Pocono Raceway a ‘horsepower’ track that can trip you up with its three corners

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There’s a general consensus among NASCAR Cup drivers regarding Pocono Raceway.

Underestimate its three turns at your own peril.

Unlike any other track on the NASCAR circuit, the track in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, is the only one that throws less than four turns at those who try to master it.

And any one of them can make for a long day.

“We’re always stuck in an engineering kind of mindset of is it better to be faster on the straightaways or through the corners or how you set the car’s ride heights,” said three-time Pocono winner Jimmie Johnson in a press release. “From a driver’s standpoint, it’s frustrating because a small loss of time through the center of the corner after you have almost a mile-long front straightaway, you can look at a stopwatch and be five, six, or seven-tenths off and think ‘wow, we’re really out of it.’ But honestly, it was just a small little thing that happened in the center of Turn 3 that compounded down the (frontstretch).”

Pocono features one of the longest frontstretches racing at 3,740 feet. That leads into a 14-degree turn and then the 3,055-foot long backstretch.

After the eight degree Turn 2 and a 1,780-foot “shortstretch,” the six degree Turn 3 leads back to the frontstretch.

Drivers all point to Turn 1 and 3 as the biggest obstacles they must figure out during the course of a 400-mile race at Pocono.

“Pocono is all about horsepower,” Ryan Newman said in a press release. “Just in general, you need to get off Turn 3 and use all your horsepower down the straightaway. There is nothing that handles better than plenty of horsepower.”

Chase Elliott believes “a little bit can go a long way” when it comes to getting off a turn.

“The straightaways are so long a little mistake on corner exit lasts for such a long time, especially off (Turn) 3 and out of (Turn) 1,” Elliott said in a press release.

Said Ty Dillon, “I think you try to focus on (Turns) 1 and 3, those are the longer straightaways that you have coming off of those two corners. The Tunnel Turn is something that, as a driver, you can work on throughout the day to make your car get through there a little bit better.”

The “Tunnel Turn” is the name given to Turn 2, which runs over a tunnel entrance to the track. It’s known for being a bumpy experience for drivers in the past, but was smoothed out two years ago.

“You would think that Turn 2 is the least important, but it seems like time is really made and lost in that turn by hitting your mark,” Paul Menard said in a press release. “If you miss it by even just a foot, your lap time really suffers. So it’s important to hit all three corners.”

At 2.5-miles, Pocono is the longest non-restrictor plate track the series has visited this year. It will also be the first time that stage racing has taken place at the track, which will be “critical” in how the race plays out.

“Depending on where you are running with the leader or close to the leader – you can pit and stay on the lead lap,” AJ Allmendinger said in a press release. “Strategy there with the stage racing is really going to be critical to how it plays out when you pit. If you’re maybe not in position to get points in that stage, you can still pit and stay on the lead lap and restart up front. There is going to be a lot of strategy we are going to have to play through as the race evolves, keeps changing.”

Teams will begin trying to master the track’s turns in the first practice session for the Pocono 400 on Friday at 11 a.m. ET.

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Watch: Denver-area fans celebrate Martin Truex Jr.’s championship

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Barney Visser’s Furniture Row Racing is the only Cup team headquartered west of the Mississippi River, claiming Denver, Colorado, as its home.

Since the team began competing in NASCAR in 2005, the team has built up a dedicated fanbase in the city.

Those fans were rewarded when Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 and claimed the team’s first Cup championship.

One watch party in the area took place the Quaker Steak & Lube in Westminster, just north of Denver.

A fan has shared video of the moment Truex captured the championship.

Above, you can watch the Furniture Row Racing fans in attendance celebrate during the final lap of the race.

NASCAR America: Elliott Sadler shouldn’t blame Ryan Preece for losing Xfinity title

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It was arguably one of the most difficult pills Elliott Sadler has ever had to swallow.

Just when it appeared he might finally capture his first career NASCAR championship in Saturday’s Xfinity Series title race, Sadler found himself held up by Ryan Preece, who was racing for the car owner’s title for Joe Gibbs Racing but was not involved in the race for the driver championship.

Preece was running the high line and kept Sadler from getting by him. Sadler tried everything he could to pass Preece, even putting his bumper into the back of Preece’s Toyota to get him to move over.

But that contact ultimately wound up costing Sadler one last chance to catch William Byron, who went on to win the Xfinity championship in his first year in the series.

Sadler, meanwhile, finished second for the second consecutive year — and the fourth time in the last seven seasons.

On Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman broke down what happened to Sadler and whether Preece played a part in preventing Sadler from winning the title.

Here’s how Jarrett looked at it:

“I understand the frustration from Elliott Sadler with a driver that really’s not involved in anything. Ryan Preece is an outstanding young driver that made a name for himself. … I think they gave him bad information and put this young man in a very difficult situation. He wasn’t going to catch the 22 car at that point in time. It was really time for him to get out of the way of the two drivers battling for the championship.

“Unfortunately, his name is going to be associated with affecting the championship in this way. It’s part of it, he doesn’t have to pull out of the way, it’s up to Elliott to figure out a way to get around him.”

And here’s how Kligerman analyzed things:

“I completely understand Elliott Sadler’s frustrations. He had a chance to win the championship, he was in the front and felt like not being able to accomplish that pass on Ryan Preece and maybe get a little help there.

“But it’s not like Ryan stuck it out there, he was beside him and it just didn’t work out. And as they got together, I felt Ryan was running the same line he had been running, and that was Elliott trying to make a last-ditch effort.

“… He’s racing to have a job, to have a career in this sport, like Elliott Sadler. He told me after the race he was upset because he was an Elliott Sadler fan his whole life. He grew up watching Elliott Sadler. He did not want to be part of the championship discussion but was trying to do his job, doing what Joe Gibbs Racing told him to do, which was to try to beat the 22 for the owner’s title.

“I know why Elliott is upset, it’s the fourth time he’s finished second, but I don’t think Ryan did anything wrong.”

Catch more of what Parker and DJ had to say in the video above.

And speaking of William Byron, check out what our two analysts had to say about his championship in the video below.

NASCAR America: Was Kyle Busch wrong to blame Joey Logano?

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It wasn’t so much that Martin Truex Jr. kept Kyle Busch from winning the championship in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.

At least that’s not the way Busch saw it.

Busch felt he had the race car and the speed to track down Truex and eventually pass him – had it not been for Joey Logano.

An upset Busch said after the race to NBC Sports that he felt Logano may have impeded his progress but on Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman both agreed that Logano did nothing wrong, that he was trying to win the race himself.

Here’s some of what the analysts had to say:

Jarrett: “It’s not just the four championship drivers that are out there competing, everyone else is out there and they have an agenda. Joey Logano has had a bad year by his standards, so he was trying to get everything he possibly could.

“But, here’s another thing I’ll say: Joey Logano really did nothing wrong there. And something that all drivers, not just Kyle Busch, that you have to think about … things that you might have done to rile a competitor, you never know when that might come back to get you.

“We talk about paybacks all the time. It doesn’t have to be somebody wrecking somebody to pay back, all they have to do in a critical situation is hold you up a little bit. I don’t know if that’s what Joey Logano was doing or not or just racing as hard as he could and that made it difficult for Kyle Busch to get by.

“… I think it was simply racing. It was unfortunate for Kyle, but it’s part of the way the playoff system works here in NASCAR.”

Here’s what Kligerman had to say:

“I think at that point of the race, there was still a chance for Joey Logano to rally and go challenge for a win. … That’s what you have to deal with, that’s what racing over 38 weeks is about in the Cup Series, racing 39, 40 cars every week. You have to race those guys. … Kyle Busch had one of the fastest cars, but was Joey Logano the only one that was really the problem. As they came to the end, Kyle Larson was in the picture a little bit. You can’t put the blame on Joey Logano. He was just driving his race.”

Hear more about what they had to say in the video above.

 

 

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first moments of retirement

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As soon as he crossed the checkered flag in Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. morphed from race car driver to retired race car driver.

And what better way to begin retirement than with a party, and that’s what Junior did with his team, friends and fans along the frontstretch of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

On Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman both spoke about how Junior sailed on into retirement.

Among their comments:

Kligerman: “It was maybe an hour and a half and there was still this swarm of people around his car. He and his team were sitting there, drinking beer and hanging out, he was signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. It was just incredible to see him just sitting there and taking in the moment.”

Jarrett added about the role and impact Rick Hendrick had upon Junior’s life and career both on and off the track: “Rick Hendrick came in and got in Dale Jr.’s life at a time that Junior really needed someone and needed that support, that father figure, if you will. Rick Hendrick is just so good at that. Rick’s been through a lot in his life, Dale Jr. has been that. The two of them together did a lot of real good things and were good for each other.”

Check out more of what Jarrett and Kligerman had to say in the video above.