The NASCAR Cup Series raced a double-header at Pocono last year. The teams competed in the Pocono 350 Saturday and then the top-20 finishers from that race were inverted for another race on Sunday. The Cup Series will use the same format this week.
The “Tricky Triangle” is a difficult race to set up a car for because the three turns are drastically different. The best crew chiefs usually dominate this race. That is what happened last year. Kevin Harvick won on Saturday and finished second on Sunday. Denny Hamlin was just the opposite. He finished second on Saturday and won on Sunday. These were the two best drivers in 2020 and the two best drivers at Pocono statically over the last 10 seasons.
Teams had to use the same car in Sunday’s race that they had for Saturday’s race so the drivers took it easy to protect their cars in the first race. There was only one caution for an accident in Race 1 but five cautions for accidents in Race 2. I expect Race 1 will be calm and Race 2 to produce more aggressive racing this weekend.
Pocono Race Rewind: Pocono 325 Notes (2020)
– The 10 drivers who looked the best in the two races: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, William Byron and Chris Buescher
Stage / Race Results in Race #1
|Stage 1||Stage 2||
|1. Joey Logano||1. Aric Almirola||1. Kevin Harvick|
|2. Aric Almirola||2. Joey Logano||2. Denny Hamlin|
|3. Ryan Blaney||3. Martin Truex Jr.||3. Aric Almirola|
|4. Kyle Busch||4. Ryan Blaney||4. Christopher Bell|
|5. Chase Elliott||5. Matt DiBenedetto||5. Kyle Busch|
|6. Kurt Busch||6. Alex Bowman||6. Martin Truex Jr.|
|7. Matt DiBenedetto||7. Kevin Harvick||7. Clint Bowyer|
|8. Brad Keselowski||8. Kyle Busch||8. Michael McDowell|
|9. Alex Bowman||9. Denny Hamlin||9. Brad Keselowski|
|10. Erik Jones||10. Chase Elliott||10. Chris Buescher|
Stage / Race Results in Race #2
|Stage 1||Stage 2||
|1. Kurt Busch||1. Brad Keselowski||1. Denny Hamlin|
|2. Ryan Blaney||2. Aric Almirola||2. Kevin Harvick|
|3. Christopher Bell||3. Ryan Newman||3. Erik Jones|
|4. Kevin Harvick||4. Martin Truex Jr.||4. Chase Elliott|
|5. Brad Keselowski||5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||5. Aric Almirola|
|6. Matt DiBenedetto||6. Kevin Harvick||6. Matt DiBenedetto|
|7. Chris Buescher||7. Austin Dillon||7. William Byron|
|8. Martin Truex Jr.||8. Kurt Busch||8. Clint Bowyer|
|9. Kyle Busch||9. Matt DiBenedetto||9. Alex Bowman|
|10. Cole Custer||10. Denny Hamlin||10. Martin Truex Jr.|
* Matt DiBenedetto was the only driver to score Stage points in both Stages in both races.
– Martin Truex Jr. had two decent races at Pocono last year but the No. 19 car was not in the same class as the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) or the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin). Truex started 11th in the first race. He scored 8 Stage points and led 14 laps on his way to a 6th place finish. Truex started 15th in the second race and quickly made his way inside the top-10. Truex scored 10 Stage points and he was leading the race with 14 laps to go. Truex has to stop for fuel and it caused the No. 19 car to finish 10th in the race. Truex had a 102.8 Driver Rating in the two races. That was fourth-best in the field.
– Kyle Busch has a history of running well at Pocono. Between 2017-2019 Busch finished 1st, 3rd, 1st, 1st and 9th at the track. He had one good and one bad race last year. Busch started 4th, scored 10 Stage points and finished 5th in the first race. He came back Sunday and started 16th. Busch spent most of the race running in the top-10 but he was dumped by Ryan Blaney on lap 77 while the two drivers were competing for the 8th position. Busch finished 38th in the race. Despite wrecking on Sunday, Busch still had a Driver Rating of 94 which was seventh-best in the field.
– Denny Hamlin has the best stats at Pocono. His six wins at the Tricky Triangle are tied with Jeff Gordon for the most at the track. Hamlin had two good races again last year at Pocono. Hamlin started 3rd, led 10 laps and finished 2nd in the first race. He had to start 19th on Sunday since the top-20 was inverted. Hamlin made short work of the field as he raced his way inside the top-10. Hamlin used pit strategy to beat Kevin Harvick. The team took two ties and fuel on the last stop and Hamlin won the race. His 135 Driver Rating for the weekend was the best in the field.
– Christopher Bell ran the No. 95 car for Leavine Family Racing at Pocono last year. He really got a lot out of his car in the first race. Bell started 36th and finished 4th. His top-five finish had a lot to do with pit strategy. The team took two tires on the last stop and it paid off. Bell had to start 17th in the second race and once again he moved to the front. Bell was running in the 12th position when he had a tire go down, forcing Bell to hit the wall. He finished 39th in the race, but he looked good in both races.
– Brad Keselowski only has one win at Pocono in his 22 races at the track. That win came way back in 2011. He may not visit Victory Lane much at the Tricky Triangle, but Keselowski is consistent. His average finishing position in the last four races at Pocono is 7.5. Not too bad. Keselowski had two decent races last year. He finished 9th Saturday and 11th on Sunday. His 97.5 Driver Rating was 5th best for the weekend.
– Joey Logano has one win at Pocono but it was way back in 2012 when he drove for Joe Gibbs Racing. Pocono ranks as the second-worst track for Logano. He did not have much luck at the Tricky Triangle last year. Logano started 6th and ran most of the race up front Saturday. He won Stage 1 and finished 2nd in Stage two. He crashed with six laps left in the race and finished 36th. Logano went to a backup car for the second race so he had to start last. He did not score any Stage points or lead any laps. Logano finished 24th in the race. This is not a good track for Logano.
– Ryan Blaney looked better on TV than he did on paper. Blaney was up front in both races. He had the 7th best average running position for the weekend. But when you look at where he finished, it was not as good. Blaney finished 12th Saturday and 22nd Sunday. His average finishing position at the Tricky Triangle in the current aero package is 13.2. He will likely score some Stage points but history suggests Blaney will finish right outside the top-10 this weekend.
– Matt DiBenedetto was the surprise of the two races last year. He was the only driver to score Stage points in both Stages in both races. The No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was the best pusher in the field. The draft comes into play at the Tricky Triangle and if your car is good at helping others, there are a lot of drivers who want to run with you. DiBenedetto had a 94.4 Driver Rating in the two races. That was sixth-best in the field.
– Kevin Harvick was the best driver at Pocono last year. The No. 4 team used pit strategy in the first race to gain track position. Harvick took two tires on lap 96 and it paid off. Harvick went to Victory Lane for the first time at the Tricky Triangle. He had to start 20th on Sunday and had another good race. Harvick scored 12 Stage points, led 11 laps and finished 2nd on Sunday. His 123 Driver Rating for the weekend was second-best behind Denny Hamlin.
– Chase Briscoe did not compete in the Cup Series race at Pocono last year. He does have three races in the Xfinity Series one race in the Truck Series on his resume. Briscoe dominated the Xfinity Series race at Pocono on his way to Victory Lane. He will be driving the No. 14 car that Clint Bowyer had last year. Bowyer finished 7th and 8th in the two races at Pocono last year. Briscoe should be able to finish in the top-15 this weekend.
– Aric Almirola had two of his best races at Pocono last year. He started on the pole in the first race and was able to keep his car up front. Almirola led 61 laps, finished 2nd in Stage 1, won Stage 2 and finished 3rd in the race. The field was inverted for Sunday’s race so Almirola started 18th. He quickly made his way to the front and finished 2nd in Stage 2. He finished the race in the 5th position. Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Almirola were the only drivers to finish both races in the top-five. His 112.8 Driver Rating was third-best in the field.
– Cole Custer had two “OK” races at Pocono last year. The No. 41 car started 25th on Saturday. Custer did not score any Stage points and had a 16.4 average running position. Custer finished the race in the 16th position. The team put Kevin Harvick’s setup in the car for the race Sunday. Custer did improve his average running position to 13.2 but the results were about the same. Custer finished 17th in the race.
– Chase Elliott is not the best track for Elliott. The Tricky Triangle ranks as the 16th best track for Elliott and he is either really good or really bad in the races. Elliott started 5th, scored 7 Stage points, but he finished 25th in the race because they had transmission problems. The team changed the transmission before the second race so Elliott had to start in the back. He quickly made his way to the front and finished 4th in the race. Elliott will be a good pick “If” he can avoid mechanical problems. For some reason his car fails a lot at this track.
– Kyle Larson did not compete at Pocono last year because he was suspended for racial slurs during an I-Racing event. Larson is about the same driver as Chase Elliott at the Tricky Triangle. He tends to be hit or miss at the track. Larson finished 2nd, 23rd, 26th and 5th in his four races at Pocono in the current aero package. I like him more for DFS because of his upside this weekend, but he does have some risk for season-long games.
– William Byron is having a career season and now he gets to compete at his best track. Byron has six races in the Cup Series at Pocono on his resume and his average finishing position is 9.6. His average finishing position at the track in the current aero package is 8th. Byron had two decent races at Pocono last year. He started 16th and finished 14th Saturday and Byron started 7th and finished 7th Sunday. He likely would have finished both races in the top-10 if he did not use the wrong pit strategy in the first race. Byron had the ninth-best Driver Rating over the weekend.
– Alex Bowman has not had a lot of luck on the large, flat tracks. Two of his worst tracks are Pocono and Indianapolis. Bowman has 10 races in the Cup Series at Pocono on his resume and his average finishing position is 21.4. He had one good and one bad race at the track last year. Bowman started 10th and finished 27th Saturday. He must have learned something from the race because Bowman started 27th and finished 9th Sunday. Bowman is a high-risk, high-reward driver for your fantasy team this week.
– Kurt Busch has not been very good at Pocono since he joined Chip Ganassi Racing. He has four starts at the Tricky Triangle in the No. 1 car and his average finishing position is 17.2. He was able to win a Stage in the second race (because of pit strategy) and had a 15th-place average finishing position for the weekend. Busch should finish around the 15th position again this weekend.
– Ross Chastain did not compete in the Cup Series at Pocono last year. He does have four races in the Cup Series at Pocono on his resume, but all of those races were in underfunded cars. Chastain ran well at Pocono last year in the Xfinity Series. He started 5th, led 31 laps and finished 2nd. He finished right behind Chase Briscoe. I expect both of these young drivers to compete with each other again this weekend for top-15 finishes.
– Ryan Newman has been a consistent top-20 driver at Pocono. His average starting position in the current aero package at this track is 12.3 and his average finishing position is 11.8. Not too bad. Newman was decent at the track last year. He finished 15th in the first race and 18th in the second race. I like Newman more for DFS contests if he starts outside the top-20. There are better choices for your season long contests.
– Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was “OK” at Pocono last year. He finished 17th in the first race and 15th in the second race. He really did not show the speed to compete inside the top-15. Stenhouse should finish right inside the top-20 again this weekend.
– Chris Buescher is having a good season and he had some good races at Pocono last year. Most people forget that Buescher has a win at the Tricky Triangle on his resume. Buescher won a rain shortened race at Pocono in 2016 while driving for Front Row Motorsports. Buescher finished 10th in the first race at Pocono last year but he wrecked on lap 47 on Sunday and finished 36th. Buescher should have the speed to finish in the top-10 again this week. He just needs to keep the car out of the wall.
– Austin Dillon has been a “middle-of-the-pack” driver at Pocono. He finished 14th, 19th and 19th in his last three races at the Tricky Triangle. Dillon started on the front row in the second race at Pocono last year because the top-20 drivers from the first race were inverted. Dillon was unable to score a Stage point in the first Stage and he finished 14th, despite the good starting position. Dillon will likely finish between 10th and 15th again this week.
– Tyler Reddick had two horrible races at Pocono last year, but it wasn’t his fault. Reddick started 15th in the first race and he was running 12th when Christopher Bell had to check up because of a slow lapped car in front of him. Reddick had no time to react and he slammed into the back of Bell’s car and the wall. Reddick finished 30th and had to start 30th in Sunday’s race. He lost his power-steering in Stage 1 on Sunday and he fought to stay on the lead lap. Reddick finished 35th on Sunday.
– Erik Jones has a history of running really well at Pocono but that was in a Joe Gibbs Racing car. How will Jones perform in a Richard Petty Motorsports car? He should be OK if he is half as good as he was in the No. 20 car. Jones finished 3rd, 38th, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in his last five races at the track. His 38th was the result of a flat tire causing Jones to hit the wall. He was running 9th when he wrecked.
– Bubba Wallace has not been very good at Pocono in the Cup Series. He has seven races at the Tricky Triangle on his resume and he has never finished in the top-20. His average finishing position at Pocono is 26th. Not very good. Wallace will be in a better car this year and the owner of the car is the best driver ever at the track. So I expect Wallace to improve slightly this week.
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