|Denny Hamlin is a 4-time winner at Pocono, but it's been a while|
I happen to be in the group of people that look forward to the two Pocono races a season. I love that it takes takes some road course and short track skills while also requiring lots of horsepower down the longest front stretch on the circuit.
What will be different this season from recent years is the reduction in horsepower, which in theory should be slowing the cars down, but what we’re seeing is drivers getting in and out of the corners much faster because of coming in slower which has negated NASCAR intention with the horsepower reduction. In many ways it’s more dangerous than ever because drivers are having a major learning curve in how to handle all that speed exiting the corners. At Pocono's tricky triangle, this could present a major problem, especially in turns 1 & 2.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won for the first time ever at Pocono last season after being winless in his first 28 starts. He had so much fun in this race last year that he would do it again in the second race. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a career drought at a track reap such great rewards with a sweep during a season before.
Horsepower reduction or not, this race is still about who can get the most of it and the past three weeks of races at Dover and Charlotte has seen not only Joe Gibbs Racing show some major power, but also Roush Fenway Racing. For most of the season Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson have been dominating with the most horsepower. Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have also shown power similar, but now you have to seriously add in Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch into that group. And just maybe, hopefully, we can throw 2010 Pocono winner Greg Biffle onto that list as well.
For Hamlin, he’s probably licking his chops waiting to get to Pocono to show off some more like he did last week at Dover where he had the fastest lap in each of the final practice sessions before getting involved ina wreck during Sunday’s race and finishing 21st. We saw the power at Charlotte as he won $1 million in the All-Star Race and now he goes to a track where he’s got four wins over his career, but none since 2010. As a rookie in 2006, he swept the Pocono season and has a 11.9 average finish overall. Last year in this race, he finished fourth with a car that was substandard in horsepower, but his ability in and out of the turns -- particularly the tight flat turn three -- made the difference. Now he’s got some power on par with the elite and skills in the turns that elevates him into being considered a favorite to win.
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