Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway


With only six races remaining in the Cup regular season, Pocono Raceway looms large this weekend as a difficult test for those hoping to join the playoff roster.

Known as the Tricky Triangle because of its unique three-turn layout, Pocono features fast speeds and hard braking in the tight turns.

Five drivers who have not secured playoff spots — Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher — have won at Pocono. Christopher Bell became the 14th driver to register a win this year with last Sunday’s victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.


Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: 2nd at New Hampshire; won at Atlanta; 2nd at Road America
  • Past at Pocono: No laps led in the past five Pocono races

You can’t stop Chase Elliott; you can only hope to contain him. With two wins and two second places in the past four races, he’s the hottest driver on the circuit rolling into Pocono. The fast triangle will test Elliott’s skills — his average finish there in the past five races is 21st, and he’s finished outside the top 10 in four of the past five Pocono races.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 19th
  • Last three races: 6th at New Hampshire; 25th at Atlanta; 17th at Road America
  • Past at Pocono: 6 wins

Hamlin is Mr. Pocono. His six wins there — two in 2006 and one each in 2009, 2010, 2019 and 2020 — tie him with Jeff Gordon for victory leader at Pocono. He finished fourth and 14th in Pocono’s races last season.

Kurt Busch

  • Points position: 14th
  • Last three races: 10th at New Hampshire; 22nd at Atlanta; 23rd at Road America
  • Past at Pocono: Wins in 2005, 2007, 2016

Busch has had a roller-coaster of a season. He has seven top 10s (including a win at Kansas) in the past 18 races but also has 11 finishes of 13th or worse over that stretch. Pocono is one of his better tracks.


Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 12th at New Hampshire; 20th at Atlanta; 29th at Road America
  • Past at Pocono: Four-time winner

As the playoffs approach, Busch is trending downward. He hasn’t won since the ninth race of the season at Bristol, and his 12th-place run on a mixed day at New Hampshire was his best finish in the past five races. Pocono, however, could offer some salve. He has led in 12 of the past 13 races there and was a winner in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. He could use something good as his future with Joe Gibbs Racing remains unsettled.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 9th
  • Last three races: 5th at New Hampshire; 12th at Atlanta; 10th at Road America
  • Past at Pocono: Only one win (2020) but five consecutive finishes of eighth or better

Will Harvick ever win again? His winless streak stretched to 63 with last Sunday’s fifth-place run at New Hampshire. He’s on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.

Christopher Bell

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: Won at New Hampshire; 19th at Atlanta; 18th at Road America
  • Past at Pocono: Best finish is 4th

Bell finally joined the list of 2022 winners with an impressive late-race run last weekend at New Hampshire. Now the question becomes: Can he use that breakthrough to challenge for more wins? Pocono isn’t his best track — three consecutive finishes of 17th or worse.



COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins


Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

MORE: Truck points after COTA

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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