Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pocono Betting Notes: Catching the No. 78 will be tough

Martin Truex Jr. is going to be hard to chase down Sunday at Pocono.
Martin Truex Jr. put on a dazzling show in the final moments of Saturday’s lone practice session at Pocono Raceway in preparation for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400, the second race this season on the 2.5-mile tricky triangle. The combination of speed on short and long runs make him the driver to beat and his chances are further enhanced considering he starts from the pole.

On the 26th of his 34 practice laps run, Truex laid down the fastest lap at 176.377 mph; and when he completed his simulated race run he also had the best 10-consecutive-lap average. His Toyota, powered by Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, immediately got the attention of everyone in the garages and also Las Vegas oddsmakers. He opened at 7-1 odds but now has been moved to the race favorite at 5-1.

In addition to all of Truex’s outstanding highlights from Friday and Saturday that make him the favorite Sunday, he had plenty of credentials showing he was already a solid candidate to win. The Joe Gibbs-Toyota angle is the first as the five cars have won 10 of the 20 Sprint Cup races this season. Last season, a Gibbs Toyota won the week following a Gibbs (Las Vegan Kyle Busch) Brickyard win.

The next angle is that Truex won at Pocono for the first time in June 2015. He’s also currently the series leader with 989 laps led this season and he’s using the same chassis this week that gave him his only 2016 victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. In a similar situation to this week, he started from the pole at Charlotte and set a NASCAR record by leading a whopping 392 of the 400 laps. He got out front and stayed out front, and Pocono is much a much tougher place to pass.

There’s also some history in his favor with 15 of the previous 77 Pocono winners coming from the pole. The last to do it was Jimmie Johnson in 2013.

Read More Here......Las Vegas Review-Journal

Final Pocono Driver Ratings

Final Pocono Driver Ratings/Practice Notes: 2016 Pennsylvania 400

Martin Truex Jr. is going to be hard to catch Sunday.
LAS VEGAS -- Toyota has won 10 of the 20 Sprint cup races this season and should add to the number in Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway simply because of the show Martin Truex Jr. put on during Saturday's final practice. Not only did he lay down the fastest lap at 176.377 mph, he also put together the fastest 10-consecutive lap average as the 80-minute session was winding down.

His Toyota, which uses Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, is going to be hard to catch once the race starts just because of being fast both on short and long runs. It's almost impossible to pass, so we could possibly see him run away and hide for the 160 laps almost like he did at Charlotte in May when he started from the pole and led a NASCAR record 392 of the 400 laps for his only win of the season. He's using that same chassis this weekend.

Here's a look at the final Pocono driver ratings which consists of past track history, current form, qualifying and practices. It's roughly the same formula I've used weekly to create odds to win at Las Vegas sports books since 1994.


Micah Roberts' Sprint Cup Driver Ratings
Pennsylvania 400
Pocono Raceway
Sunday, July 31, 2016 - 10:50 am PT

RATING  DRIVER    ODDS              PRACTICE 1      QUALIFIED         PRACTICE 2          POCONO 1* 
 1. Martin Truex Jr. 7/1               6th               1st                 1st              19th
2015 winner; fastest 10-consecutive lap average in practice - using winning Charlotte chassis.
 2. Kevin Harvick 6/1                  5th              17th                3rd                9th
No wins in 31 starts - runner-up in two of past four; third fastest 10-consecutive lap average..
 3. Brad Keselowski 10/1          19th               7th                2nd               3rd
Gritty 2011 win driving with broken and severely swollen ankle; runner-up in two of past five starts.
 4. Denny Hamlin 8/1                 2nd               4th               15th              14th
Four-time winner, the last in 2010. Practiced well and comes off a solid fourth-place run at Indy.
 5. Kurt Busch 12/1                  14th              15th                4th                1st
Three-time winner, including June's race and he's using that same chassis this week.
 6. Chase Elliott 15/1                  8th               8th                5th                4th 
Led race-high 51 laps in June, a reason to believe he'll shake 15th or worse slump in past five races.
 7. Carl Edwards 8/1                   4th              2nd                 9th                8th
Two-time winner, the last in 2008. No top-fives since 2010, but practiced well and starts up front.
 8. Kyle Busch 6/1                     3rd              16th                6th               31st
No wins in 23 starts with 18.9 average finish, but dominating Indy win a good indicator for success.
 9. Jimmie Johnson 8/1             12th              21st               10th              35th
Three-time winner with 10.3 average finish (19 top-10s) and 738 laps led in 29 career starts.
10. Joey Logano 10/1                 7th              10th               17th               5th 
2012 winner; top-five in three of past four starts -- 20th last fall after leading 97 laps (ran out of fuel).

* Results from the June 6, 2016 race at Pocono. Another good handicapping guide is reviewing last week's Brickyard race, which has similar features to Pocono.

Odds courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1994. Follow on Twitter @MicahRoberts7

Pennsylvania 400 Betting Notes

Friday, July 29, 2016

Martin Truex Jr. captures Pocono pole

Martin Truex jr. is 7/1 to win Sunday at Pocono.
Martin Truex won the pole for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400, as Toyota’s utter domination of NASCAR continued during Friday afternoon time trials at Pocono Raceway.

Truex claimed the No. 1 qualifying spot at the three-turn, 2.5-mile track with a lap of 179.244 miles per hour in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. It was the third pole of the year and the 10th of his career for the Mayetta, N.J., native.

And the competition should be very worried about Sunday. Truex won at Pocono last year and this time he is driving the same car that in May he won the Coca-Cola 600 with, a car that led 392 of 400 laps to set a NASCAR record with.

Read More Here....Fox Sports

Qualifying Results

Time for NASCAR to consider Sprint Cup format changes?

Brad Keselowski makes a good point about current Chase format.
Brad Keselowski responded Wednesday to a tweet asking whether he or defending champion Kyle Busch was the favorite to win this year's Sprint Cup. His response was thought-provoking:

the driver with the most wins hasn't made the final round in the last 2 years, maybe we should start there? https://twitter.com/frontstretch/status/758676164592349185 

Yes, Brad, maybe we should start there.

NASCAR, which is so quick to change race set-up packages for teams whenever it feels necessary, might be able to quickly address a few things before the start of this year's Chase, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway, or before the start of the 2017 season.

The past two postseasons have produced outstanding drama, but some of the 16 Chase participants each year might have been rewarded too much for excelling in the final 10 races rather than for what they did during the first 26 races. Maybe a format similar to the NFL's postseason could properly reward excellence during NASCAR's regular season.

Here, then, is a solution to ensure NASCAR's final eight will include its top performers from the season: The driver with the most wins and the driver with the most points would automatically advance to the Round of Eight.

Read More Here.......Sporting News

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch favored to win Pennsylvania 400

Will it be a Chevrolet or Toyota winning Sunday?
LAS VEGAS -- Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have never won at Pocono Raceway, but the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has posted them co-favorites to win Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 based on consistency and current form.

This will be the second race of the season at Pocono's 2.5-mile tricky triangle and results from the June 6 race will be a key component to handicapping the race, as well as last week's Brickyard 400 because Indianapolis Motor Speedway has similar traits, such as the longest straights in the series.

MORE
: Pocono forecast: Rain

Let's take a look at all the driver odds and how they've done at Pocono over the years.

ODDS TO WIN PENNSYLVANIA 400


Kevin Harvick: 6/1 — He leads the series in points (671) and top-10 finishes (16), which is why he's considered a favorite. No wins in 31 Pocono starts, but he does have seven top-fives and was ninth in June.

Kyle Busch: 6/1 — His win last week at the Brickyard gives him four on the season and ties him for the most in the series. His 11 top-five finishes through 20 races this season is three more than the next closest. He's been close to winning at Pocono several times, but only has an 18.9 average finish in 23 starts.

“I think I’ve been a bit inconsistent or streaky there over the years," Kyle Busch said. "I started off early in my career with some top-five finishes and then went through a stretch where we weren’t very good. Lately, we’ve certainly been better there and I’ve had some second-place finishes and third-place finishes, so I feel like I’ve figured it out better there, lately. With the way our cars at JGR have been overall, I’m very optimistic that we could score a victory there this weekend with our M&M’S 75th Anniversary Camry.”

Martin Truex Jr.: 7/1
— He's finished 19th in his past two Pocono races after capturing his first victory there in June 2015. Like Busch, with the Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, he's a real contender to win this week.

Read More Here.....complete list of odds on Sporting News

Kevin Havick still searching for first Pocono win

Kevin Harvick is 6/1 co-favorite to win Sunday at Pocono.
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina –Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania is affectionately known as the “Tricky Triangle” and, this weekend in the Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will add to the fun with three of the team’s four Chevrolet SS racecars featuring primary sponsorship from Mobil 1 – “The Official Motor Oil of NASCAR.”

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, will share similar paint schemes to the Nos. 10 and 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS cars driven by teammates Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart, respectively. The slight differences will be in the color of wings on the front quarterpanels of the cars. Harvick’s No. 4 will have blue wings, Patrick’s No. 10 will have silver, and Stewart’s No. 14 will feature red.

While the cars will look similar, it is the fuel mileage, engine efficiency and reliability that Mobil 1 delivers under the hood that should prove to be the biggest advantage for each car and driver at the demanding three-turn, 2.5-mile triangle-shaped track. Mobil 1 touches every major moving part in SHR’s cars and that translates to better lap times.

The No. 4 team also will have to thrive in the face of adversity this weekend after Rodney Childers, crew chief of the No. 4 Chevrolet SS team for SHR, is serving a one-race suspension for violating NASCAR Rule Book Section 12.1; Section 10.11.3.4 for a lug nut not properly installed at the completion of the Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis. In addition, he has been fined $20,000 and placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31.Dax Gerringer, race engineer with the No. 4 team, will serve as the interim crew chief at Pocono. Additionally, Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s vice president of competition, will be on hand to support Gerringer.

Harvick will work with Gerringer to try to win a Sprint Cup race that has proven to be elusive for Harvick over his Sprint Cup career.

Pocono is one of only four Sprint Cup racetracks where Harvick has yet to record a Sprint Cup win. Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the other three.

The Bakersfield, California native has run well at Pocono, scoring seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in his 31 career Sprint Cup starts there, but he’s yet to reach victory lane in NASCAR’s top series. He seems to be getting close, however, as he’s scored two top-five finishes and three top-10s while leading laps in his last four Sprint Cup starts at Pocono.

In August 2014, Harvick started sixth, led five laps and finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr., by .228 of a second. Last June, he started fifth, led 39 laps and was runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. by 1.346 seconds.

Harvick does have a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Pocono, scoring the win from the pole position while driving for his own team on Aug. 7, 2011. He led 44 of 53 laps to beat Kyle Busch to the finish line by 1.140 seconds.

The Sprint Cup points leader would like nothing more than to score his first Sprint Cup win Sunday at Pocono. A win would be Harvick’s second of the 2016 season. He scored his first of the year in the season’s fourth race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Harvick clinched a top-30 points position with his ninth-place finish July 9 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. He needs an additional win to clinch his spot in the 2016 Chase field after race No. 26 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

While Harvick and the No. 4 team are virtually a lock to make the Chase field, gaining bonus points for additional wins is now their top priority through the next six races starting this weekend at Pocono.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Do you have a favorite Pocono memory?

“Pocono is one of those places where I haven’t had a ton of success. I think right before they repaved it is when I started to figure the old Pocono out and we were starting to run better. Probably the best memory I have there is winning a (Camping World) Truck (Series) race, so that’s about the extent of it for me.”

How do you approach each corner at Pocono Raceway?
“The first thing you do is you’ve got to survive the restart. We learned last time that practice didn’t really matter. If you could get a good restart and survive going through the corner and get in line, then you were in good shape. It’s really fast and the thing I like about what they did at Pocono is that all the bumps are now kind of swells, and you have the same kind of feel that you had there, they are just not extreme bumps. Each corner is fast. Turn one is a corner where you drive in and downshift. The key to Pocono now is getting up off the corners and in the throttle and being able to stay in the throttle, really, in all three (turns).”

- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing

Carl Edwards looking to use Indy notes at Pocono

Carl Edwards is 8/1 to win at Pocono.
Carl Edwards / No. 19 STANLEY Toyota Preview
Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway

No. 19 STANLEY Toyota News and Notes:

POCONO
: Edwards and the No. 19 STANLEY team head to the Pocono Mountains which is located in the Magic Triangle – New York, Philadelphia and Pocono Raceway are all 90 miles away from each other. The track is known as the Tricky Triangle and provides a unique experience for our Northeastern fans.

EDWARDS’ STATS AT POCONO
: In 23 starts at Pocono, Edwards has completed 3,926 of 4,092laps (95.9 percent) and has led for a total of 237 laps. Edwards has earned two wins, five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes there. His average start is 15.7 and his average finish is 14.9.

RACE INFO: Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile) begins at1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 31st. The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio.

Edwards’ 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season Stats:
StartsWinsTop 5Top 10PolesLaps LedAvg. StartAvg. Finish
20271236857.612.2
Edwards’ Career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Stats:
StartsWinsTop 5Top 10PolesLaps LedAvg. StartAvg. Finish
4292712221419590314.413.5

From the Cockpit:
Carl Edwards:
“We’re going to Pocono for the second time. It’s a very unique racetrack, but hopefully we can use some of the stuff we learned at Indy and apply it there. Two really long straightaways, three different corners. It’s a really fun racetrack when everything’s going well. Restarts are hugely important just like they were last week at Indy, so we’ll work on that and try to get another victory. We’ve got STANLEY on board again. They’ve been an amazing partner. We want to get them to victory lane.”

From the Pit Box:
Dave Rogers
: “Other than Daytona, Pocono is the first second race at a given venue in the season. It’s time to put our notebook to good use and expand on the things that we learned the first time around. We had decent speed at Pocono one and feel we learned some things this past weekend at Indy. I’m excited to get back to the track and see if we can put it all together.”

No. 19 Stanley Toyota / Joe Gibbs Racing Team:
Driver – Carl Edwards Crew Chief – Dave Rogers Car Chief – Eric Phillips
Engineer – Lee Hallman Engineer – Kenny Oates Tire Specialist – Jamie Turski
Mechanic – Zack Miller Mechanic – Jerad Hewitt Mechanic – Joe Florelli
Engine Tuner – James Dudley Spotter – Jason Hedlesky Shock Specialist – Ron Denton
Jackman – Trey Burklin Front Tire Changer – Clay Robinson Rear Tire Changer – Kip Wolfmeir
Pit Support – Matt Tyrrell Front Tire Carrier – Kevin Harris Rear Tire Carrier – Matt Ver Meer
Pit Support – Ben Surface Gasman – Kenneth Purcell Truck Drivers – Kyle Bazzell & Jeff Icenhour

About Stanley Black & Decker:
Stanley Black & Decker, an S&P 500 company, is a diversified global provider of hand tools, power tools and related accessories, mechanical access and electronic security solutions, healthcare solutions, engineered fastening systems, and more. Well-known brands include: STANLEY, BLACK+DECKER, DEWALT, Porter-Cable, Bostitch, Facom, Mac Tools, Proto, Vidmar, Lista, and more.

- Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin goes for fifth Pocono win

Denny Hamlin is 8/1 to win Sunday at Pocono.
Denny Hamlin
#11 FedEx Ground Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing

Race Info:

Race: Pennsylvania 400
Date/Time: July 31/1:30 p.m. ET
Distance: 160 laps/400 miles
Track Length: 2.5 miles
2015 Winner: Matt Kenseth

EXPRESS NOTES

Brickyard Recap:
Denny Hamlin finished fourth in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, overcoming a mid-race speeding penalty to capture his ninth top-10 finish of the 2016 season in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota. Hamlin lined up fifth for the overtime restart at the famed 2.5-mile speedway, and picked off one spot during the two-lap shootout, barely edged by Jimmie Johnson for third in the race won by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. Matt Kenseth finished second. Hamlin started fourth and immediately climbed to second behind Busch in the early going. A long stretch of green flag racing through the event’s midpoint saw a handful of pit stops, and during one, Hamlin was caught speeding exiting pit road and forced to serve a pass-through penalty. The penalty dropped him back to 18th in the running order, but still on the lead lap. A rash of late-race cautions provided the FedEx team the opportunity to put on tires battle among the top-10 for the final laps.

Giving Back: Hamlin is assisting those affected by the flooding in West Virginia by delivering toys to children in Greenbrier County, W.V. on Thursday, July 28. Hamlin and fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor Kyle Larson purchased toys in Concord, N.C. on Tuesday, July 26. Hamlin will be available to the media at 5:00 p.m. ET at the main entrance of The Greenbrier resort, and will deliver toys to children from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET at the White Sulphur Springs, W.V. train station.

Pocono Preview: This weekend marks the 10-year anniversary of Hamlin’s sweep of the Pocono races as a rookie in 2006. After coming from the back of the field to win his first-ever Cup race in the spring event at the track, Hamlin dominated the summer event at Pocono, leading 151 of 200 laps from the pole to sweep the season’s races at the “Tricky Triangle.” Hamlin has posted 13 top-10 finishes in 21 career races at Pocono, and has led 669 laps at the track. He started 10th and finished 14th in the June race earlier this year.

Hamlin Statistics:
Track: Pocono
Races: 21
Wins: 4
Top-5: 9
Top-10: 13
Average Start: 7.0
Average Finish: 12.4
Laps Led: 669

Hamlin Conversation — POCONO:

What does the FedEx team need to do in these last few races before the Chase?

“Obviously, we still have to clean up a little bit our mistakes on pit road. In these races, you have to execute flawlessly to win, and we haven’t done that each week. We have shown the speed we need to compete for race wins and set ourselves up for the Chase, but we need to execute a little better to close races out. I’m confident that we’ll be ready to go, and Pocono has been a great place for our team in the past. Hopefully we can put it all together this weekend.”

Midwest District Along for the Ride at Pocono: The Midwest district of FedEx Ground will be recognized for extraordinary safety improvements with its district code “MWST” on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota this weekend. Operating through the Chicago hub, the Midwest district serves that metro area as well as other parts of Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

FedEx Office – Closest to Pocono Raceway: 940 Schecter Drive, Ste 1, Wilkes Barre, PA 18702, (570) 819-0813

2016 FedEx Racing Team Results
DATEEVENTLOCATIONSTARTFINISHLAPSSTATUSLEDPTSTREND
Feb. 21Daytona 500Daytona111200/200Running951st
Feb. 28Folds of Honor 500Atlanta1216328/330Running 4th
March 6Kobalt Tools 400Las Vegas919267/267Running108th
March 13Good Sam 500Phoenix33313/313Running 6th
March 20Auto Club 400Fontana33205/205Running24th
April 3STP 500Martinsville838221/500Crash 9th
April 9Duck Commander 500Texas612334/334Running 8th
April 17Food City 500Bristol420500/500Running 9th
April 24Toyota Owners 400Richmond56400/400Running18th
May 1GEICO 500Talladega831170/188Running512th
May 7GoBowling.com 400Kansas337240/267Crash 13th
May 15AAA 400Dover67400/400Running1513th
May 29Coca-Cola 600Charlotte44400/400Running 11th
June 5Axalta 400Pocono1014160/160Running 12th
June 12FireKeepers Casino 400Michigan433188/200Crash 13th
June 26Toyota/Save Mart 350Sonoma62110/110Running3311th
July 2Coke Zero 400Daytona917161/161Running710th
July 9Quaker State 400Kentucky1015267/267Running 11th
July 17New Hampshire 301New Hampshire59301/301Running510th
July 24Brickyard 400Indianapolis44170/170Running 10th
Averages/Totals6.514.694.0% 173  


#11 FedEx Racing – 2016 Crew Roster
Crew Chief – Mike “Wheels” Wheeler
Car Chief – Leo Thorsen
Engineers – Matt Beckman, Sam McAuley
Shock Specialist – Drew Bible
Tire Specialist – Kerry Ferris
Mechanics – Troy Welty, John Furino, Sean Kerlin
Spotter – Chris Lambert
Front Tire Changer: Dustin Necaise
Front Tire Carrier: Brandon Pegram
Rear Tire Changer: Mike Hicks
Rear Tire Carrier: Heath Cherry
Jack Man: Nate Bolling
Gas Man: Caleb Hurd
Transportation – Frank Hodel, David Ott

- Weber Shandwick Worldwide for FedEx Racing

Pocono Betting Preview: Gibbs dominating in 2016

Can Chevy win again at Pocono over dominant JGR Toyotas?
LAS VEGAS -- There's only six races remaining before the Chase starts and five of the 16 slots are still unclaimed. Each of the next six weeks we'll see a vastly different track beginning with the most unusual of all tracks coming this weekend at Pocono Raceway's tricky triangle.

We should have a leg up on handicapping Sunday's Pocono race because we've already done the process needed twice this season, including last weeks prep work for the Brickyard 400. Mix in what happened June 6 in the first Pocono run and you should be armed with just about everything needed prior to Friday and Saturday's important practices.

Because Pocono and Indy are both 2.5-mile tracks with the longest straights in the series, we can lump them together as being similar even though Indy is rectangular with four equally flat turns and Pocono is triangular with banking that gets progressively flatter at each turn. If a driver does well at one of the places, they're likely to do well at the other.

So let's recap the information gathered from those two races where all the teams notes are still fresh and relevant. Kurt Busch won at Pocono in June for his only win of the season and third overall on the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, Brad Keselowski third and Chase Elliott led a race-high 51 laps before finishing fourth. Four of the top-six finishers were Chevrolet with the Penske Fords taking the other two spots. Matt Kenseth, who won at Pocono last fall, was the highest finishing Toyota in seventh. A Chevrolet has won seven of the last eight at Pocono.

Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas came in fast off the hauler last week at Indy with three of its cars finishing in the top-four, including Kyle Busch winning there for the second consecutive season. Kenseth would finish second, Jimmie Johnson third and Denny Hamlin fourth. The new low downforce package produced some crummy racing with only four lead changes among three drivers as Busch led 149 of the 160 laps. It was impossible to pass.

Chevrolet has been strong at both Pocono and Indy in recent years, but if looking at last season as an example, Toyota has made a considerable move. After Kyle Busch ended a 12-year Chevrolet win streak at the Brickyard, Kenseth won at Pocono the next week to end a six race Chevrolet win streak. Because Indianapolis happened most recent, we should look to last week as being just bit more important than the June Pocono race.

Read More Here....Top-5 Finish Prediction

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jeff Gordon has 6 wins and 20 top-fives at Pocono Raceway

Jeff Gordon is 25/1 to win Pennsylvania 400 driving the No.88.
Jeff Gordon on subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Pocono Raceway
“I really liked working with (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the whole No. 88 team. I’m looking forward to going to Pocono.

“I want Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. back in the car as soon as possible … but to go to Indy and finish a decent 13th, I think I can do better this week for him and then we’ll just go from there. We are all going to work together to do our best to continue to keep that excitement and momentum in the team there for when he is ready to come back, so he comes back and doesn’t miss a beat and can win some races.”

Jeff Gordon, substitute driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, July 29, at 1:30 p.m. ET in the Pocono Raceway media center.

EARNHARDT UPDATE: Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports, will sit out his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. He will miss Sunday’s event at Pocono Raceway after not competing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Earnhardt gave an update on his condition this week on his "The Dale Jr. Download" podcast. He will not travel to Pocono or be available for interviews this week. A timetable has not yet been established for his return.

GORDON CONTINUES: Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Gordon will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for the second week in a row. Gordon, who filled in for Earnhardt last week at Indianapolis, finished 13th in his first race since last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Following the race, he shared a special moment with Tony Stewart as the two competitors and friends completed a final lap together at the Brickyard.

FIRST AT POCONO: Gordon, who will be driving the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS this weekend, holds the record for most wins at Pocono Raceway with six. The 44-year-old leads active drivers in top-five finishes (20) and top-10 results (32) at the track.

UP FRONT AT POCONO: The 93-time NASCAR Cup Series winner has led 1,040 laps at the “Tricky Triangle” during his 24-year career. That ranks Gordon first on the all-time list at the 2.5-mile track, 231 more than second.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: On Aug. 4, just four days after he competes at Pocono, Gordon will celebrate his 45th birthday.

NATIONWIDE SUPPORTS THE NASCAR FOUNDATION: Nationwide will once again be the presenting sponsor of The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The award will be showcased on Sept. 27 at the Foundation’s inaugural Honors Gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The award honors volunteers – who are also NASCAR fans – who dedicate themselves to children’s causes in their communities throughout the United States. This year’s finalists include Jim Giaccone of Bayville, New York, representing Tuesday’s Children; Andy Hoffman of Atkinson, Nebraska, founder of the Team Jack Foundation; Logan Houptley of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a founding member of Mikayla’s Voice; and Parker White of Greensboro, North Carolina, founder of BackPack Beginnings. The award winner will be determined via an online vote now underway and running through Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. ET. The winner will receive a $100,000 donation to the charity they represent and the three other finalists will receive $25,000 for their respective charitable organizations. To vote and to learn more about The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide and each of the national finalists, please visit:www.NASCAR.com/Award.

HOMETOWN CONNECTION: The shock specialist for the No. 88 Nationwide team, Jason Seitzinger, hails from Shartlesville, Pennsylvania, which is just over an hour southwest of Pocono Raceway. Nicknamed “Penske” for his first job in racing – he worked in the parts room at Penske Racing Shocks in Reading, Pennsylvania – Seitzinger has been with Hendrick Motorsports for more than 15 years. He initially started at Hendrick Motorsports as a shock specialist on the No. 24 team, and was part of Gordon’s 2004 Brickyard 400 victory.
 

2016 Season

  • 1 start
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 798 starts
  • 93 wins
  • 81 pole positions
  • 325 top-five finishes
  • 475 top-10 finishes
  • 24,929 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 46 starts
  • 6 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 20 top-five finishes
  • 32 top-10 finishes
  • 1,040 laps led
 
 

Jimmie Johnson's third at Indy, good sign for Pocono

Jimmie Johnson is 8/1 to win Pennsylvania 400.
Jimmie Johnson on racing at Pocono Raceway
“I’m looking forward to the challenge this weekend at Pocono. We really rallied last weekend at Indy and are making gains. It’s been a tough summer for all of us and I am just so proud of this team and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for sticking together and digging deep. I’m really proud to have been able to give (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick his 1,000th top-five finish last weekend at Indy. Pocono is a great track for us – I like going there, enjoy the surrounding area for cycling, and am ready to get back in the Lowe’s Chevy.”


MILESTONE FINISH AT INDY: When the No. 48 Lowe's Red Vest Chevrolet SS crossed the finish line in third at the Brickyard last weekend, Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its 1,000th top-five result since the team was founded by Rick Hendrick in 1984. It was Johnson’s 214th top-five finish and his seventh this season.

RALLY AT INDY: Johnson had an up-and-down day at the Brickyard. After starting 13th, he ran as high as second on the scoring pylon but a speeding penalty on pit road eventually put the No. 48 team a lap down and running as low as 23rd. According to NASCAR’s loop data, Johnson made 38 quality passes – more than any other driver – to get back to the front of the field. He passed four cars on the final lap to finish third.

CHASE BOUND: With Johnson’s third-place finish at Indianapolis, he became one of only five drivers to have locked themselves into the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins with the Chicagoland Speedway event on Sunday, Sept. 18. Due to Johnson’s two wins this season in Atlanta and Fontana, California, the driver of the No. 48 now has enough points to guarantee that he cannot fall outside of the top 30 in the standings. The only requirement remaining is that Johnson attempt to start the remaining races of the regular season.

THIRD-HIGHEST DRIVER RATING AT POCONO: According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Johnson has the third-best driver rating at Pocono with a score of 106.3 during the past 10 years at the track. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

HOMETOWN CONNECTIONS: Two members of the No. 48 team have personal connections to Pennsylvania. Engine tuner John Boydston hails from Oswego, New York, but attended Luzerne County Community College in nearby Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. Shock specialist Mike Ellershaw is from Levittown, Pennsylvania.

POCONO JIMMIE JOHNSON TICKET PACKAGE: There are still tickets left for the Jimmie Johnson kids ticket package at Pocono Raceway this weekend. The package includes exclusive access to a question-and-answer session with the six-time champion as well as a NASA Rockets to Racecars activity experience. Log on to PoconoRaceway.com using promo code JJNASA or call 1-800-722-3929 to purchase.


 

2016 Season

  • 8th in standings
  • 20 starts
  • 2 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 7 top-five finishes
  • 8 top-10 finishes
  • 229 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 527 starts
  • 77 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 214 top-five finishes
  • 322 top-10 finishes
  • 17,938 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 29 starts
  • 3 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 11 top-five finishes
  • 19 top-10 finishes
  • 738 laps led
 

Tony Stewart with third-most points last five races

Tony Stewart is 25/1 to win Pennsylvania 400 on Sunday.
Lehighton, Pennsylvania Native Leads No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevy’s Resurgence

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (July 26, 2016) – Many factors contribute to Tony Stewart’s recent success. Excellent engines, cars, crew, fast pit stops and historic driving talent have propelled the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to be the third-highest scoring team in the last five races and have turned it into a real contender to win NASCAR’s 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs as the regular season continues with Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

Perhaps the leading factor in the three-time champion’s recent resurgence is the rookie crew chief with the really difficult-to-pronounce last name. Pennsylvanian Mike Bugarewicz (Bug-ARE-avich) was an unknown to most NASCAR fans at the beginning of the season, when SHR announced he would lead the No. 14 team in Stewart’s final season in NASCAR, then prepare for the arrival of Clint Bowyer in 2017.

After 20 races in 2016, the Lehighton, Pennsylvania native has become regarded by many as one of the fastest-rising crew chiefs in the sport as he’s overcome adversity, pulled off strategic feats and earned kudos from the future Hall of Fame driver. Stewart has come to praise the 34-year-old’s wisdom beyond his experience after nearly every race, of late.

“For a guy who’s not been the head guy on the pit box for very long, he’s got a lot of savvy about what’s going on there. I feel like things are kind of gelling around us,” Stewart says of his rookie crew chief known as “Buga.”

While successful, it certainly hasn’t been an easy first year. Stewart sustained a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in a Jan. 31 all-terrain-vehicle accident, paving the way for Brian Vickers and rookie Ty Dillon to alternate substitution duties in the first quarter of the season. Except for Daytona, Stewart attended each race watching from the spotter stand or pit box getting a first-hand look at the behind-the-scenes action a driver rarely sees when he’s behind the wheel. Stewart made his first appearance April 24 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. NASCAR granted Stewart a medical waiver that made him eligible for the 2016 Chase. The only way Stewart could make the Chase was by ending NASCAR’s 26-race regular season in the top-30 in driver points and secure a victory.

The victory seemed the more difficult of the two tasks as the team visited Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway on June 26. Although he ran well in the race, traffic mired the No. 14 midpack and it appeared the team was destined for a disappointing finish. Bugarewicz made a call to pit Stewart with 25 laps remaining, betting a caution would propel Stewart to the lead. A lap later, a caution flew for a spring rubber in turn seven and Stewart moved to the front of the field. Stewart put on a dazzling driving display before losing and regaining the lead in the race’s final lap to earn his 49th career victory. Since Sonoma, the team has finished in the top-five every race except for an 11th-place finish at Indianapolis last weekend, and the July 2 race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway where an accident while running in the top-five with 10 laps remaining relegated Stewart to a 26th-place finish.

The overnight success is really the latest chapter in a lifetime of racing for Bugarewicz. His decision to move to the NASCAR world began in 2005 as he sat on the couch in his college apartment at Penn State University watching the FOX television broadcast of the Atlanta race when Carl Edwards edged Jimmie Johnson by .028 of a second in a classic side-by-side finish. At the time, Bugarewicz was a graduate student studying mechanical engineering and doing research for the Navy through Applied Research Laboratories. When he wasn’t at school, he would spend his weekends working on and racing his own Street Stock and Late Model racecars. He also helped a friend compete in the Whelen Modified Series.

The research program at school was rewarding, but Bugarewicz was getting the itch to do more in life. He’d grown up in Lehighton, playing on the high school football, wrestling and track and field teams. He also spent a lot of time watching his father race at Mahoning Valley (Pa.) Speedway and working on cars at his father’s business long before he even owned a driver’s license. Engineering was going to be his career after graduation, but racing was his passion. It was time to do something. The thrilling Atlanta victory not only launched Edwards’ career, it pushed Bugarewicz to embark on his present career path.

Bugarewicz drove to Charlotte in October, knocked on doors at several race shops and passed out resumes in hopes he would get in the sport. A few weeks after returning home, job offers arrived over the phone, and soon after he loaded all his possessions and drove to North Carolina to begin his NASCAR life. He started at Roush Racing in December 2005 and worked on various teams the next few years.

Bugarewicz took Rodney Childers’ offer to join him and driver Kevin Harvick as lead race engineer for the new No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet at SHR in 2014. Under Childers’ guidance and Harvick’s abilities, the team dominated the 2014 season, winning five races and capturing the Sprint Cup championship for SHR. The team nearly repeated the feat in 2015, winning three races and finishing second in the Chase. In two years, the team posted top-five finishes in 27 of the 72 points races.

For Bugarewicz, the lessons learned at SHR are about more than just statistics. They include picking the brain of SHR Director of Competition Greg Zipadelli, who owns two championships and 34 wins as a crew chief, while working and watching Childers and Tony Gibson, No. 41 crew chief, as they provide him with the support and guidance to excel in his new role.

“There is no position that has evolved more over the years in NASCAR than the crew chief position,” Bugarewicz said. “When I first started, the crew chief was the expert when it came to anything on the racecar. Today, it is the crew chief’s job to assemble a team of specialized individuals and utilize the information they provide to produce the best product for competition.”

This weekend, the Pennsylvania native would like nothing more than to win Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400. Stewart has two poles, two wins, eight top-three finishes, 12 top-fives, 23 top-10s and has led a total of 183 laps in his 35 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono. His average start is 13.0, his average finish is 12.6 and he has a lap-completion rate of 96.7 percent.

Bugarewicz certainly would like to win in front of friends and family, but he has his own goals for the “Tricky Triangle.”

“Every week, we are working to run in the top-10, top-five, and racing the guys who are in the Chase who you know are going to be contenders,” he said. “When you show you can do that, it gives you hope.”

TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Does it feel good walking into a track knowing you will be competitive?

“It’s a good feeling, I can tell you that. It just was getting cars to feel right. I think that was the biggest thing – just trying to get through the speculation of, ‘Can he do this anymore?’ And, ‘Why is he not competitive?’ When you finally get going and you start running up front with guys who you are used to running with again, then you are getting text messages after the race saying, ‘Hey, I was glad to see you up there with us again.’ That is the stuff that makes you feel like, ‘Hey, we are back where we belong, now.’”

It seems like you are having a lot of fun recently. What is it like to experience that in your final season?
“It’s a heck of a lot better than being frustrated all the time. There are so many cool people we care about in this series and it’s other team owners, it’s team members and crew chiefs and drivers, and we’re just having fun with it and that’s what we said we wanted to do at the start of the year and we wanted to have fun and win a race and we’ve done all that. I don’t think we’re quite done, yet. So, we’re just going to keep having fun and going for it.”

Would you be picking up steam in the recent races had you not won in Sonoma?
“I still think we’d be picking up. You look at how we ran at Pocono until I crashed, and then Michigan the following week, we picked up, and then the weekend off or whatever, and then Sonoma. You know, I don’t think Sonoma necessarily was an indication of why we ran well at New Hampshire, but it gave us a lot of confidence. It gave me a lot of confidence. It gave Mike (Bugarewicz) confidence, really picked up the morale of the team. Everybody was kind of on edge because everybody wants this last year to be good and we want to run well in this last year. So, for Mike and I to get caught up with each other, we’ve really had to work hard at it, and I think he’s done a great job. But I think Sonoma really helped kind of relax everybody and got us in the mode of racing again and not really worrying about what we were looking like out there and why we weren’t performing. But I feel like it started before Sonoma.”

How do you get your car to handle through the three very different corners at Pocono?

“That’s the hard part for the crew chiefs. Normally, you can get two of them right, then you make a change to fix the third and you hurt the other two corners. That seems like it is always the challenge – its tying all three corners together and getting your car to respond to it.”

- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing