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.