Monday, July 29, 2013

Pocono Raceway Storylines: 2013 400

Ryan Newman puts himself in the wild card chase after Brickyard 400 win
NASCAR Storylines for Week of July 29, 2013

Ryan Newman lived out one of his boyhood dreams on Sunday by winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway just two hours away from where he grew up in South Bend, Ind. With win in hand and a shot at capturing a Wild Card spot, Newman and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series head to Pocono Raceway for the 400 on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ESPN, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio).

Newman’s five-second advantage over Jimmie Johnson during the last round of green-flag pit stops paved his way to victory.

After finishing runner-up at Indy, Johnson will boast a 75-point margin over Clint Bowyer when he arrives in Pocono where he’s won three times and posted 16 top 10s in 23 races, including a victory there in June.

With only 12 points separating Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski (eighth through 13th in the standings), fans can expect a lot of shuffling to occur over the next six weeks as all six fight for a position in top 10, or at least one of the Wild Card positions.

Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon are the only three drivers currently in the top 10 without wins in the first 20 races. Look for valiant efforts by all three drivers this Sunday, especially Gordon who boasts a record-high six wins at Pocono.

Austin Dillon moved into the points lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the first time in his career after a 12th-place finish at Indy. He hopes to further bolster his spot atop the standings with a win this weekend this Saturday in the U.S. Cellular 250 Presented by Enlist Weed Control (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio) at Iowa Speedway.

NASCAR Next driver and NASCAR Drive for Diversity member Ryan Gifford makes his national series debut this weekend at Iowa, where he’ll drive the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

After a successful and historic week on the dirt of Eldora Speedway, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to the pavement with the Pocono Mountains 125 (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, SPEED, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio) at Pocono Raceway.

Points leader Matt Crafton, who holds a 48-point advantage over Jeb Burton, looks to continue his streak of top-10 finishes on Saturday. In each of the first 10 races, Crafton has finished 10th or better.


With Hometown Win Newman Enters Wild Card Hunt
After claiming his first win of the season at Indy, Indiana native Ryan Newman threw his name in the ring for one of two Wild Card spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint CupTM. With six races remaining before the Chase field is set, Newman’s teammate and owner Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. currently have the inside track on the 11th and 12th positions. If Stewart or Truex falter during the next six weeks, Newman, who jumped from 19th to 16th in the points standings at Indy, is next in line to claim the spot.

Pocono Is Perfect Place For Johnson Redemption
Due to a pit stop miscue on Lap 133 at Indy Jimmie Johnson missed out on an opportunity to earn three bonus points when the field is reseeded in six weeks for the Chase and a chance to put some distance between him and Matt Kenseth. Don’t expect Johnson to sit idly by as he will be looking to Pocono for redemption. In the series’ last trip to the Tricky Triangle back in June, the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet dominated the competition by leading 128 of 160 laps and beating Greg Biffle to the checkers by 1.208 seconds.

The Chase Bubble Heats Up
While most are paying attention to the race at the top of the standings, there’s a battle brewing a couple spots further back that likely won’t be decided until the Chase field is set. Currently, only 12 points separate eighth (Greg Biffle) and 13th(Brad Keselowski). Although the top-10 drivers are granted automatic placement into the postseason, there is still six weeks for drivers to move up into and drop out of one of the 10 guaranteed spots. After 20 races, the drivers ranked eighth through 13th are Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Keselowski.

Can Earnhardt Strike It Big At Pocono?
Although Dale Earnhardt Jr. is currently nestled in a safe spot in the standings at fifth – 58 points in front of Tony Stewart in 11th – he is one of three drivers in the top 10 still without a victory this season; Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon are the other two. Earnhardt looks to capture his 20th career victory this Sunday in the 400 at Pocono where he’s run well recently. In his last five visits to the 2.5-mile triangular track he has finishes of sixth, ninth, eighth, 32nd and third, which came back in June.

Gordon Returns To Top 10
Coming off a seventh-place performance at Indy and a return to the top 10 in the standings, the time is right for Jeff Gordon to make his first trip of the season to Victory Lane. He arrives in Pocono in 10th place, the first time he’s been in the top 10 since the second race of the season at Phoenix. A win at Pocono where he has more wins (six) than any other driver in NASCAR history should move him up in the standings and further solidify his position among the guaranteed spots.


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