Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Clint Bowyer is 14/1 to win at Watkins Glen

CLINT BOWYER
Best Average Finish in Last Six Road Course Races – Really!

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (July 29, 2019) – Who has the best average finish in the last six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series road course races?

Take a minute to think about it.

Since this is the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) advance, the likely guess would be Clint Bowyer.
And that is correct. Really!

The former body shop employee and dirt track racer from Emporia, Kansas, who hadn’t seen much of any road course until he joined the NASCAR ranks, is at the top of the list.

In his 28 career starts on road courses at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and the “roval” at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Bowyer has earned a victory, 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s.


“Not in a million years would I have imagined this success,” said Bowyer, who has a theory on why he and all other Cup Series drivers have improved their road-course racing skills over the last several years.

“I think a big part of it is engineering,” he said. “They came into this sport – our engineers were able to get our cars underneath us way better than we could before. Those ringers would go test time and time again all over the place, all sorts of different racetracks, in preparation for these one or two races. And, when we’d get there, our focus is on those mile-and-a-half tracks that make up the biggest part of the season. That’s a big difference. When we get here and we’re on the same playing field as they are, I feel like I’m proud to say the Cup regulars are holding their own.”

Some of Bowyer’s best road-course work has come since joining SHR in 2017. He climbed in the No. 14 driver’s seat when three-time champion Tony Stewart retired from NASCAR competition. In the six road-course races since joining SHR, Bowyer owns an average finish of 5.8 – the best of any driver who has competed in each of those races. Bowyer owns top-five finishes in four of the six road-course races since 2017 and hasn’t finished outside the top-11. That 5.8 average finish is even more impressive when considering his teammate Kevin Harvick is next best with an average finish of 7.5 in those races.

“That’s pretty cool and shows the quality of Fords the folks at SHR have been building for us,” Bowyer said. “When we go to road courses, we expect to be at the top of the chart each time.”

All this Bowyer trivia comes into play this weekend when the Cup Series races at Watkins Glen in Sunday’s GoBowling at the Glen in the second of three road courses on the 2019 schedule. With those numbers, Bowyer will obviously be a driver to watch when the green flag drops Sunday afternoon.

Bowyer warns there’s very little comparison between the high speeds of the Watkins Glen track and Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, where Bowyer finished 11th on June 23. Watkins Glen is all about rhythm and timing that lead to its higher speeds. 

“There is such a sensation of speed at Watkins Glen,” Bowyer said. “It is a wild racetrack and you have to be on your toes. If you slip up the least little bit, you are not only going to crash, you are going to crash hard. I think of it like this – Sonoma is like a short track and Watkins Glen is like a superfast, 1.5-mile track. That’s the speed difference.”

Bowyer has lots of motivation this weekend as he arrives in Upstate New York 15th in the NASCAR standings. With only four races remaining in the regular season and only 16 spots available, Bowyer leads the 17th-place driver by 12 points and trails the 10th-place driver by 82 points.

He arrives at Watkins Glen after finishing 11th last weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, where he started 13th and ran in the top-10 most of the day before restarting 20th in overtime and driving to 11th.

Bowyer will have a few extra family and fans in the grandstands this weekend at Watkins Glen. Bowyer’s wife Lorra is a native of Pen Yann, New York – a town of 5,000 people about 25 miles north of the track. Bowyer has spent considerable time in the area over the years.

“I love this place,” he said. “There are so many lakes and the area is so beautiful. Not sure I want to spend winters here but, when we visit, we have a good time.”

Bowyer will carry the decals of Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation this weekend in New York. Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner on the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities.

Haas Automation is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.
 

Clint Bowyer, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Why is road-course racing in NASCAR becoming more popular?
“It’s just a hell of a show for the fans, the television audience and even the drivers. Man, they’re just so difficult. They’re so out of the ordinary. There are so many opportunities. That’s the thing about a road course – that there are not a lot of good opportunities to pass, but there are a lot of opportunities. If somebody makes a mistake, like if you catch pit road as a caution’s coming out, there are just so many things to capitalize on one of those road courses.”

What are the differences between the Watkins Glen, Sonoma and Charlotte road courses?
“You are way more at ease at Sonoma. It’s a finesse, rear-grip, take-care-of-your-tires type of track. I think it is a much more technical track. When you go to Watkins Glen, it’s a ton of fun but it’s a whole different beast. It’s wide-open. It’s balls-to-the-wall. You have to be extremely good on braking and have a fast racecar. Both of them are a ton of fun and so unique. That is the thing. We race and chase each other in circles non-stop. It is refreshing to have a break like this when we come to these road courses. The consequences just seem far greater at Watkins Glen than they are at Sonoma. If you hit at Sonoma, it’s like, ‘Man that hurt.’ You hit at Watkins Glen, you might be telling ’em about it a couple days later when it comes back to you. From the time you pull out on the track at Charlotte, to the time you get off, it’s just sketchy. You are just tip-toeing. There’s no room for error at all. The grip level isn’t  there. If you get to sliding a little bit getting in there and you look over at them tires, you realize there’s no room. If that thing gets out from under you, you are going to be in the fence and you are going to be in it hard. It’s not something (your car is) going to limp away from.”




No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Team Report
Round 22 of 36 – GoBowling at The Glen – Watkins Glen

Kyle Busch is 5/2 favorite to win 2019 Go Bowling at the Glen

KYLE BUSCH
Road Course Ringer

Kyle Busch has four road course wins.
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (July 30, 2019) – Back in the early to mid 2000s, the term “road-course ringer” used to be a common one when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series headed to any one of the two true road-course races on the schedule – the June race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and the August event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

Road-course specialists like Boris Said, Ron Fellows, and Scott Pruett regularly entered the Cup Series races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, taking on NASCAR full-time drivers who also showed plenty of skill going left and right. While the road-course ringers ran up front with regularity, the full-time drivers still brought home the majority of the victories, with Jeff Gordon’s nine road-course wins leading the way, just ahead of Tony Stewart’s eight wins. And drivers including Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, and Rusty Wallace regularly showed a penchant for navigating the road circuits to perfection.

Going back even further, the original road course ringer was open-wheel ace Dan Gurney, who won four consecutive NASCAR races at now-defunct Riverside (Calif.) Raceway, including the 1964 event in which he lapped the field. Today, three active drivers have multiple road-course wins – Kyle Busch with four, Martin Truex Jr., with three, all at Sonoma, and Kevin Harvick with two.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to Watkins Glen in Upstate New York for the second and final true road-course race of the NASCAR Cup Series season aiming for his fifth win of the season. If the 2015 Cup Series champion was to grab another victory in Sunday’s GoBowling at The Glen, he could also join some elite company as a road-racing ace in NASCAR’s top series.

The M&M’S Hazelnut Spread driver’s four road-course wins ties him with retired drivers David Pearson and Mark Martin. That’s some pretty good company, already. But with a fifth road-course win, Busch could tie Darrell Waltrip, Tim Richmond and Gurney on the road-course win list at five. There is a bit of distance to the top two spots on the all-time road-course wins list, of course, when it comes to catching the aforementioned Gordon and Stewart’s nine and eight road-course wins, respectively.

Busch scored his fourth career Cup Series road-course win in June 2015 at Sonoma, and he heads to Watkins Glen with an impressive 12 top-10 finishes in his 14 career starts at The Glen, which includes two victories. Add an average finish of 9.4, along with his 247 laps led, and Busch’s record is quite dazzling at the site of Sunday’s race.

After his inaugural Cup Series victory at The Glen in 2008, he nearly won for the second time on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn circuit in his 2011 and 2012 visits there before breaking through again in 2013 with another victory in New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region. A third Watkins Glen victory Sunday would continue to solidify Busch and the M&M’S Hazelnut Spread team as a favorite each time the series comes to town.

So as Busch prepares for some road racing this weekend, he would like to accomplish a few things – including another tally in the win column for the M&M’S Hazlenut Spread flavor while also adding to the record books as one of NASCAR’s best road-course racers and continuing his climb up the all-time overall win list.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Hazelnut Spread Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
You’ve had some success at Watkins Glen. What makes Watkins Glen challenging, and why is it so much different than racing at Sonoma?

I like going to Watkins Glen. It’s a road course, but it’s kind of a high-speed road course. The difference in the two road courses, you think of Sonoma as like a Martinsville-type road course and you would think of Watkins Glen like a 2-mile oval, like a California- or Michigan-type road course. Watkins Glen has some speed and has some wide-open spaces a little bit, but there is still a lot of great racing that happens there since you are able to out-brake people getting into the corners, or having a better run through the bus stop, or maybe getting by someone in the Carousel. It’s a fun place to race. I really like Watkins Glen and I hope we can have another solid run there with our M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Camry.”

What are your expectations for Watkins Glen this weekend?

“Watkins Glen has obviously been a really good place for me over the years and a place I really enjoy. We’ve just got to keep coming to the track and executing like we have. There are a lot of factors in strategy that affect a road-course race and hope we can execute like we have been and get another win. Certainly, the bonus points from that and trying to win the regular-season championship could be a big deal in the playoffs.”

What is the most fun part of a lap at Watkins Glen?

“To me, going through turn one and up through the esses is pretty cool and a lot of fun. It’s challenging, yet a lot of fun. As you come down the front straightaway, it’s a downhill braking zone, so you feel like you don’t have to brake as soon as you need to, but you need to in order to get slowed down for turn one. You try to stay out and get a good, hard cut to the right for turn one and accelerate out of there as quickly as you can to get set up for the esses. (You) stay wide on the left and then turn into the right-hander in (turn) two – smooth. You’re getting out of the gas but not using too much brake, just rolling off in there. As the car gets in there and loads, it actually takes a really big set because that’s when you start going back uphill. So the car will load up and that’s when you get back in the gas really wide open. And then you have to turn back to the left and be able to roll back out of it just enough to make the car bend. And then you’re back wide open again to the right-side guardrail and just keeping it tight through the right-hander that we call turn five.”

What is the most challenging part of a lap at Watkins Glen?

“I’d say the most challenging thing is the culmination of the Inner Loop and the Carousel. All of that together is a lot harder to figure out how to make speed through there than just going through there traditionally. That’s an area of the racetrack a lot of guys really try to abuse. They’ll get off on the right side, get off on the left side and throw dirt up on the racetrack and then it just makes for a real mess.”

What does it take to be successful at Watkins Glen?

“At Watkins Glen, the biggest thing is pit strategy. Obviously, you’ve got to pick and choose when you’re going to pit and stick to your plan. Whether or not we can still do it on two stops I’m unsure of because Sonoma turned into a three-stop race for us all because the new fuel mileage is a little bit off from where we were last year. At Watkins Glen, though, you definitely have to be good at being able to carry speed, obviously, through the esses and down the long backstretch. That seems to be the key part of the racetrack.”

Kevin Harvick is 12/1 to win at Watkins Glen

KEVIN HARVICK
Tyre, Circuit and Motorcar Racing

Kevin Harvick has two road course wins.
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (July 30, 2019) – Kevin Harvick is locked into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs via his win two weekends ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Now it’s time to go for more wins and more points.

Harvick is always a contender on any type of racetrack, including the circuits where drivers turn left and right. That’s what he and his competitors will do during Sunday’s GoBowling at The Glen, which is conducted on the historic road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

The driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) won at The Glen in 2006 and joined Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt as winners at The Glen. Now, Clark, Hill, Stewart, Lauda, Fittipaldi and Hunt scored their wins in Formula One cars, which has “tyres,” not “tires.” And the races were on a “circuit” that was longer than what NASCAR runs on currently. But, hey, those are some big names to be associated with.

In addition to Harvick’s win at The Glen, he has three top-five finishes, nine top-10s and has led a total of 66 laps in his 18 career NASCAR Cup Series starts. His average start is 13.5, his average finish is 13.3 and he has a lap-completion rate of 97.8 percent – 1,589 of the 1,624 laps available.

His lone win came in 2006, when he started seventh, led 28 laps and finished .892 of a second ahead of his future SHR co-owner Tony Stewart.

Harvick has competed in eight NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Watkins Glen and won in 2007. He has one pole, and finished in the top-10 in all eight races. And Harvick has competed in three NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races at Watkins Glen with a best finish of seventh in 1999.

Harvick is one of only three active drivers to claim a NASCAR Cup Series victory at both true road courses on the schedule – Watkins Glen and Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., are the others who can make that claim.

Harvick added his first career win at Sonoma in June 2017, when he started 12th, led 24 laps and finished ahead of SHR teammate Clint Bowyer when the race ended under caution. He also won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race the day before the Cup race.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
What is the key to having a good race at Watkins Glen International?

“Watkins Glen is really fast, so the biggest thing there is to get your car good under braking so you can make passes during the race. Usually, where you can gain the most time is in the braking zones.”

Are the road courses still odd-ball races, or do they seem like just another race, now?

“They are pretty much just another race, now. I think everybody knows you are going to a road course and you’ve got a lot of different aspects from a driver’s standpoint and the team standpoint that you have to pay attention to.”

Are the rivalries the same today as they were 15 to 20 years ago?

“You look at other sports and I think we’ll use the Yankees and the Red Sox. Does it seem the same as it was 15 to 20 years ago? No, and I think a lot of that comes down to the media, to social media, to guys growing up together and playing together. There’s just more people who know each other and, for us, it’s harder to carry a grudge in the garage today than it was 20 years ago just because of the fact that, if there’s a major beef going on, it’s a major hassle and it affects your team and it affects the things that you do, and everybody knows that, so it’s best to just move on, have a short memory. That’s the approach I try to take to it – to have the shortest memory possible, whether it’s a good weekend or a bad weekend, a good moment or a bad moment – and you move on with it. It’s just super-hard to carry a grudge and be able to function and not spend time answering questions about that. That would be what it would be about if you had a moment, so that’s frustrating and distracting.”

Odds to win 2019 Go Bowling at the Glen

Watkins Glen is the second of three road courses in 2019.
WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERBOOK
ODDS TO WIN 2019 GO BOWLING AT THE GLEN
WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2019 - 3:15 PM ET

Kyle BUSCH 5/2
Martin TRUEX JR 7/2
Denny HAMLIN 10/1
Chase ELLIOTT 10/1
Kevin HARVICK 12/1
Clint BOWYER 12/1
Joey LOGANO 12/1
Brad KESELOWSKI 12/1
Ryan BLANEY 14/1
Kurt BUSCH 16/1
Erik JONES 30/1
Daniel SUAREZ 30/1
Kyle LARSON 40/1
Jimmie JOHNSON 40/1
William BYRON 50/1
Alex BOWMAN 80/1
Matt DiBENEDETTO 80/1
Aric ALMIROLA 100/1
Ryan NEWMAN 100/1
Daniel HEMRIC 100/1
Chris BUESCHER 100/1
Paul MENARD 100/1
Michael McDOWELL 100/1
Ricky STENHOUSE JR 500/1
Austin DILLON 500/1
Ryan PREECE 1000/1
David RAGAN 1000/1
Matt TIFFT 1000/1
Ty DILLON 2000/1
FIELD (all others) 1000/1

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Denny Hamlin wins for fifth time at Pocono Raceway

Denny Hamlin was 10/1 to win at Pocono.

NOTES AND QUOTES – DENNY HAMLIN WINS THE NASCAR CUP SERIES GANDER RV 400 FROM POCONO RACEWAY ON NBCSN

“It was a fuel mileage race, it was a strategy call, it was the skill of the driver. Save, save, save.” – Rick Allen on Hamlin’s win
“This is a track he’s real good with. He looks like he can come here and win any time.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Hamlin
“I feel like he was sitting back there playing coy, saving gas, and now he figures with 15 laps to go, he’s gas on.” – Steve Letarte on Hamlin’s strategy
LONG POND, Pa. – July 28, 2019 – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., this afternoon on NBCSN, registering his third win of the 2019 season and fifth career win at the “Tricky Triangle.”
NBC Sports presented today’s race “Radio Style, with announcers positioned from vantage points around the track. Today’s assignments were:
  • Main broadcast booth – Rick Allen and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte
  • Turn 1 – Veteran MRN and Sirius XM announcer Mike Bagley
  • Tunnel Turn – Racing legend and two-time Daytona 500 Champion Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Turn 3 – Twenty-one-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton
Serving in their customary race day roles, NASCAR on NBC pit reporters Marty SniderKelli Stavast, and Dave Burns contributed coverage from pit road.
RACE RESULTS
PositionDriverCar#
1Denny Hamlin11
2Erik Jones20
3Martin Truex Jr.19
4William Byron24
5Kyle Larson42

The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBCSN:
Allen: “It was a fuel mileage race, it was a strategy call, it was the skill of the driver. Save, save, save. Then we saw Denny Hamlin put the hammer down. Able to get by Martin Truex Jr., able to get by Erik Jones. He was out front, he was controlling the race from Pocono, and now he’s going to celebrate on victory lane.”
Earnhardt Jr. on impact of PJ1 compound: “I know we really talk about it a lot, but it really did make this race a lot more interesting, giving guys options. We saw it come into play and be used in Turns 1 and 2, even in the long run, not just on restarts. We heard William Byron talk about how he was using it in the Tunnel Turn…good job by NASCAR, the tracks, the teams, the drivers even, giving them that input as to how put this stuff down and make these races more exciting.”
Hamlin to Letarte from Victory Lane: “I was in fuel save mode and still trying to get around those guys. Once I knew I got around them, then I really went into conservation mode instead of stretching the lead out there.”
Hamlin on fuel mileage: “I was really worried. We just did a great job. Once we lost the track position there to the 19 and the 20, I thought it’s over, we weren’t able to pass them, and then I started to thank Pocono for putting in this PJ1, because I was able to use it there and get around those guys.”
Hamlin crew chief Chris Gabehart to Burns prior to overtime: “There was no reason for him to worry about overtime, right? We weren’t there. We had already talked about. I think we’re good for another lap or two, but it’s hard to say, and anyone that says they know for sure right now is guessing. You guys love that, right? So, you’re having a good time.”
Letarte on fuel strategy prior to overtime: “If you were close enough, these cautions should get you there. If you really weren’t close enough, your hand of poker has just been called. The chips have been pushed on. Do you dare stay on the racetrack and get it wrong if you are one of the playoff bubble drivers?”
Snyder on Kevin Harvick late in the Final Stage: “Here on pit road, there’s a lot of poker being played. Rodney Childress has told Kevin Harvick, ‘You don’t have to worry about fuel, to go as hard as you want to go. Those three cars in front of you are all saving...we are good ‘til the end.’”
Letarte on Hamlin with 15 laps to go: “I just have this feeling – Jeff Burton, you and I were having conversation during the break – I feel like the 11 [Denny Hamlin] was sitting back there playing coy, saving gas, and now he figures with 15 laps to go, he’s gas on.”
Letarte: “There is no manual for how to win a race. I know people get upset with that, they want the fastest car to go out and dominate. There is no manual. Sometimes it’s a pass for the lead, sometimes it’s great fuel economy, sometimes it’s great pit stop, sometimes it’s a timely rain shower -- we’ve seen lightning in Daytona. There is no manual.”
Earnhardt Jr. on Denny Hamlin at lap 107: “He’s way out front comfortably. This is a track he’s real good with, he’s got a lot of wins here. He looks like he can come here and win any time.”
Rick Allen on Jimmie Johnson winning Stage 2: “Not only wins the second stage, but this is only his second-career stage win.”
Letarte on Jimmie Johnson: “Check that stat. That can’t be right.”
Burton on Chase Elliott wreck in Turn 3 on lap 84: “Really, really hard impact for Chase Elliott. Hard damage to the right side. It’s crazy the impact, the sound, what it felt like - this stand actually shook a little bit when he made contact.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Pocono Betting Preview: 2019 Gander RV 400

The Tricky Triangle of Pocono Raceway.
I've enjoyed all the races with the new race package featuring engines that produce 550 horsepower and aero ducts with the exception of one track -- Pocono Raceway. When they raced there on June 2, there were only 13 lead changes among nine drivers and most of the drivers to lead a lap did so for only a lap or two when the leader pitted.

Passing is tough at Pocono and that's been the issue the past few years with all race packages. I love the uniqueness of the "Tricky Triangle" with each of three turns being banked so different, but from what I've seen there lately it makes me wish NASCAR would take one of their two dates and give New Hampshire or Darlington their second date back or bring back Rockingham, tracks where the racing is always great.

But there is going to be something different on display in Sunday's Gander RV 400 that might make the racing better.

“They’re putting down some of the traction compound on all three corners and that’s going to change the racing, for sure," said Aric Almirola who finished 10th in the June race. "We’ve seen it change the dynamic at many of the other tracks. I think that will be interesting and it will put on a great race. The restarts are already wild and crazy and now, with the outer groove being more of an option, that is really going to open up a lot of opportunities on restarts and being able to run side by side.”

Okay, I'll buy it. I'm in. Almirola sold me, so now let's get on with finding a winner to cash on and while I can't bet race favorite Kyle Busch at 5/2 odds as the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted, I certainly fear and respect him. He went 25 starts without winning at Pocono but now has three wins in his last four starts there. He's going for three straight wins on the 2.5-mile layout and looking to be the eighth driver in track history to sweep the season.

"Trying to pass people is the trickiest part because it’s so finicky there after getting your car set-up to run by yourself in practice, but also getting it good for the traffic during the race and being able to out-corner guys out there,’’ Busch explained. "Having a lot of horsepower is important there, as well. Hoping we can have all of those things go right for us this week with our Skittles Toyota.’’

I love the strategy Busch played in the June race where he scrapped the stage points and game-planned for winning the race consisting of only 160 laps. He didn't finish in the top-10 in either of the first two stages but led the most laps (79). It was impressive, but what he did was lay down a blueprint for others to follow this week.

So while I expect a top-five finish out of Busch Sunday, I can't bet 5-to-2 odds to win. Between others following his pitting strategy from the June race and what seems like forever since his fourth win of 2019 -- Pocono, seven races ago, I've got a few other candidates to win in my betting strategy this week.

The last seven races have been won by different drivers. Parity is beautiful.

A Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has won the last four Pocono races and, surprisingly, one of the wins wasn't by Denny Hamlin, the active leader there with four wins. He's led 694 laps between 27 Pocono starts and has 10 top-fives finishes. He scored his first two career Cup wins as a rookie in 2006, his only wins that season.

"I’ve been fortunate to have had success in the past at Pocono and it’s a track where I’m always hopeful I can get a win for our team,’’ said Hamlin who is 10/1 to win this week. "Our team is currently on a streak of some solid performances and I’m looking forward to continuing that this weekend.’’

Hamlin comes off an exciting second-place finish and was fifth two weeks ago at Kentucky. He's averaging a 10.5 finish this season which is the best in his career.

Jimmie Johnson is 50/1 to win at Pocono...Yes, 50/1

Jimmie Johnson has three wins at Pocono Raceway.
Jimmie Johnson on Pocono:
“Pocono is a great family-run track that really puts their heart and soul into the racetrack – they try to make it the best experience for fans and competitors. There are a lot of reasons I really like going up to the Pocono, for a few reasons people may not think about. We’ve enjoyed three wins there, I like the outdoors and the area. The racing there is very challenging, I think with the traction compound this weekend its going to make it even more interesting, and I think if the stars align, we can put on a heck of a show.”

START ME UP: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, has a history of qualifying inside the top 10 at Pocono Raceway, where he has an average starting position of 11.0. In his 35 career races there, he has taken the green flag inside the top 10 a total of 20 times. Eight of his top-10 starts have been on the front row including three pole positions.

THREE-TIME TRIANGLE WINNER: Johnson is the proud winner of three Cup races at Pocono. The seven-time series champion swept back-to-back events there in the summer of 2004 and won again in 2013. He has finished in the top five 11 times and has 20 top-10 finishes.

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

STREET CRED AT POCONO: Kevin Meendering, who will make his second Pocono start as Johnson’s crew chief this weekend, finished in the top 10 in all three Xfinity Series races with JR Motorsports at the "Tricky Triangle" and was also the lead engineer of the No. 88 team for the Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s “sweep” of both Pocono races in 2014 with former crew chief Steve Letarte.

FAN FESTS: Johnson will attend the Pocono Raceway Fan Fest on Friday evening, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. local time at the Pocono Infield’s Block Party Stage. For more info click here.

RACE DAY Q&A: Johnson will appear Sunday morning, July 29, at 11:45 a.m. local time at the Fan Fair stage for a question-and-answer session. The stage will be located between gates nine and 10 at Pocono.

 

2019 Season

  • 17th in standings
  • 20 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 8 top-10 finishes
  • 78 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 635 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 36 pole positions
  • 227 top-five finishes
  • 360 top-10 finishes
  • 18,781 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

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

Alex Bowman is 50/1 to win 2019 Gander RV 400 at Pocono

Alex Bowman won his first Cup race at Chicagoland on June 30.
Alex Bowman on Pocono:
"I think Pocono is one of my favorite places to go. We typically are really fast there. We had a top-five run going earlier this year before we lost fourth gear there toward the end. It is an interesting racetrack. There is a big compromise in all three corners there. Trying to keep the car from being loose into Turn 3, but still turning off of Turn 3 is super key with how long that straightaway is. It is a very technical place."

Bowman on his expectations this weekend:
"This is a really tough place to pass. Hopefully we can qualify pretty good and we won’t have to worry about passing too many cars. Pocono is really a one-groove track and it doesn’t widen out as much as we may want it to sometimes."


ON BOWMAN’S SIDE: The primary blue-and-white colors of Nationwide will adorn the hood of Alex Bowman’s Chevrolet for this Sunday’s event at Pocono Raceway. As the No. 88 team’s majority partner, Nationwide will be featured in 20 NASCAR Cup Series events in 2019. After this weekend’s race, the sponsor will be back on board the No. 88 machine at Bristol Motor Speedway in August.

'TRICKY TRIANGLE' STATS: Bowman is set to make his eighth career Cup Series start at Pocono Raceway this weekend. The Tucson, Arizona, native earned his best start (10th) and best finish (third) at the track last July. The driver also has one start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the Pennsylvania track, starting and finishing 10th in 2016. He made two “Trick Triangle” starts in the ARCA Series back in 2012, when he finished third in both events.

2019 AT A GLANCE: Bowman and the No. 88 Nationwide team sit 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 20 events in 2019. This season, the 26-year-old driver has one win (Chicagoland Speedway), four top-five finishes and six top-10s. Since the April event at Talladega Superspeedway, he has led more than 180 laps.

POCONO CREDENTIALS: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the 10th time at Pocono Raceway this weekend. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s resumé includes three top-five finishes. Ives’ best result at the track came back in 2016 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished runner-up in the 160-lap event. Last year at the Pennsylvania track, he led Bowman to the driver’s best finish of the 2018 season, taking the checkered flag in third at the July race. Before moving to the No. 88 team, the crew chief was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team between 2006 and 2012. During that time, the team captured 11 top-10 finishes and one pole award at the track.

EYES ON THE POINTS: Since the 600-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, Bowman and the No. 88 Nationwide team have captured 225 points, which is the fifth-most earned in that span in the Cup Series. He is currently ninth on the list of drivers who have earned the most stage points since that May 26 race, collecting 47 extra points.

WHERE’S ALEX: Bowman will attend the Pocono Raceway Fan Fest on Friday evening, July 26, at 6 p.m. local time at the Pocono Infield’s Block Party Stage. He and driver Corey LaJoie will compete against each other in three fun activities with race fans. For more info click here.

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. His first job was at Penske Racing Shocks in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he worked inside the parts room. Seitzinger has been with Hendrick Motorsports for 17 years.

 

2019 Season

  • 10th in standings
  • 20 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 182 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 137 starts
  • 1 win
  • 2 pole positions
  • 7 top-five finishes
  • 20 top-10 finishes
  • 456 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

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

Chase Elliott is 16/1 to win 2019 Gander RV 400 at Pocono

Chase Elliott finished fourth at Pocono in June.
Chase Elliott on last visit to Pocono:
"This past visit wasn’t our best performance there, but hopefully we can improve upon that. I felt like we were just in the right place at the right time to capitalize on the last restart and get a top five. We’ve had some better cars there and some better days overall, but it all has to go your way and you will take what you get."


KEEP THE STREAK ALIVE: As the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway, Chase Elliott currently holds a streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes at the "Tricky Triangle," his second-longest active streak at a track behind only Michigan (six-race streak). Elliott's six top-10s at Pocono tie his results at Michigan and Dover for the most total top-10s he has at any track.

'TRICKY TRIANGLE' STATS: Elliott is set to make his eighth start at Pocono in the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend. In his first seven starts at the Pennsylvania track, the 23-year-old driver has collected two top-five finishes. His 10.86 average finish there is the sixth-best all-time. In June, he tied his track-best finish of fourth.

NAPA AUTO PARTS RETURNS: The familiar blue, white and yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme will grace the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Pocono Raceway. The Atlanta-based company will serve as majority sponsor for Elliott and the No. 9 team for a total of 26 NASCAR Cup Series races this year.

NO STRANGER TO POCONO: Besides his seven starts in the Cup Series at Pocono, 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 Pocono. In his first visit to the track in June 2013, the driver started 32nd and went on to lead 21 laps before collecting his first career ARCA win.

ENGINE, ENGINE NO. 9: This weekend, Elliott could become the third driver to win at Pocono with the No. 9 car number. The No. 9 is currently tied for third for the most wins at the track with six. Elliott's father, 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 30th Pocono race from atop the pit box this weekend. In his previous 29 starts at the 2.5-mile triangle 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 seven top-five finishes along with 17 top-10s.

HOME SWEET HOME: As the Cup Series returns to Pocono for the second time this season, 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).

 

2019 Season

  • 8th in standings
  • 20 starts
  • 1 win
  • 2 pole positions
  • 6 top-five finishes
  • 7 top-10 finishes
  • 409 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 133 starts
  • 4 wins
  • 6 pole positions
  • 39 top-five finishes
  • 66 top-10 finishes
  • 1,652 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 7 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 2 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 67 laps led
 

William Byron a juicy 80/1 to win at Pocono

William Byron won a 2016 Truck Series race at Pocono.
William Byron on Pocono:
"We had a really good car at Pocono Raceway earlier this year and I felt like we were really close. We just didn’t have the winning strategy, we went more for the stage points last race. I think this time, going back, we’ll be able to control our race a little bit differently. I was honestly a couple moves away from getting a better finish last time so I’m really optimistic for this weekend. Hopefully we can build off what we did there in June."

Byron on tricky turns at the "Tricky Triangle":
"Turn two isn’t as big of a deal as it was before now with this package. I would say you still have to get off turn three really well. That’s kind of the name of the game there. But when we went there with this package in June, turn one was the biggest importance in making sure the splitter was right through there and you could get through the bumps well. That’s probably the biggest difference now than in the past - figuring out turn one."


PLAYOFF HUNT CONTINUES: With another solid race under his belt, William Byron once again gained points toward his mission of locking into the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. After New Hampshire, the driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is now 61 points above the cutoff in 12th place, the best position of his Cup career so far. In fact, over the last eight races, he has gained 76 points on the bubble spot.

TIED FOR SECOND: Byron is one of three Cup Series drivers who have finished second in a race in 2019 but have yet to capture the checkered flag. He is also ranked third among the Cup field for most laps led (180) without a win.

PREVIEWING POCONO: In advance of his fourth Cup Series start at Pocono Raceway, Byron is optimistic for what the weekend will hold. Earlier this year, he collected his second pole award of the season at the “Tricky Triangle” before going on to lead 25 laps and earning a ninth-place finish. After three-career starts, Byron is ranked seventh for the best average finish all-time (11.0) at the 2.5-mile speedway. With two top-10 finishes, Pocono is statistically one of his best tracks in the Cup Series. He also has a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory at Pocono, that he won in 2016 after leading 44 of 60 laps.

LIBERTY U RETURNS: For back-to-back weekends, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet will sport the Liberty University colors. Returning as a primary sponsor of the No. 24 team in 2019 for 12 races, Liberty University has a long history with the driver starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks and is in the midst of its fifth season of sponsoring the 21-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, native. Liberty University has been Training Champions for Christ since it was founded in 1971. Located in the mountains of Central Virginia, Liberty is a liberal arts institution with 17 colleges and schools that offers more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to the doctoral level, on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in business communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program.

NO TRICKING KNAUS: Making his 37th start as a Cup Series crew chief at the “Tricky Triangle,” Chad Knaus leads active Hendrick Motorsports’ crew chiefs in best finishes at Pocono Raceway. With three wins at the 2.5-mile triangular track with driver Jimmie Johnson, the crew chief swept both races in 2004 and then captured the win again from the pole in the spring of 2013. Earlier this season, the seven-time champion crew chief called the shots for Byron during their first trip together to Pocono Raceway, collecting their second pole award of the season, leading 25 laps and scoring a ninth-place finish.

NEW HAMPSHIRE NOTES: Last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Byron was forced to start at the tail end of the field due to utilizing a backup car from an incident in practice. He fought his way through the field and found himself vying for a top-10 finish in the last half of the race. After experiencing handling issues, the driver of the No. 24 closed out the race with a personal-best finish of 12th at the track and representing the highest-finishing Chevy.

 

2019 Season

  • 12th in standings
  • 20 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 180 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 56 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 10 top-10 finishes
  • 241 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 35 laps led