Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway Preview

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

Eastern Pennsylvania comes calling this weekend as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series leaves the comfort of home in Charlotte for Pocono Raceway and Sunday’s running of the Pocono 400.

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, in addition to the drivers shifting throughout each lap, many drivers consider Pocono a mix between a road course and an oval, setup-wise.

This time around, the “Tricky Triangle” will have a new wrench thrown in with the introduction of the 2019 aero package that makes its debut at the track. A similar package has been used with the NASCAR Xfinity Series here, but the Cup package is a completely different animal.

By the Numbers

What: Pocono 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 14 of 36

Where: Pocono Raceway – Long Pond, Pennsylvania (First race: 1974)

When: Sunday, June 2

TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 2:00 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: First two stages: 50 laps each; Final stage: 60 laps

June 2018 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota (Started fourth, 31 laps led)

July 2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota (Started on 28th, 52 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 8/3/2014 – 49.063 seconds, 183.438 mph

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Pocono:

  1. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 104.0
  2. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 103.2
  3. Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – 102.8
  4. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 100.4
  5. Erik Jones – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 100.2
  6. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 97.7
  7. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Team Penske Ford – 94.7
  8. Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – 94.3
  9. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 92.7
  10. Ryan Newman – No. 6 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford – 89.6

From the Driver’s Seat

“Pocono is definitely unique,” said Austin Dillon. “It helps get drivers ready for the road courses on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule because shifting comes into play. I enjoy Pocono Raceway. It’s a high speed, high paced track. Turn Two at Pocono is always tough. You’ve got to carry some speed to set-up your entry to Turn Three, but the long straightaways are what matter. So, if you can get off the corners with the long straights you will be running well.”

Last Time at Pocono

Despite a post-qualifying inspection failure that relegated him to the back of the field for the start of last July’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono, Kyle Busch did what he always does as he marched through the field to take over the lead in the late stages of the race.

Fending off a challenge from then teammate Daniel Suarez, Busch was able to hold off his charges through two late race restarts to take home the win and the weekend sweep. Suarez finished second, followed by Alex Bowman. Kevin Harvick, and Erik Jones to round out the top-five.

“Suárez, I just can’t say enough about my teammate,” said Busch. “What an awesome race. He was probably the third-best car – (Kevin) Harvick was the best car and we were the second-best car and then Suárez was the third-best car.

“He gave us a run for our money there on those last couple restarts. The last one I spun my tires a little too much and he got a really good run and I think that gave (Erik) Jones an opportunity to make it three-wide down into one and those guys got to racing and just kind of let me get away.

“Just can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief) and all my guys. This Caramel Toyota Camry was awesome and had a lot of speed, but we fought it all weekend. Glad to get here and glad to get another win for all the Rowdy Nation fans out there and everybody here at Pocono. We swept the weekend and taking home both eagle trophies this week.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, May 31

  • MENCS Practice (2:05 pm to 2:55 pm – No TV. Stream)
  • MENCS Final Practice (4:05 pm to 4:55 pm – FOX Sports 2)

Saturday, June 1

  • MENCS Qualifying (11:30 am – FOX Sports 1)

Sunday, June 2

  • MENCS Pocono 400 (2:30 pm – 160 laps, 400 miles – FOX Sports 1)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.