And we’re back to the tricky triangle to finish out our 2011 season at Pocono Raceway. The bad news is it is still 500 miles, but maybe next year we can hope they chop 100 miles off both events. Ha, yeah, and while we’re at it maybe the Nationwide and Truck Series will go back to short track roots and be independent series from the Sprint Cup Series. While we’re at it, can I have $10 million too? Because we all know none of this will happen, but one can dream and dream big though.
Good news is that Brad Keselowski will be racing despite fracturing his left ankle in an accident at Road Atlanta on Wednesday. I have to say, if you’re a NASCAR fan get a Twitter account now. I, like many others, first got to hear about this wreck straight from the horse’s mouth, well fingers. Brad broke the news once he was in the hospital and Jimmie Johnson did a great job documenting the scene as well. Side note, Jimmie Johnson is a lot funnier than we give him credit. They have a Lowe’s promotion where there are mini cardboard cut outs of Chad Knaus. Johnson has taken it upon himself, hilariously, to take pictures of the “mini Chads” doing funny things. One featured mini Chad in a port-a-john with the caption “close the door mini Chad!” Here I thought he was just a humorless, emotionless vanilla personality the media kept portraying. Back to Brad though, glad to see he’s ok, interesting to see the data show he went from 155 mph to 100 mph before impact. That had to have been a wicked hit, but he will race in Pocono and per Twitter has a fast car so far.
As we’ll see below from the key statistics starting in the front has translated into a much better chance of victory versus most tracks. It has some of the highest percentages of wins from the top 10 I’ve seen all year. It’s almost making me want to wait until after qualifying to make my picks to win.
67 races have been run
13 (19%) have been won from the pole
42 (63) have been won from a top five starting spot
48 (72%) have been won from a top ten starting spot
34(6%) have been won from a starting spot of 21st or worse
My picks to win:
Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing had been spurned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 2007, Tony Stewart left after 2008, they failed in getting Kasey Kahne last year, and now add Carl Edwards to the list of drivers who have said “thanks, but no thanks” to the Coach. What does this have to do with Hamlin? What better then to bounce back and come out guns blazing for the team to show/say “hey Carl, this could have been you, oh well.” Doesn’t hurt that Hamlin has a 118.6 rating and average finish of 9.2 for his career, both tops on each respective list.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon isn’t on here because I’m just too lazy to type in someone else’s name. Don’t forget, even though there is one less turn, sometimes good runs at Indianapolis translate to good runs at Pocono due to the flatness of the track and tricky corners. Toss in that Jeff is tied with Bill Elliott as the all-time leader in wins (5) and has led the most laps (957) all-time, oh and his 101.3 driver rating. Want more? In 37 starts he’s got 17 top fives and 26 top tens, and an average finish of 10.2. PS he won the last time we were here too.
Kurt Busch – Boasts a respectable 104.1 rating, which is higher than Gordon’s, and rocketed to the pole last time here. Kurt finished second here last time and is due for a good run after finishing 21st last weekend.
Jimmie Johnson – Only six times has Jimmie Johnson not finished in the top ten at a Pocono race. Since 2007, Johnson’s finishes have been 42nd, 5th, 6th, 3th, 7th, 13th, 5th, 10th, and 4th. The only shocking thing about that is he claimed his two wins here in a 2004 sweep. With consistency like that at this track he’s bound to break through sooner than later. He also has the second best rating of 106.4 behind Hamlin.
Kevin Harvick – To pick the fifth driver I took a look at the last five races at Pocono. Kind of get a feel of how drivers have been doing in the recent versus historically. Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya were attractive picks over Harvick, but Harvick has been pretty solid. An average finish of 9.8 the last five (goes to a shade below seven if you only use four races) while he hasn’t been flashy here, he has show this year you don’t need to lead a lot of laps to win races. I could definitely see him staying near the front and capitalizing on some late race antics.
Early pick for the Start ‘N’ Park Blog Trophy:
Another time I should probably wait until after qualifying to make the pick. Some tempting picks who might not make it include Scott Speed, Erik Darnell, and Chemung, NY’s own Geoffrey Bodine. All three had practice speeds that put them 43rd or higher in the 46 car entry list, that’s not good. Someone who is guaranteed a spot though is T.J. Bell. I’m going to go on a limb and say old T.J. Bell will best Mike Skinner and Todd Bodine (subbing for Michael McDowell) in getting to the exit first this weekend.
****Update 1:16 PM****
I’m not bright as T.J. Bell was NOT guaranteed a spot on the grid. He subsequently failed to qualify for the race. That will bump up Mike Skinner to the pick for first to quit, er, fall out of the race. Erik Darnell might be a dark horse for this though, but I have faith in the man who helped run Kodak out of NASCAR.