Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Pocono Betting Preview: 2019 Pocono 400

Ryan Blaney was on pole last June at Pocono.
Pocono Raceway's 2.5-mile tricky triangle is the most unique track on the circuit, but the last few races there have been snooze-fests with little passing. There were just 11 lead changes in this race last season and only 13 in the July race, but I think Sunday's Pocono 400 might be a little different due to the new package featuring aero ducts and engines producing 550 horsepower. The drivers aren't quite sure what to expect with the package.

“Everything this so tight in our sport right now with this rules package," said Clint Bowyer. "In qualifying at Charlotte last week, third-place through 16th-place qualifiers all ran 182 mph. In the race, the guy leading would get back a few minutes later and struggle in 20th. It’s just really, really tight right now and you can’t make any errors.”

Yes, it's tight, and I like the type of racing it has produced. Last week at Charlotte there were 30 lead changes among 11 drivers and three weeks ago at Kansas there 23 lead changes among 12 drivers and at Texas, in late March there were 26 lead changes among 13 drivers. That's some nice parity with the last three races using this exact package.

Teams are getting better with it and finding more speed to close the gap Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske has shown this season by winning 12 of the 13 races so far with all the packages. Chris Beuscher from JTG-Daugherty Racing finished sixth last week in the Coca-Cola 600. Also, Roush Fenway Racing matters again with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finishing fifth last week.

Of course, Martin Truex Jr. won last week for the third time in the last five of the schedule, a Gibbs car, and he was followed by Penske's Joey Logano and in third-place was Gibbs' Kyle Busch. There's still a divide with the elite teams, but others are catching up.

The upward progression with most teams getting more familiar with the new package should continue this weekend at Pocono. The bump drafting and side-drafting are going to be a huge part of the equation on the longest straightaway on the Cup tour on Pocono's front stretch. But passing in each of the three unique turns is what I crave the most.


Chase Elliott is 10/1 to win 2019 Pocono 400

Chase Elliott has an ARCA win at Pocono.
Chase Elliott on Pocono:
“I’ve really liked racing at Pocono. It’s pretty unique place that we go to and it’s been a lot of fun to race in the past. It’s usually a challenge, but I like a challenge so that may be why I enjoy it so much. Looking forward to this weekend and seeing how the new package will handle at the track.”

Elliott on designing the Braves NAPA Night Hat:
“I came by the stadium one day, a handful of months ago, and we started talking about ideas. If you have ever seen any Braves hat ever, that anyone has ever wore, it was on the table that day. Everything you could possible think of. I had plenty of ideas to pick through and basically I kind of just married up a couple of ideas that I liked and obviously I tried to incorporate the NAPA colors as well. They (NAPA AUTO PARTS) are obviously, ironically enough a partner of mine as well – in a big way. They’ve been really good to me and they are also an Atlanta-based company at that. They are a really great fit for both (Elliott and Braves). It’s great to have their names on the hat with the Braves and it turned out good. I appreciate everybody letting me be a part of the hat.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, May 31, at 3:15 p.m. local time in the media center at Pocono Raceway.

SO FAR IN 2019: Halfway through the regular season, Chase Elliott has led a total of 400 laps – leading in seven of the eight races after going the first five races of the season without leading a single lap and currently the fourth most laps led by a driver this season. He has started from the pole position in two of the last six races (Bristol, Dover). In the first 13 races of the season, Elliott has collected five top-five finishes, six top-10s and averages a starting position of 12.4 and finishing position of 9.6. Last weekend’s fourth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway moved him to third in the driver point standings.

KEEP THE STREAK ALIVE: The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has collected four straight top-five finishes (Talladega – first; Dover – fifth; Kansas – fourth; Charlotte - fourth). It marks the longest top-five streak of the 23-year-old driver's NASCAR Cup Series career. His longest previous streak was two races in August 2018 (Bristol – Darlington).

CHARLOTTE RECAP: Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team ran a strong race on NASCAR’s longest night, earning a top-five finish in each stage and a fourth-place finishing result. The race was Elliott’s fourth consecutive top-five effort and moved the No. 9 NAPA driver to third in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.

POCONO STATS: Elliott is set to make his seventh start at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend. He is currently on a streak of four top-10 finishes at the "Tricky Triangle", second longest streak by track behind only Michigan (six-race streak). In his first six starts at the Pennsylvania track, the 23-year-old driver has collected one top-five finish and five top-10s. Elliott averages a starting position of 12.7 and a finishing position of 12.0. During his rookie start at Pocono in June 2016, he led 51 laps en route to a fourth-place finish, his best finish at the venue.

NO STRANGER TO POCONO: Besides his six starts in the Cup Series at the track, last season, Elliott made his Pocono NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in the No. 23 Chevrolet, starting 10th and collecting a runner-up finish in the 100-lap event. He has also made two ARCA Series starts at the Pocono. In his first visit to the track in June 2013, Elliott started 32nd and went on to lead 21 laps before collecting his first ARCA win.

ENGINE, ENGINE, NO. 9: This weekend, Elliott could become the third driver to win with the No. 9 car number. The No. 9 car number currently ranks fourth for the most wins at Pocono Raceway with six victories. His dad, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, garnered five of those wins and Kasey Kahne collected the most recent win with the No. 9 in June 2008.

GUSTAFSON AT THE TRICKY TRIANGLE: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 29th Pocono race from atop the pit box at the 2.5-mile triangle this weekend. In his previous 28 starts with five different drivers (Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Casey Mears and Kyle Busch), Gustafson has collected two wins – with Gordon in June 2011 and August 2012 – and garnered six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s.

HOME SWEET HOME: As the Cup Series heads to Pocono, there are four members of the No. 9 team that call the Keystone State home – car chief Josh Kirk (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania), engineer Matt Barndt (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), primary truck driver Dave Ott (St. Marys, Pennsylvania) and co-truck driver Heath Edler (Williamsport, Pennsylvania).

BEHIND THE BRAVES: Last week, Elliott, an avid Atlanta Braves fan, joined’s Ricky Mast and former Braves World Series champion and current director of alumni relations Greg McMichael on “Behind the Braves”, the official Atlanta Braves podcast to talk racing and baseball. Click here to listen to the full episode. They also chatted about the upcoming NAPA AUTO PARTS night (Wednesday, May 29) where the first 15,000 fans through the gate will receive a Braves/NAPA cap designed by Elliott.


2019 Season

  • 3rd in standings
  • 13 starts
  • 1 win
  • 2 pole positions
  • 5 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 400 laps led


  • 126 starts
  • 4 wins
  • 6 pole positions
  • 38 top-five finishes
  • 65 top-10 finishes
  • 1,643 laps led

Track Career 

  • 6 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 5 top-10 finishes
  • 65 laps led

Denny Hamlin is 12/1 to win 2019 Pocono 400

Denny Hamlin leads active drivers with four wins at Pocono.
Denny Hamlin
#11 FedEx Office Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing

Race Info:

Race: Pocono 400
Date/Time: June 2/2:00 p.m. ET
Distance: 160 laps/400 miles
Track Length: 2.5 miles
Track Shape: Triangle
2018 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Express Notes:

Press Kit:
Download the 2019 FedEx Racing press materials at, including bios for Denny Hamlin, Chris Gabehart and Joe Gibbs Racing leadership, program highlights and statistics.

Charlotte Coca-Cola 600 Recap: Denny Hamlin’s up-and-down evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday ended on the down side after he spun and wrecked on the last lap of the Coca-Cola 600. His FedEx Ground Toyota had been fast all evening, leading 21 laps and repeatedly climbing back through the field after multiple incidents set him back. Hamlin started in 20th and immediately knew he had a fast car. He finished Stage 1 in second place, and quickly took the lead after the start of Stage 2, where he stayed for 21 laps. But the remaining three stages were full of incidents that knocked Denny toward the back – multiple blown tires plus a pit road miscue where he missed his pit and had to back up. Each time, he rebounded and pushed his way back toward the front. The team had fought back from 19th place, one lap down, in the final stage to climb back into the top 10 for the final laps. But a last-lap incident sent the #11 hard into the inside wall. Denny was able to drive the heavily damaged car over the finish line to be credited with a 17th-place finish.

Pocono Preview: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be heading to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for a 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, June 2. With four wins to his name at Pocono, Hamlin and the #11FedEx team will be seeking a fifth victory, making it the team’s third win of the 2019 Cup Series.

Hamlin Pocono Statistics:

Track: Pocono Raceway
Races: 26
Wins: 4 (2006, 2006, 2009, 2014)
Poles: 3 (2006, 2006, 2014)
Top-5: 10
Top-10: 16
Laps Led: 693
Avg. Start: 7.1
Avg. Finish 12.6

Hamlin Conversation:

Your team fought a tough race in Charlotte; what will your team need to adjust to be successful at Pocono?

“We had a really fast FedEx Toyota in Charlotte, and it’s crazy how many cars we passed over the course of the entire race, repeatedly going from the back to the front. Unfortunately, our finish doesn’t reflect how good of a car we had, but I’m proud of the speed our team brought to the racetrack, and if we can bring that speed with us to Pocono we will be in a great position to win.”

What excites you most about returning to Pocono?

“Historically, the FedEx #11 has had some success and we will be entering Pocono confident that we can secure another victory. Heading to the Pocono Mountains makes for a great racing atmosphere and I’m confident our FedEx #11 team will be up for the challenge.”

FedEx District 35 Colorado South Along for the Ride at Pocono Raceway
: For the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, FedEx Office will recognize District 25 Colorado South for their top performance during the “Are You Aware” week campaign, where they were top performers in regards to sales related to new water-resistant media product.

William Byron is 40/1 to win 2019 Pocono 400

William Byron was sixth at Pocono in 2018.
William Byron on believing there is momentum for the No. 24 team:
“Definitely. I think there’s a lot of merit to momentum and confidence. As a driver and as a team, when you’re in an upward swing a lot of times bad situations don’t seem as devastating or race-ending as they usually would. I think we have a lot of momentum on our side right now. The cars have been faster which is something everyone has been working hard to improve. That always helps the success on-track for sure. I’m really excited for what we can do in the upcoming races especially since this is a stretch of really good racetracks for myself and the team starting at Pocono.

Byron on Pocono:
“Pocono has always been a really fun track for me. It’s a really tricky track and it’ll be even trickier this year with the downforce and straightaway speeds being a little slower. I think it’s going to make it a little more similar to the Truck Series race there and that was one of my best races.”

Byron on navigating turns of the "Tricky Triangle":
“You try to be good in all three but Turn Three is really important though I think. The way you get through there seems like it’s been most important the last couple years. The race we were good there last year, we started in the back and finished sixth, but we were able to get through Turn Three pretty well which definitely helped I think. So, I look at that as the place you need to be the best during the race.”

600 IN THE REARVIEW: Charlotte-native William Byron captured his second NASCAR Cup Series pole last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and followed it up with a solid run in the illustrious 600-mile Memorial Day weekend event. Leading the initial 23 laps of the race, Byron maintained a top-five running order well into the 400-lap race. As the race transitioned into night, the handling of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 began to get aggressively tighter but Byron was able to fight on and secure a track-best finish of ninth – his third top-10 finish of the season.

WHAT SOPHOMORE SLUMP?: With one-third of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season officially complete, Byron has been making major strides during his sophomore season at the highest level of NASCAR competition. After collecting his second Cup Series pole award this past weekend at his hometown track, Byron has shown a steady increase through the 13-race stretch of 2019. Compared to the same point last season, Byron has improved his average starting position from 19.5 in 2018 to 11.5 including two Cup Series poles. He has also improved his average finishing position from 20.8 to 16.0 and increased his laps led count from 31 (61 total laps in all of 2018) to 123 so far this season. The sophomore driver also has completed 99.7 percent of all possible laps run, with only one DNF (season opener at Daytona). Additionally, Byron has scored three top-10 finishes, compared to one top-10 finish at this point last season and four total top-10 finishes all season. Byron’s improvements in 2019 have correlated in the Cup Series’ driver point standings as well where the driver of the No. 24 is now sitting 15th within the cutoff point for the NASCAR Playoffs.

HENDRICK AUTOGUARD RETURNS: The colors of Hendrick Autoguard will return to Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet for this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway. Hendrick Autoguard is a premier vehicle protection program available at Hendrick Automotive Group dealerships, which includes additional individualized maintenance products like tire and wheel protection, paintless dent repair, oil change program, mechanical repair service contract, flexible maintenance, and others. The program affords customers numerous options to get the maximum value from their vehicle with the highest level of service in the industry. All Autoguard vehicle protection programs are available as single products or value-packaged for additional savings. For more, visit the Hendrick Autoguard website.

PREVIEWING POCONO: Byron heads to Pocono Raceway for the sixth time in his racing career - a track that has been good to him across many different series. Making his debut at the “Tricky Triangle” in 2016, Byron first competed at the track in June in the ARCA Series race, where he qualified third and left with a solid top-10 finish. The experience proved valuable, as he won the pole in his first Truck Series start at the track and dominated by leading 44 out of 60 laps before capturing the win. After that, Byron also collected a solid top-15 finish in his lone Xfinity Series start before moving up to the Cup Series full time. With two Cup Series starts last season at Pocono, Byron had solid days in both races, but ultimately collected his Cup Series-best finish of sixth in the July race after leading 10 laps.

LUCK IN NUMBERS: The No. 24 has been no stranger to success at Pocono Raceway in the past. Four-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon earned six wins at the Long Pond, Pennsylvania, track – the most of any Cup Series driver – while driving the No. 24 Chevrolet. With those six wins by Gordon, the No. 24 is tied for the third-most wins by a car number at the “Tricky Triangle.” If Byron can pick up the win this weekend, he would be the second driver to win at Pocono in the No. 24 as well as become the fifth driver to collect their first Cup Series win at Pocono Raceway.

KNAUS KNOWS: Heading to the “Tricky Triangle” for the 36th time in his Cup career as a crew chief, Chad Knaus leads active Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs in best finishes at Pocono Raceway. With three wins at the 2.5-mile triangular track, Knaus swept both races in 2004 and then captured the win again from the pole in the spring of 2013.

MEET BYRON: Byron fans will have multiple opportunities to meet the driver of the No. 24 this weekend at Pocono Raceway. On Friday, Byron will make a surprise appearance at the track. Fans interested should follow the driver's Twitter account for details. On Sunday, Byron will stop by Pocono Raceway’s “Tricky Triangle Club” in the Chalet Village at 11 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session. Tickets to Byron’s Q&A and access to the “Tricky Triangle Club are available here.

Jimmie Johnson is 25/1 to win 2019 Pocono 400

Jimmie Johnson has won three times at Pocono.
Jimmie Johnson on Charlotte:
“I’m really proud of our solid outing last week in Charlotte. It was good for us on so many levels. This week, I have some production things to do and then head to Pocono. We’ve had a tough few races at Pocono as of late and some pretty gnarly crashes, but I like going there, the track is so technical and challenging and I like the area. Overall, things are moving in a positive direction. We just need more.”

CHARLOTTE REWIND: Last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jimmie Johnson, and the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet team scored their sixth top-10 of the season when they started 15th and finished the 600-mile event in eighth. Johnson and the team fought handling issues and the No. 48 driver tagged the wall with less than 10 laps to go in the race while closing in on the top five. The damage proved to be minimal as Johnson was able to hold on for a solid finish to claim his 22nd top-10 finish at the track.

ONE YEAR AGO: Last season, this race marked Johnson's 600th NASCAR Cup Series start. After starting 15th, Johnson finished eighth – leading two laps with an average running position of 9.48 throughout the 400-mile event. Johnson also boasts three wins, 11 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s at the Pennsylvania track.

LAST WIN AT POCONO: The El Cajon, California, native’s last win at the “Tricky Triangle” was June 9, 2013, when Johnson dominated the 400-mile event by leading 128 of 160 laps.

ON THIS DATE: Historically, in the last four races won on June 2, Johnson has claimed one of those victories. In 2002, the driver of the No. 48 machine won the race at Dover International Speedway after starting 10th and leading 188 laps. Johnson claims three of Hendrick Motorsports organization's 17 wins at Pocono.

STARTING STRONG: The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevy has a history of starting inside the top 10 at the Pennsylvania track. In his 34 starts he has taken the green flag inside the top 10 a total of 19 times, making his average starting position 11.1 at the track. With his top-10 starts, eight of them are on the front row.

MEENDERING EXPERIENCE AT POCONO: Crew chief Kevin Meendering will be making his first Cup Series start at Pocono this weekend, but the Grand Rapids, Michigan, native finished in the top 10 in all three Xfinity Series starts at with JR Motorsports at the "Tricky Triangle". Meendering was also the lead engineer of the No. 88 machine for the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “sweep” of both Pocono races in 2014, with former crew chief Steve Letarte.

ICYMI JJxALO CAR SWAP DROP: Jimmie Johnson Racing released several “JJxALO Car Swap in Bahrain” videos on Johnson’s YouTube channel last week. The series of videos can be seen here.


2019 Season

  • 14th in standings
  • 13 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 68 laps led


  • 628 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 36 pole positions
  • 225 top-five finishes
  • 358 top-10 finishes
  • 18,771 laps led

Track Career 

  • 34 starts
  • 3 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 11 top-five finishes
  • 20 top-10 finishes
  • 740 laps led

Alex Bowman is a live look at 25/1 to win at Pocono

Alex Bowman is knocking on the door loudly for first Cup win.
Alex Bowman on Pocono:
“I love Pocono. We got a third-place finish there last year and ran really strong throughout the entire race. Pocono is very unique, and it is different from the tracks we typically go to. The Tunnel Turn is pretty challenging at times, especially since they paved it.”

Bowman on No. 88 team momentum:
“We have been running pretty well the last few weeks. We definitely didn’t start out great in the 600 but got better toward the end and was able to salvage a seventh-place finish. Greg (Ives) and the guys have worked really hard on this 88 car and its is showing on track. We have made up a lot of ground in the point standings and we need to continue having weeks like we have been.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, May 31, at 12 p.m. local time in the media center at Pocono Raceway.

BEST 600 FINISH: Bowman crossed the line seventh in Sunday night’s 600-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 26-year-old driver rolled off the grid in 13th for the 400-lap race. The No. 88 Chevrolet finished Stage 1 in 14th and when Stage 2 concluded, he was scored in second. Bowman reported that his car was too tight and had no front grip. At the end of Stage 3, he was running sixth and earned valuable stage points. Following the pit stop at the end of the third stage, the driver of No. 88 machine experienced a small vibration and came to pit road on Lap 353 with a flat right-rear tire. The Arizona native restarted 18th on Lap 365. By the conclusion of the event, he came across the line seventh which is his best-career finish in the 600-mile race. Bowman and the No. 88 team are now 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, just 155 markers behind the leader.

AXALTA ON BOARD: This weekend marks the fifth of 12 events in which the Axalta colors will adorn the No. 88 Chevy. Axalta will be on the No. 88 machine again at Sonoma and Chicagoland. Last year, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Axalta signed a four-year contract extension that will take the partnership through 2022. The leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings unveiled a new Axalta Racing website last year that includes plenty of behind-the-scenes content, photos, and videos. Check out Bowman’s page here.

BOWMAN AT THE TRICKY TRIANGLE: On Sunday, Bowman will make his seventh start at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series. The 26-year-old has completed 99.2 percent of laps within his six events that he has competed in at the Pennsylvania track. The driver's track-best finish of third came in his last appearance when he started 10th for the 164-lap event. Back in 2016, Bowman made one start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track, starting and finishing 10th in the spring event. The Arizona native also has two starts in the ARCA Series at the track back in 2012, where he finished third in both events.

LOOKING FOR A WIN: Three drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series have finished second in 2019 but have yet to claim a victory. Bowman has finished second three times since Talladega in April. The No. 88 machine has led 94 laps in the last four events.

EYES ON THE POINTS: In the last four races, Bowman and the No. 88 team have had a 91-point swing in the point standings. The driver was scored in the 21st position in the standings following Richmond, 15th after Talladega, 13th after Dover, 12th after Kansas and 10th following last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Bowman is now 64 points above the playoff cut line.

IVES AT POCONO: This weekend marks the ninth time that crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the No. 88 team at Pocono Raceway. The crew chief’s resume includes three top-five finishes at the 2.5-mile track since 2015. Ives’ best finish at the track came back in 2016 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second. Last year at the Pennsylvania track, Ives led Bowman to his best finish of the 2018 season, taking the checkered flag in third at the July race. Before moving to the No. 88 team, the Michigan native was a race engineer for the No. 48 team between 2006 and 2012. During that time, the team captured 11 top-10 finishes and one pole award at the track.

ALL IN THE NUMBER: The No. 88 car is second on the list of most Pocono wins by car number. There have been seven times that the driver of the No. 88 machine claimed the victory at the 2.5-mile track. Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett, and Bobby Allison have all won twice in the No. 88 car and Darrell Waltrip won once behind the wheel of the No. 88 machine.

HOMETOWN TRACK: Jason Seitzinger, shock engineer for the No. 88 team, grew up in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania which is located about 70-miles from Pocono Raceway. Seitzinger’s first job was at Penske Racing Shocks in Reading, Pa where he worked inside the parts room. This was ultimately how he got the nickname “Penske.” Seitzinger has been with Hendrick Motorsports for 17 years.

MEET BOWMAN: Fans can meet Bowman this weekend at Pocono Raceway. On Saturday and Sunday, fans can find the driver at the Fan Stage in the Fan Midway at 9:45 a.m. local time.

PITCH TO WIN BIG: Small Business Week ran from May 5-11 and recognized small businesses everywhere. Nationwide and BlueVine are teaming up to give away up to $100,000 to one small business to help it grow. From now until June 30, small-business owners can visit to enter for a chance to win funds to achieve their business goals. Nationwide and BlueVine will select the contest finalists, who will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Nationwide’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to pitch business leaders during a live “Pitch to Win” event. The winning pitch will win the $100,000 prize, with second place receiving $20,000 and third place taking home $10,000.


2019 Season

  • 10th in standings
  • 13 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 94 laps led


  • 130 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 6 top-five finishes
  • 18 top-10 finishes
  • 368 laps led

Track Career 

  • 6 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 0 laps led

NASCAR Cup Series Notes: 2019 Pocono 400

Martin Truex Jr. is 6/1 to win Sunday at Pocono.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Pocono 400
The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 2
The Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 50),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)
2018 Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Martin Truex Jr. on a roll
Martin Truex Jr. is not only the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ most recent winner – earning the victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night - he is the defending winner of this week’s race, the Pocono 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (2 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry collected his third win of the season last weekend and surely feels optimistic arriving at another of his best tracks. Truex won the 2015 Pocono early summer race leading a race-best 97 of the 160 laps and his victory in this race last year gives him three top-10s in his last four starts there. He’s led laps in four of the last five Pocono races. And he earned a front row start three consecutive times from 2016-2017 seasons – winning the pole in 2016 and starting on the outside of the front row both races in 2017.
Leading laps has proven to be a good indication of how strong the 2017 Cup champion’s team is at a race track. He’s led at least 100 laps in all three of his 2019 victories and in fact 434 of his season total 459 laps out front (94.5 percent) have been in his winning venues (at Richmond, Dover and Charlotte).

Truex is ranked sixth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver championship points standings with two runner-up finishes (at Atlanta and Phoenix) in addition to his three wins.

Kyle Busch back on top
Kyle Busch reclaimed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points lead from reigning series champion Joey Logano last weekend with his third-place finish at Charlotte. Busch has top-10 finishes in 12 of the season’s 13 races, including three victories (at Phoenix, California. and Bristol), a runner-up showing in the Daytona 500 and third place finishes at Las Vegas, Martinsville and Charlotte.

Busch has led laps in 11 of the 13 races and led 60 or more laps six times – topped by a 177-laps out front en route to his ISM Raceway win.

It may have taken Busch a little time to finally earn that first victory at the “Tricky Triangle” as Pocono is known, but he’s clearly on track now. Both his wins have come in the last three-race span. He won his first Pocono race in 2017 from the Busch Pole position.

The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry has led 239 laps in the last four Pocono races. He’s led 262 laps in the last seven races, which means 81 percent of his 325 Pocono laps led total came in that time frame.

Last year, Busch won in every series at the Pocono track – claiming his second Cup win and notching his first NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victories as well.

Hamlin stands atop the mountain at Pocono
Denny Hamlin arrives at Pocono Raceway with fond memories and high hopes. He won his first two races at the track from the pole position in 2006 – a feat never accomplished at the storied race venue. He and Jimmie Johnson (2004) are the only active drivers to sweep a season’s races and Hamlin answered his work in 2006 with back-to-back wins in 2009-10. His four-win total is most in this weekend’s field.

The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry could use a Pocono boost after a comparatively frustrating May. Hamlin won the Daytona 500 and answered with a trophy at Texas Motor Speedway in April. But after a fifth-place showing at Richmond in April, Hamlin has had four straight finishes outside the top-10 and is ranked seventh in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points.
Pocono may well be the panacea. Not only does he boast an overall top record there among his competitors, he has three top-10 finishes in his most recent five starts. He’s earned 16 top 10s and 10 top fives in 26 starts. And his 693 laps out front is second only to three-time race winner Jimmie Johnson (740 laps led) in this week’s field.

Hamlin has a 7.1 average starting position through 26 races – a phenomenal statistic – and an average finish of 12.6. Of drivers with more than one start at Pocono, only the late NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson has a better average starting position (4.667) but that came in only six starts compared to Hamlin’s 26.

“We had a really fast FedEx Toyota in Charlotte and it’s crazy how many cars we passed over the course of the entire race, repeatedly going from the back to the front,’’ Hamlin said. “Unfortunately, our finish doesn’t reflect how good of a car we had, but I’m proud of the speed our team brought to the race track and if we can bring that speed with us to Pocono, we will be in great position to win.’’

“Historically, the FedEx #11 has had some success and we will be entering Pocono confident that we can secure another victory.’’

Potential for Penske power at Pocono
The perennial powerhouse Team Penske team continues to wrestle with Joe Gibbs Racing for high honors this season.

Penske’s Brad Keselowski joins two JGR teammates (Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.) with three wins through the opening 13 races of 2019. And Penske driver Joey Logano – the reigning Monster Energy Series champion – has exchanged the points lead with Busch for most of the season as well. He won at Las Vegas and has nine top-10s.  And the team’s newest addition, Ryan Blaney, has held his own with the veterans even as he looks for his first win of the season. All three drivers are ranked among the top 10 in the standings.

Pocono Raceway is not necessarily a place where Penske cars have dominated and collected trophies like they have elsewhere on the schedule. But each of the Penske trio has a Pocono victory and reason to feel optimistic this weekend as the series returns for the first of two summer stops.

Logano won from the pole position in 2012 driving for the JGR team. He has six top-10 finishes since the victory, but only two in the last seven races. In 2018, the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford was ninth and 26th in the two races at Pocono.

Keselowski, who drives the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang, had six consecutive top-five finishes – six of the last seven races - before last summer’s second event when he crashed in the waning laps of the race. He has three runner-up showings (2014,15,16) since his 2011 victory and his average finish is a stellar 11.7 in 18 starts.
There will always be a special place for Pocono in Blaney’s heart since he scored his first Monster Energy Series win there (in June 2017). He has five finishes of 12th or better in six starts, was sixth and 12th in the two races last year and boasts the same 11.7 average finish as his teammate Keselowski.

Kurt Busch brings confidence to Pocono
Chip Ganassi Racing veteran Kurt Busch brings a lot of confidence and a successful resume to Pocono Raceway. His three wins are second only to Denny Hamlin’s four wins among active drivers (Jimmie Johnson also has three wins).

In 35 starts at Pocono, Busch has 20 top-10 finishes, which also ties him with Johnson for most in the field. No one on this week’s grid has more previous top-five showings (14) than Busch at the track. And Busch is one of only four drivers currently ranked among the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ top-16 with multiple pole positions (two) and wins (three) at Pocono.

His 102.8 driver rating is third best in the field and second only to Hamlin among those drivers with at least 10 starts. He has top-10 finishes in four of his last six starts at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track.

Busch returns to Pocono this week looking for his first win of the season and first driving the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. He has eight top-10 finishes through the opening 13 races of 2019, including a runner-up showing at Bristol, Tenn. and a third place at Atlanta. He’s had top-10s in two of the last four races but is coming off a 27th-place finish in Charlotte.

Fans treated to impressive racing as 2019 season rolls on
The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has brought some great racing action to the fans this season. It has also brought some solid statistics to back up all the stellar racing everyone has seen through the first 13 races of 2019.

For starters, green flag passes for the lead (513) are up 56% compared to last season’s first 13 events (330). Three of the 13 races this season have produced record-setting green flag passes for the lead; producing more green flag passes for the lead than ever before – Las Vegas (47), Bristol (47), and Kansas (41).

Additionally, in the year-over-year comparison, 2019 has seen significant gains in green flag passes for the lead in nine of the 13 races this season; including all five of the 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas and Charlotte).

Plus, nine of the 13 races this season have produced more green flag passes for the lead than the five-year average (See chart below).

But that’s not all, passing is up through the field as well; total green flag passes (45,590 GFP) through the first 13 races of the season are up 30% compared to 2018 (35,069 GFP). With nine of the 13 races in 2019 seeing an increase in green flag passes compared to last season; including the Daytona 500, Talladega, Martinsville, Bristol, Dover and four of the five 1.5-mile tracks (Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas and Charlotte).

Youth can move at Pocono
Several of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series most promising members of the sport’s “youth movement” certainly “move” well at Pocono Raceway. Three drivers in this weekend’s field scored their very first Cup win at Pocono – Denny Hamlin (2006), Chris Buescher (2016) and Ryan Blaney (2017).

Fourth-year series JTG Daugherty Racing driver Buescher, 26, is still looking for his second Cup trophy. However, third-year Cup driver Blaney answered his Pocono showing with a win in the Charlotte ROVAL Playoff race last fall. The Team Penske driver, 25, has five top-12 finishes in six Pocono starts and won the Busch Pole in this spring race last year.

Erik Jones, 22, of Joe Gibbs Racing, has three top-10 finishes in four starts at Pocono, including a third place in his 2017 Cup debut on the “Tricky Triangle.” He’s led laps in three of his four Pocono races. Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott, 23, has five top-10 finishes in six races at Pocono with a best showing of fourth place in his 2016 Pocono debut.

Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace, 25, made his Monster Energy Series debut at the track in 2017 and scored his best showing (16th) to date in that race. He led four laps in the spring race of 2018 before his No. 43 Chevrolet retired with engine issues. He does have a pair of top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the track as well.

Sunoco Rookie update
JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece continues to pace the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by a slim eight points over Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric.

The last few races have been challenges for both. Preece, 28, has a pair of top-10 finishes on the year, highlighted by a third place showing at Talladega, Ala. four races ago. The driver of the No. 37 Chevrolet hasn’t had a top-20 since, however. His 25th-place finish at Kansas two weeks ago is best in that stretch. This will be his Cup debut at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. He finished 17th in the 2016 Xfinity Series race there – his only previous start on the track.

Hemric, 28, similarly had his best season showing at Talladega, Ala. – a fifth place and his only top-10 of the season. He also has struggled some in the past month, earning a best of 18th at Kansas in that time. The driver of the No. 8 RCR Chevrolet does have the most experience at Pocono’s Tricky Triangle, previously earning a pair of top-10 finishes in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition and another in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Matt Tifft, who is ranked 31st in the points standings, is coming off the best rookie showing at last week’s Charlotte Motor Speedway. He finished 20th equaling his best result of the season (Phoenix). He has top-10 finishes in the Gander Trucks (2015) and Xfinity Series (2017) at Pocono.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media rotations
Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series –  Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Go Fas Racing’s Corey LaJoie and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Pocono 400 (2 p.m., ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Chase Elliott, 23, of Dawsonville, Ga., earned his fourth consecutive top-five finish last weekend with a fourth-place effort in the season’s only 600-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Elliott scored his first win of the season on the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway four races ago and is currently tied with Kevin Harvick in third place in the points standings. This week’s Pocono (Pa.) Raceway venue brings a lot of promise for Elliott and his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team. He’s finished top-10 in five of his six career Cup starts at the track. His best showing was fourth place in his 2016 debut there in the June race, when he led 51 laps. Elliott finished 10th and seventh in the 2018 season races at Pocono.

Erik Jones, 22, of Byron, Mich., arrives at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway after an encouraging recent run in the schedule. Although he suffered a disappointing 40th place finish after an early race incident at Charlotte last week, he had back-to-back top-10 finishes in the two previous races. Pocono has historically been a good place for the Monster Energy Series’ 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He has three top-10 finishes in four Cup starts including a third place in this race in 2017. The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has led laps in three of his four Pocono starts and has an impressive 11.2 average finish at the track.

Aric Almirola, 35, of Tampa, Fla., is on track to answer his career best season in 2018 with another attempt at a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship run. He has seven top-10 finishes in the opening 13 races – including six straight top-10s between the Atlanta and Texas Motor Speedway stops in March and April. His best finish is fourth (at Phoenix) and he’s already led 99 laps – half his career-best single season total only 13 races into the year. Almirola was seventh in the first Pocono (Pa.) Raceway event last year – his best-ever showing at the track.

Ryan Blaney, 25, of High Point, N.C., returns to a special venue in his young Cup career. Blaney won his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa). Raceway in this race in 2017. He won the Busch Pole for this race in 2018 and has finished 12th or better in five of his six starts at the historic track. His average finish is an impressive 11.7. He’s won a race in each of the last two seasons, but is looking for his first trophy of 2019. His best finish is third at ISM Raceway in Phoenix in March. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford is ranked ninth in the points standings with four top-five runs this season.

Corey LaJoie, 27, of Concord, N.C., has notched his season’s best results in two of the last four races – an 11th-place finish at Talladega, Ala. and 12th at Charlotte last weekend. The driver of the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford is still looking for his first top-20 showing at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. His best finish at the track is 25th in July, 2017.

Ryan Newman, 41, of South Bend, Ind., has had a promising early season in his first year driving the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. He earned three consecutive top-10 finishes, finishing the streak with a season-best seventh place at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He was 16th at Charlotte last weekend and looking to get back into Playoff position – he’s currently ranked 18th in the points standings. Newman has historically been strong on the 2.5-mile Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. He won the 2003 July race there from the Busch Pole position. He has 15 top-10 finishes in 34 career starts and between 2011-14 finished top-10 in seven of eight Pocono races. He finished 25th and eighth in the two races last season.