. And the numbers tell me that Ryan Blaney is dependable at Pocono. On top of that, he has some momentum going for him.
Jones : Starting on the front row, with the momentum from Talladega, Ryan Blaney will win back to back races, and claim his second Pocono victory in the Cup Series.
Conley : With fast cars all around and solid runs at Pocono in the past, this may just be that weekend for William Byron.
Lambeth : Pocono Raceway will seem like Happy Valley in the state of Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon when Kevin “Happy” Harvick pulls into Victory Lane.
Marcheschi : Brad Keselowski is stellar at Pocono, and he’s had a great 2020 so far. In his last nine races at the Tricky Triangle, he’s scored seven top-five finishes. And he’s scored points in all but one stage in the six races since stage racing was introduced. In his eleven non-superspeedway races this season, Keselowski has finished in the top ten in nine of them, including two wins. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more promising driver at Pocono than Bad Brad.
Shoppe : With the unique distances of these races at Pocono, I see fuel mileage maybe becoming a factor if the cautions fall a certain way. I predict Paul Wolfe and Joey Logano will get the strategy right and win!
Tiongson : Denny Hamlin‘s a fast driver. He wins quite a bit at Pocono. And he will do so again on Saturday!
TPF Stats : The good news: A good starting position will help Chase Elliott. The bad news: No one practiced or qualified, so how much does the starting position mean? Generally, Pocono requires a fast car and starting at the front. 75% of the races have been won from a top-five starting position. Good news part two, this driver is starting from a top-five position.
Now, let’s review the race and points reports from Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325!
Next, Ashley Hobbs swings by with her numbers for Sunday’s Pocono 350!
Last but not least, here’s our picks for Sunday’s Pocono 350!
Still, the challenge proves quite real with picking a Pocono 350 winner!Hobbs : For a driver who really wants that practice, I think Saturday’s race served enough practice up for him. I think Kyle Busch will find his spark for his season and earn himself his first trophy of 2020.
Jones : Kyle Busch shakes off the cobwebs and claims his first victory of 2020 after a grueling doubleheader weekend.
Shoppe : With Kyle Busch winning three out of the last five races at Pocono, and JGR affiliated Toyotas winning all of the last five, I’d say this is a good race for Kyle Busch to get his first win of 2020
Sisoler : As Mike Joy pointed out, Kyle Busch and his crew chief, Adam Stevens, have struggled getting cars set up for these no-practice races. Well, for Sunday’s race, he’s got a 130-lap (325-mile) practice in the books with Saturday’s race completed. Rowdy and Co. will have that No. 18 Toyota ready to roll, and will break through for their first win of 2020 today.
Conley : Denny Hamlin leads the way with wins and builds on it especially after using Saturday as a test.
Folsom : Joey Logano has been pretty good the past few weeks and is on his way to a win for sure this weekend.
Lambeth : Erik Jones will secure his playoff spot by rising to the top at the Tricky Triangle! Could you imagine That Jones Boy scoring a win before his teammate Kyle Busch?
Marcheschi : I’m going to go out on a limb here: William Byron hasn’t been incredibly impressive this year, though he’s shown flashes of brilliance. Pocono, though, is a different beast. It lends itself to younger drivers, including Byron. In two of his last three races at the track he led laps, and he’s finished top ten in each of his last three. The 350 mile race distance, along with Saturday’s seat time will allow Byron the confidence he needs to take his first career win at the Tricky Triangle.
Tiongson : I really think Ryan Blaney will drive his way to Victory Lane. I choose him for the win on Sunday!
TPF Stats : If it wasn’t for his victory yesterday, the Machine would have chosen someone else. Kevin Harvick sweeps the Pocono doubleheader!
Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Pocono Organics 325 and Pocono 350!
We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this weekend’s races? 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! Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon! Please stay safe and wear a mask if you must go out!
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. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.