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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.