|Jeff Gordon's 2012 win was his 6th at Pocono; he's 12/1 to win Sunday|
One of those drivers has been Hamlin, who jumped right into the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 car as a rookie in 2006 and swept the season at Pocono. He's won two more times on the track and has a 10.7 average finish over his career at the triangle.
The thing to like the most about Hamlin this week, other than his obvious affection for the tricky layout of this track, is that he's hungry for a win. He currently sits 26th in points and needs to get within the top 20 over the next 13 races before the Chase begins in order to be eligible for one of the two wildcard spots. Beyond simply finishing well and earning points, he needs to a win to jump start his season the way Tony Stewart did last week at Dover.
Stewart is one of the few drivers who has Pocono figured out. He's a two-time winner and has finished fifth or better in six of his last nine starts here. His 20-to-1 odds are the highest ever posted on him at Pocono, as he hasn't fared well this season on the tracks requiring lots of horsepower and drivers need all the horses they can find to blast down Pocono Raceway's 0.7-mile front stretch, the longest straightaway on the NASCAR schedule.
Stewart's Dover win was his first top five of the season, and it may be hard to believe that his No. 14 SS Chevrolet has all of a sudden found the formula for success after 13 races. However, this is the time of year that he has typically stepped up with a major push. Over his career, Stewart has usually been at his best after the All-Star race, and right on cue, he went out and won the first race following the two-week festivities at Charlotte.
When we talk horsepower and who might have the most among the teams, we have to begin with the JGR drivers. Hamlin looks like he'll be the driver to beat, but even though Kenseth and Kyle Busch (8-to-1) have never won at Pocono, they should find themselves contending for the checkered flag. The engine problems JGR has experienced this season don't look to be as big of an issue this weekend because there are 100 fewer miles to race than past Pocono events. The RPM's will be maxed out, but drivers won't have to do it as frequently around the track. Busch has finished second twice over his career at this track, but was 30th or worse in both races last season.
The driver many would love to see finally win at Pocono is Mark Martin, who is listed at 30-to-1. The No. 55 car hasn't shown the type of speed required to win this season, but he was very strong during test sessions and practices before finishing second in this race last season. It was his seventh runner-up finish at Pocono without a win, which is a NASCAR record for most second-place finishes on a track without winning. He'll make his 53rd career start at Pocono on Sunday.
Jeff Gordon (12/1) won the last time the series visited Pocono, the sixth win of his career on the track -- most among active drivers. He is also second best with 18 top-five finishes behind Martin's 20.
Gordon and Hamlin have piled up a lot of wins at Pocono over their careers, but lately, it's been a wild mix of drivers winning. Nine drivers have combined to win the past 11 events, none of whom are named Johnson, Kenseth, Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick. Johnson is a two-time winner at Pocono, but doesn't have any victories since sweeping the 2004 season.
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