Blaney Points to Pocono
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 31, 2014 | 2:15 P.M. EST
“It's always nice going back to tracks you've won at before it just gives you and your team a little extra confidence." (Photo: Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney carries the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points lead into his quest for a second straight Pocono Raceway win Saturday in the Pocono Mountains 150.
The Brad Keselowski Racing driver has a four-point advantage over defending series champion Matt Crafton going into the weekend’s race on the 2.5-mile "Tricky Triangle." Blaney’s impressive season has included eight top-10 finishes, the last six in a row. Now, he returns to Pocono - where he scored his second career series win last year.
"We had a good truck last year and it worked out in our favor," Blaney said. "Hopefully, we can have that same success and get back to Victory Lane."
Although his career is still young and experience is something Blaney continues to acquire, he is confident returning to a track where he had the ultimate success a year ago.
"It's always nice going back to tracks you've won at before," he said. "It gives you and your team extra confidence. You think you can go back there and win again."
There’s a new wrinkle in this year’s fourth visit by the Truck Series to Pocono: an extended race distance. An additional 25 miles (10 laps) has been tacked on and Blaney’s crew chief, Chad Kendrick, believes that will make a huge difference in approach and strategy.
"Now, you're going to be right on the verge of having to pit twice," said Kendrick. "When the race was 50 laps, you could go a little more than halfway on fuel so you would usually pit between Lap 21 and 25 if the thing went green ... almost run it backwards like a road course because you won't go a lap down there. With a 60-lap race, you can't do that."
The fuel and pit strategy changes only compound the challenges of racing at Pocono, which - with its three turns - is the most unique track on the schedule. Crafton, one of only two drivers to have completed all 212 series laps run at Pocono, is a fan of the layout but also very aware of the challenge it provides.
"Even though Pocono has three distinctively different corners, and you have to compromise what you're doing to the truck to suit it all the way around the racetrack, the flattest corner is the most critical," the ThorSport Racing driver said of Turn 1. "It's really a typical oval-track corner, though you really have to have your truck working well because you carry so much speed off that long frontstretch.
"The Tunnel Turn (Turn 2) is important because you carry a lot of speed through there and it can get your attention in a hurry, especially running in traffic. But Turn 3 is the big one because you can't over-drive the corner and you can't get the truck bound up or too loose because that will cost you too much momentum getting down that long frontstretch, and over a full run that can really cost you."
Sprint Cup Series rookies Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson also will race in Saturday's event.
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of the Pocono Mountains 150 on Saturday starting at 12:30 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.