Driver Handicaps: Pocono

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    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads back to Pocono Raceway for the Pennsylvania 500. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 200-lap event.

    Who's HOT at Pocono Raceway
  • Denny Hamlin won the June race and joined Carl Edwards and Richard Petty as the only drivers to win their first Pocono NEXTEL Cup start.
  • Jimmie Johnson holds the best average finish (8.3) among drivers that have made two or more starts.
  • Mark Martin leads all drivers with 19 top fives and 27 top 10s.
  • Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with 841 laps led.
  • Kurt Busch finished second in his first track start with Penske Racing last month. He is also the defending race winner.
  • Brian Vickers has a 9.4 finishing average in five starts.

    Keep an Eye on at Pocono Raceway
  • Tony Stewart has seven top 10s in the last 11 Pocono races.
  • Kyle Busch predicted that he can make it back-to-back wins after his victory last weekend at New Hampshire.
  • Ryan Newman has finished 13th or better in six of his nine Pocono races.
  • Roush Racing swept both Pocono races last season.
  • Elliott Sadler has made the most Pocono starts without a DNF.
  • Kasey Kahne, who finished seventh in June, currently holds the track qualifying record.
  • Jeff Burton is coming off his first Pocono top 10 with Richard Childress Racing.

    Pocono Raceway Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006 season)
  • Denny Hamlin is the fastest driver early in a run during the first 25 percent of a green flag run at 162.404 mph (Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps). Brian Vickers is second, with defending race winner Kurt Busch third.
  • Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch, respectively, hold an average running position of 5.8 and 7.4.
  • Denny Hamlin is the fastest driver late in a run at 160.455 mph (Fastest speed during last 25 percent of standard green flag run. Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps).
  • Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart., respectively, have completed 136 and 127 quality passes (Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag).
  • Denny Hamlin has the best Driver Rating at 137.1. Kurt Busch (third overall) became one of only three to pull off a perfect driver rating (150.0) last year when he accomplished that in the July Pocono race en route to a win.

    Pocono Raceway Rookie Report
    All of the Raybestos Rookies made their first Pocono NEXTEL Cup start last June. Denny Hamlin won the race and joined Carl Edwards and Richard Petty as the only drivers to win their first Pocono NEXTEL Cup start. Hamlin bounced back from a blown tire midway through the race and a wild spin to score the win from the pole. That same weekend, David Stremme won the pole for the ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Pocono, and hoped to use that race in preparation for the Cup race until transmission problems on the first lap cut the attempt short. J.J. Yeley was the second-best rookie in the Cup race, finishing 15th. With the exception of David Stremme and Reed Sorenson, all of the rookies finished on the lead lap.

    Qualifying Tidbits
    Last month, Denny Hamlin won the pole giving Chevrolet their second pole in the last nine events dating back to the June race in 2002 when qualifying was cancelled due to rain. Kasey Kahne, driving a Dodge, is the current track qualifying record holder after recording a lap of 172.533 mph in the 2004 June event. Jamie McMurray is the defending pole winner for the Pennsylvania 500, scoring the fifth Pocono pole for Dodge since 2002. Ford won their last pole at the track after Todd Bodine took the top spot in this event in 2001. Jeff Gordon is the only multiple pole winner in the last 20 events, winning the pole in the first event in 1996 and 1998. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Winners

    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes
    2006-25
    2005-13
    2005-14
    2004-16
    2004-30

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps
    2006-28
    2005-40
    2005-32
    2004-35
    2004-57

    RacingOne Staff Picks
    Jeff Wackerlin: Greg Biffle
    Pete Pistone: Jimmie Johnson
    Jorge Mondaca: Tony Stewart
    J.J. O'Malley: Jeff Burton
    Shawn Akers: Matt Kenseth

    More Driver Notes (In Order of Points Standings)
    1. Jimmie Johnson (Points: 2789): Johnson swept Pocono Raceway in 2004, leading 62 percent of the laps there. He has finished in the top 15 at every race, earning one pole at the June race in 2003. His 8.3 average finish is the best among all active drivers that have started eight or more races. This weekend, Johnson will be behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 48359) that he finished sixth with at Atlanta in March.

    2. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -68): Kenseth has yet to reach Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway, but has posted six top-10 finishes in 13 starts. Kenseth, who has led in six races for 25 laps, has a 15.4 finishing average at the 2.5-mile track. Last year, Kenseth finished 30th or worse in both Pocono races for the first time in one season. He will race chassis RK-317 for the second time this season. This is the same car that was involved in an accident, and finished 11th in the All-Star race in May.

    3. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -311): Last month, Burton turned around his luck at Pocono Raceway with a ninth-place finish, ending finishes of 19th or worse in the last five races, including two DNFs. All but two of his 12 top-10 finishes came with Roush Racing from 1996-2004. Burton will be back behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 173) that he captured his first Pocono top 10 with Richard Childress Racing. This also is the car that finished second to Jeff Gordon two weeks ago at Chicagoland.

    4. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -334): In the 2005 June race, Busch finished fourth in his first Pocono Raceway start. In the next two races he finished 39th and 22nd, respectively. He captured his best qualifying effort at the track last month when he started ninth. Busch has also made one start in the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Pocono. In that event, he finished 25th after starting from the pole. The No. 5 has gone to Victory Lane twice at Pocono with Geoffrey Bodine (1988) and Terry Labonte (1995).

    5. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -338): Martin will make his 40th career start at Pocono Raceway this weekend in the same car (RK-231) that was caught up in an accident while leading in May's All-Star race. Martin currently owns a 10.7 average finish and has led a total of 376 laps at the 2.5-mile track. His 27 top-10 finishes lead all drivers.

    6. Kasey Kahne (Points Behind: -344): Kahne set a new qualifying record (172.553 mph) in June 2004 at Pocono Raceway in his first start at the 2.5-mile speedway. He went on to finish 14th in that event after leading four laps. Kahne, who scored his best Pocono finish (third) later that season, will race chassis No. 124 in the Pocono 500. This is the same car that finished fourth at Las Vegas and seventh at Pocono last month. In 2005, Kahne scored a pair of 27th-place finishes.

    7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -361): Earnhardt Jr's last of four top-10 finishes at Pocono Raceway came in the 2004 June race, and his best finish came in the July 2001 race after leading 31 laps en route to a second-place finish. In the 2004 July event, Earnhardt handed the controls of the No. 8 Chevrolet over to John Andretti on lap 52 after the second-degree burns he suffered in an American LeMans Series accident made it too difficult to finish the race. Junior lowered his Pocono finishing average slightly to 16.9 with a 14th-place finish last month.

    8. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -381): Last year, Harvick captured his second and third top-10 finishes in 11 career starts at Pocono Raceway. In the July race he equaled his best finish of sixth after starting 10th. Harvick, who has yet to lead a lap at Pocono, will race chassis No. 134 in the 200-mile race. This is the same car that led 37 laps and finished fourth at Chicagoland two weeks ago. Harvick started 12th and finished 13th last month at Pocono.

    9. Jeff Gordon (Points Behind: -447): In 27 starts at Pocono Raceway, Gordon has captured three wins, two poles, 12 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. His last of four Pocono DNFs came last month after he lost the brakes and crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall. Gordon leads all active drivers in laps led with 841 and has held the lead in 17 races.

    10. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -447): Biffle will be driving the same car (chassis RK-201) that he scored his second top 10 with at Pocono Raceway last month. In that event he also equaled his best starting position, qualifying seventh. In two of the past three Pocono races Biffle's No. 16 has experienced brake problems, something the team has worked on going into Sunday's race. Biffle's other top 10 came in this event when he finished fourth from the 19th starting position.

    11. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -458): In 15 Pocono starts, Stewart has one victory and 10 top-10 finishes. Stewart ended a four-race streak of finishing 27th or worse last July when he finished seventh. He followed that up with a third-place finish last month in his first full race back after sustaining a shoulder injury at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has led a total of 98 laps and has a 13.7 finishing average.

    13. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -593): Edwards won the June event at Pocono Raceway last year in his first career track start. He won the race from the 29th starting position, which is the furthest back a driver has started and won a race at the 2.5-mile track. The victory was also the first for owner Jack Roush at Pocono. Edwards, who suffered his first finish outside the top five at Pocono last month, will drive the same car (chassis: RK-272) that finished third at Lowe's Motor Speedway and 25th at Pocono.

    14. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -653): Last July, Busch captured his first win at Pocono Raceway in his 10th start at the track. In his previous nine starts at the speedway, Busch has posted four top-five finishes, with a pair of runner-ups in the July event in 2002 and 2003. His most recent of three DNFs came in this event two years ago after transmission problems struck late in the race. This weekend Busch will make his second track start with Penske Racing in the same car (chassis: PRS-093) that he finished second with last month.

    15. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -698): Mears won his first career Cup pole at Pocono Raceway in August of 2004. In seven starts, he has one top-10 finish (10th) and has led in two races for 25 laps. In 2003, Mears swept the ARCA double header at Pocono from the pole and the second starting position. Last month marked his second DNF in the Cup Series at the track when he finished 43rd after a crash on the first lap.

    17. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -804): McMurray has raced at Pocono Raceway seven times, with a best finish of ninth in the 2004 June race. His best start came last July when he captured his first pole at the 2.5-mile speedway. He will race the same car (chassis No. RK-218) that finished 18th in his first start at Pocono with Roush Racing.

    18. Brian Vickers (Points Behind: -815): Vickers has five top-15 finishes at Pocono Raceway with his best finish of second coming in the June race last year. He will be back in the same car (chassis No. 334) that led 19 laps en route to a fourth-place finish last month at Pocono.

    19. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -823): Newman's last of four top-five finishes at Pocono Raceway came in this event last year. His only Pocono victory came in this event in 2003 after winning his only pole position at the 2.5-mile track. Newman has led in six of nine Pocono races for a total of 128 laps. This weekend he will drive the same car (chassis No. PRS-106) that finished 11th last month at Pocono.

    20. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -826): Sadler has two top-10 finishes in 15 starts at Pocono Raceway. His best finish at the 2.5-mile track came in the 2003 June race, when he led 35 laps and finished ninth. Sadler has been running at the finish in every Pocono race he started, which leads all active drivers. His finishing average at Pocono is 17.9.

    21. Scott Riggs (Points Behind: -884): Last month, Riggs captured his first top 10 at Pocono Raceway in his fifth start. He does have one win at the 2.5-mile speedway in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. In 2004, Riggs started 30th and won the race in his only series start.

    24. Dale Jarrett (Points Behind: -972): Jarrett has competed in 39 races at Pocono Raceway scoring three wins (last on June 9, 2002) and 18 top-10 finishes. He posted 10 consecutive top-five finishes from July 21, 1996, to June 17, 2001. Jarrett scored his first two top 20s since 2003 at Pocono last year when he finished 13th and 15th, respectively. Last month he finished 38th.

    25. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -1014): Labonte has competed in 27 races at Pocono Raceway scoring three wins and eight top-10 finishes. Labonte, whose last win at Pocono came in the 2003 July race, will make his second Pocono start with Petty Enterprises after finishing 12th in June.

    33. Jeremy Mayfield (Points Behind: -1234): Mayfield captured his first NEXTEL Cup Series win at Pocono Raceway on June 21, 1998, after starting from the third position. He went on to win another race at the 2.5-mile track with Penske Racing in 2000. In 2004, Mayfield scored his best Pocono finishes since joining Evernham Motorsports in 2002, finishing second and ninth, respectively. Last year in this event, he started 16th and finished 18th. This weekend Mayfield will make his 25th start at the Pennsylvania track, where he has led six races for 187 laps. His primary chassis (No. 135) is the same car that finished 23rd last month at Pocono.

        

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