By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Six to go.
The countdown to the end of the regular season for the NASCAR Cup Series continues as the Tricky Triangle comes calling for Sunday’s running of the HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
With only three turns, instead of the four turns at all other ovals on the circuit, Pocono is definitely one of the most unique tracks on the schedule. The three turns all have differing banking with Turn 1 and its 14-degree banking modeled after the now-defunct Trenton Speedway, Turn 2 and its nine-degree banking modeled after Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Turn 3 and its six degree banking modeled after The Milwaukee Mile.
While Pocono has been chastised over the years for boring racing, these unique characteristics allow for speeds near 200 mph down each of the three straightaways and the wide frontstretch allows drivers to fan out four and even five-wide as they barrel towards Turn 1. With all these factors, many drivers consider Pocono a mix between a road course and an oval, setup-wise.
By the Numbers
What: HighPoint.com 400, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 21 of 36
Where: Pocono Raceway – Long Pond, Pennsylvania (First race: 1974)
TV/Radio: USA Network, 2:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 2.5-mile tri-oval
Banking: 14 degrees (Turn 1), 9 degrees (Turn 2), 6 degrees (Turn 3)
Race Length: 160 laps, 400 miles
Stage Lengths: 30 laps, 65 laps, 65 laps
2022 Race Winner: Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet (Started third, zero laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Kyle Larson – 8/3/2014 – 49.063 seconds, 183.438 mph
Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Pocono:
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 107.7
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 98.7
- Kyle Busch – No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – 98.4
- Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 97.1
- Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 94.4
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 93.6
- William Byron – No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 93.1
- Erik Jones – No. 43 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet – 90.9
- Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 88.2
- Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford – 87.6
From the Driver’s Seat
“Pocono Raceway is very technical,” said Austin Dillon. “The tunnel turn is my biggest challenge. It’s a high-speed turn and over the years it’s gotten rough with the track tunnel underneath it. The bumps going over the tunnel turn are noticeable, and you need your car balanced well through that turn.
“I love the other end of the track. You have the flat end in turn three and turn a lot through that corner. Going into turn one there’s a lot of banking there, you’re drafting down the front straight so you’re carrying a lot of speed into turn 1 so you have to set yourself up to drive into turn 1 and get to the bottom and drive off to head to the tunnel turn.”
Last Time at Pocono
It seemed as if last year’s race at Pocono was going to be a banner day for Joe Gibbs Racing, with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finishing the day 1-2 ahead of Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott. However, things took a turn in the hours following the checkered flag at the Tricky Triangle.
In their post-race teardown, NASCAR officials discovered a material – eventually revealed to be tape – underneath the vinyl wrap on the nose of both Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota Camry and Busch’s No. 18 Camry. Officials ruled the discovery to be worthy of a disqualification, with both drivers having their finishes revoked.
It was the first time since 1960 that a Cup Series race winner had been disqualified from the win.
“Unfortunately we were doing our post-race inspections, which we do. There was some issues discovered that affect aero of the vehicle,” NASCAR Cup Series managing director Brad Moran said afterwards.
“The part was the front fascia. There really was no reason why there was some material that was somewhere it shouldn’t have been, and that does basically come down to a DQ. It is a penalty, both for the 11 of Denny Hamlin and the 18 of Kyle Busch have been DQed. Their vehicles are being loaded in the NASCAR hauler. They’re going to go back to the R&D Center.”
As such, Elliott advanced to the top of the leaderboard and was awarded the win – his fourth of the season.
“I was just surprised by that,” Elliott said after learning of the news. “Something I don’t really ever recall happening throughout the time I’ve watched NASCAR. I’ve certainly been a part of some situations like this over the course of my short track career, so I know it happens.
“It’s a complete shock but certainly on the Cup side, we’re not accustomed of seeing. Probably more surprised by it than anything.
“I don’t think any driver wants to win that way. I certainly don’t. I don’t know what went on because I’ve already left. Finished third and was trying to think about what we need to do better on the way home.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern
Saturday, July 22
- NASCAR Cup Series Practice (2:35 pm – USA Network)
- NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (3:20 pm – USA Network)
Sunday, July 23
- HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono (2:30 pm – 160 laps, 400 miles – USA Network)