Driver Handicaps: Pocono

    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 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
  • Denny Hamlin swept both races in 2006.
  • Jimmie Johnson has an 8.1 finishing average in 10 starts.
  • Kurt Busch has one win and two runner-up finishes in his last three starts.
  • Mark Martin leads all drivers with 27 top-10 finishes.
  • Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in laps led with 844.
  • Tony Stewart has finished seventh or better in his last three Pocono starts.

    Keep an Eye on at Pocono
  • Matt Kenseth will be driving a chassis that has yet to finish worse than fourth in four races in 2007
  • Bobby Labonte has three Pocono wins and finished eighth last July.
  • Last year in this event, Greg Biffle was running second until his No. 16 Ford has a tire go down. He still finished sixth.
  • If he can qualify, Brian Vickers has finished in the top 15 in his six Pocono starts.
  • After winning the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream, Carl Edwards will be going for the triple with possible wins at Nashville and Pocono - both tracks he has won at.
  • Since 2004, the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports team has never qualified outside of the top 10 at Pocono and has three top-five results there.

    Pocono Rookie Report
    None of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates have made a NEXTEL Cup Series start at Pocono Raceway. David Ragan is the only one of the group with experience on the 2.5-mile speedway, finishing 26th and fourth, respectively, in the ARCA/REMAX Series in 2005. Rookie Standings

    Qualifying Tidbits
    Last year, Denny Hamlin swept both poles at Pocono Raceway to give Chevrolet their fourth pole in the last 10 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's 2005 July pole was 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. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Pocono Winners

    Looking For Speed
    Brian Vickers, who is making his first start at Pocono in the No. 83 Toyota, leads all drivers that are required to qualify on time with a 4.5 starting average at Pocono. Bill Elliott is second in average at 11.5 and has a past champion's provisional to fall back on. Kevin Lepage, who has qualified for one race in 2007 driving the No. 37 Dodge, holds the worst average start among the group at 32.2 in 12 races. Qualifying Averages

    Pocono Raceway Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006)

    *Fastest Early in a Run
    *Fastest Late in a Run
    Avg. Running Position
    1. Denny Hamlin
    1. Denny Hamlin
    1. Denny Hamlin - 5.2
    2. Brian Vickers
    2. Kurt Busch
    2. Brian Vickers - 5.6
    3. Kurt Busch
    3. Mark Martin
    3. Kurt Busch - 6.7
    4. Jimmie Johnson
    4. Brian Vickers
    4. Mark Martin - 10.4
    5. Mark Martin
    5. Greg Biffle
    5. Ryan Newman - 10.9
    Laps in Top 15
    *Quality Passes
    *Driver Rating
    1. Brian Vickers - 773
    1. Tony Stewart - 161
    1. Denny Hamlin - 143.1
    2. Kurt Busch - 682
    2. Ryan Newman - 157
    2. Brian Vickers - 119.1
    2. Ryan Newman - 629
    3. Kevin Harvick - 155
    3. Kurt Busch - 117.4
    4. Mark Martin - 628
    4. Greg Biffle - 141
    4. Kevin Harvick - 100.4
    5. Kevin Harvick - 617
    4. Bobby Labonte - 141
    5. Mark Martin - 98.1


    *Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
    *Driver Rating : Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers

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

    Average: 16.2

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps
    2006-29
    2006-28
    2005-40
    2005-32
    2004-35

    Average: 32.8

    *RacingOne Staff Picks

    Jeff Wackerlin: Carl Edwards
    Pete Pistone: Carl Edwards
    Jorge Mondaca: Tony Stewart
    Rachael West: J.J. Yeley

    *Note: Drivers can be selected only one time per season. Race points will be added up each week. This is the 11th race of the season for this section of the handicaps. Standings

    Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

    1. Jeff Gordon (Points: 2059): In 28 starts at Pocono Raceway, Gordon has captured three wins, two poles, 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. His last of four Pocono DNFs came last year in this event after he lost the brakes and crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall. Gordon leads all drivers in laps led at Pocono with 841.

    2. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -152): Johnson swept Pocono Raceway in 2004, leading 63 percent of the laps there that season. He has finished in the top 15 in everyone of his 10 starts, and earned one pole in the 2003 June race. His 8.1 average finish is the best among all active drivers that have started three or more races. This weekend, Johnson will be behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 385) that he ran in the Goodyear tire test last month at Indianapolis.

    3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -190): Kenseth has yet to reach Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway, but has posted six top-10 finishes in 14 starts. In 2005, he finished 30th or worse in both Pocono races for the first time in one season. Kenseth, who has led in six races for 26 laps, has a 15.3 finishing average at the 2.5-mile track. He will race chassis RK-317 that won at California in February.

    4. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -217): Last July, Hamlin became the sixth driver in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series history to sweep both races at Pocono Raceway. He led a combined 234 laps en route to the wins, which both came from the pole.

    5. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -355): Last year, Burton turned around his luck at Pocono Raceway with a pair of ninth-place finishes, which ended a streak of finishing 19th or worse in the four previous races. All but three of his 13 top-10 finishes came with Roush Racing from 1996-2004. This weekend, Burton will be back behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 165) that won at Dover in 2006.

    6. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -475): In 2005, Edwards won this event in his first career start at Pocono Raceway. 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 finishes outside the top five at Pocono in 2006, will drive the same car (chassis: RK-270) that started from the pole and finished third in last month's NEXTEL Open at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

    7. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -486): In 16 Pocono starts, Stewart has one victory and 11 top-10 finishes. Stewart ended a four-race streak of finishing 27th or worse in the 2005 July race when he finished seventh. He followed that up with a third and seventh-place finish. His top-five run in this event last year came in his first full race back after sustaining a shoulder injury at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has led a total of 97 laps and has a 13.2 finishing average.

    8. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -534): Bowyer's Pocono finishing average took a big hit last July after Tony Stewart made contact with his No. 07 Chevrolet on the frontstretch early in the race. NASCAR penalized Stewart one lap for aggressive driving after the accident, which saw Bowyer slide down into Carl Edwards before it was over. After finishing 21st in this event last year, Bowyer's average fell to 31.0 after a 41st-place finish.

    9. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -541): Last July, Harvick captured his fourth top 10 at Pocono Raceway. In that event, he finished fifth to mark his best finish in 12 career starts. Harvick, who has yet to lead a lap at Pocono, will race chassis No. 151 in the 200-mile race. This is the same car that finished second in the 2006 All-Star Challenge.

    10. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -588): In the 2005 June race, Busch finished fourth in his first start Pocono Raceway. In the next three races he finished 39th, 22nd and 12th, respectively. Last July, Busch captured his best qualifying effort at the track last when he started ninth. Busch 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). This weekend Busch will debut a new car - chassis No. 422.

    11. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -620): Busch captured his first win at Pocono Raceway in the 2005 July race in his last track start with Roush Racing. In his previous nine starts at the speedway with Roush, Busch posted four top-five finishes, with a pair of runner-ups in the July event in 2002 and 2003. Last year, Busch scored a pair of second-place finishes, and led a combined 35 laps, in his first two track starts with Penske Racing.

    12. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -624): Martin will make his first start (41st overall) in a Chevrolet this weekend at Pocono Raceway. He currently owns a 10.9 average finish and has led a total of 376 laps at the 2.5-mile track. His 27 top-10 finishes lead all drivers.

    13. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -632): Truex Jr. heads to Pocono Raceway fresh off his first career NEXTEL Cup win after a dominating performance at Dover. He will try to use that momentum to try and score his second top 10 in his third start at Pocono. he will make that attempt driving the same car (chassis No. 053) that finished 42nd at California earlier this season.

    14. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -648): McMurray has raced at Pocono Raceway eight times, with a best finish of ninth in the 2004 June race. His best start came in the 2005 July race when he captured his first pole at the 2.5-mile speedway with Chip Ganassi Racing. Last year, McMurray finished 18th and 20th, respectively, in his first two track starts with Roush Fenway Racing. He will race the same car (chassis No. RK-428) that finished 19th last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

    15. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -655): 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's finishing average took a hit last year after a 43rd-place finish dropped it to 18.8 in his 14 starts. Junior will be back in the same car (chassis No. 042) that most recently finished 14th at Atlanta.

    16. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -670): Newman's last of four top-five finishes at Pocono Raceway came in the 2005 July race. His only Pocono victory came in July of 2003 after winning his only pole position at the 2.5-mile track. Newman has led in seven of 10 Pocono races for a total of 140 laps. This weekend he will drive the same car (chassis No. PRS-104) that finished 12th at California in February.

    17. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -719): Labonte has competed in 28 races at Pocono Raceway scoring three wins and nine top-10 finishes. Labonte, whose last win at Pocono came in the 2003 July race, finished 12th and eighth, respectively, in his first two track starts with Petty Enterprises in 2006.

    18. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -720): Last year in this event, Biffle scored his second top 10 at Pocono Raceway with a sixth-place finish. In that event he also equaled his best starting position, qualifying seventh. In 2005, the team experienced brake problems and finished 30th and 17th, respectively. Biffle's other top 10 came in the 2004 July event when he finished fourth.

    19. J.J. Yeley (Points Behind: -746): Yeley Finished 15th and 11th, respectively, in 2006 at Pocono Raceway. He will look to score his first top 10 at the track driving the same car (chassis No. 138) that finished second at Lowe's Motor Speedway last month.

    20. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -792): Sadler has two top-10 finishes in 16 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. This weekend will mark his first track start with Evernham Motorsports.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2007

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