|Jeff Gordon won rain shortened Pocono race in 2012, his 6th overall|
Johnson led the most laps and won at Charlotte two weeks ago, and then came right back the next week and won for a record ninth time at Dover, leading 278 of the 400 laps. Just like that, in an instant, he's tied with Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano for the most wins in 2014.
He'll go for his third straight win this week at Pocono Raceway, and due to his current form and past success on the 'Tricky Triangle', the LVH SuperBook has posted him as the 5-to-1 favorite. Johnson has three wins on the massive 2.5-mile triangular layout, including winning this race last season. His 8.8 average finish is the best among all active drivers.
Some have called Pocono Raceway the superspeedway that runs like a road course. Drivers still make all left turns, but each of its three turns' banking gets flatter than the other with turn three being the trickiest and flattest of all. Drivers who can maneuver themselves the best in and out of that relatively flat turn have a major advantage. The big challenge for the crew chiefs is getting the proper balance. They might get one or two of the turns set perfectly, but rarely all three.
This track also features the longest straightaway they'll see all season, which favors the teams that have shown major horsepower already this season on the 1.5-and 2-mile tracks. It's a pretty awesome sight to watch them all come flying around the tight turn three (six degrees of banking) and drag race at over 200 mph down the front stretch (3,740 feet) carrying all that speed into turn one (14 degrees).
Johnson may have the best average finish among all drivers, but Jeff Gordon has the most wins all-time with six and he's grabbed the wins at all fazes of his career. In his past six starts there, he's won twice and was also runner-up to teammate Kasey Kahne last fall. Gordon also won in 2007 and then once a season during his glory years from 1996-98. In 42 starts, he's led 972 laps. Needless to say, he's pretty good at Pocono and is being offered at 7-to-1 odds, which is lower than he's been at most tracks this season outside of Martinsville.
With horsepower playing a huge role in this race, the Penske duo of Brad Keselowski and Logano have to be considered strong candidates to win, as well as Harvick. Keselowski won there in 2011 and is 8-to-1 this week while Logano won for Joe Gibbs in 2012 and is set at 12-to-1 odds. Harvick has never won at Pocono, but it's safe to say we can throw out all his past history because we know he's probably going to have his best chance to win with his new Stewart-Haas Racing team. He is listed as the second-choice to win at 6-to-1 odds.
Tony Stewart is a two-time winner and is listed at 15-to-1. In his last 11 Pocono starts, he's had seven top-5 finishes. The track is ideally suited for him and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he bounces back with his first win of the season. It's been a long and tough road getting healthy again, but we're starting to see signs that Stewart is getting more comfortable, and we know the team can find speed since Harvick is crushing it in every practice session this season.
Another driver that has talents tailor-made for Pocono is Denny Hamlin. His excellence at Martinsville's flat track over his entire career has given him a little bit of an edge on flowing through the tight turn three at Pocono, and the Joe Gibbs horsepower has usually been there for him on the front stretch. He swept the season during his 2006 rookie season (who does that?) and has grabbed two more since then. He has only one top-5 finish in his last six starts there, but the No. 11 looked pretty good last week at Dover, an indication that the team is headed in the right direction.
Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb haven't been as competitive as they would have liked at Pocono together since hooking up in 2012, but it was Grubb who guided Stewart to his first win as a car owner in 2009 at Pocono.
Gordon appears to be the most logical choice this week while Hamlin (10-to-1) and Stewart could pay the biggest rewards for those looking to gamble a little more. Drivers at long odds that provide some value are two-time winners Carl Edwards (20-to-1) and Kurt Busch (30-to-1). It should also be noted that two-time winner Kahne (12-to-1) is eventually going to get things figured out and grab a win soon, and even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12-to-1) has never won at Pocono, he did finish third and fifth, respectively, in both races last season.
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