NASCAR viewer’s guide: Pocono Raceway


With playoffs just around the corner, all three of NASCAR’s major series will be in action this weekend at Pocono Raceway.

The Pocono weekend will include Saturday races for the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series and Sunday’s feature for Cup drivers.

USA Network will broadcast the Xfinity and Cup races.

Six Weeks To Go

Pocono begins a six-race stretch that will close the Cup Series regular season with a wildly different set of venues.

After the 2.5-mile, three-turn test that is Pocono, drivers will race on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 2-mile oval at Michigan Speedway, the Richmond short track, Watkins Glen International’s 2.45-mile road course and Daytona International Speedway, where the season started back in February.

With a half-dozen events left, the playoff picture is taking shape, and it’s taking shape potentially without some significant names.

Drivers currently outside the playoff structure include Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Fourteen drivers have qualified for the playoffs with wins. Christopher Bell became the latest Sunday by finishing first at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Sixteen drivers will compete in the playoffs. If there are no new winners in the last six races of the regular season, the final two spots will be filled via points. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. currently hold those positions. Truex is 68 points in front of Harvick, the first driver below the cutoff line.

Chasing Chase

Although much of the attention over the coming weeks will be concentrated on the race for the playoffs, the excellent seasonal resume Chase Elliott is building should not be overlooked.

The only Cup driver with three wins this year, Elliott has led the regular-season point standings for the past 13 weeks and has a whopping 67-point lead over Ross Chastain.

In the past four races, Elliott has finished one-two-one-two, and he has won three of the past 10.

He has stacked 20 playoff points, seven more than any other driver, and he has led 658 laps, No. 1 on the list.

Elliott has led 12 of the 20 races to date.

Elliott has not done well at Pocono, this week’s stop. If he finishes top five there, his seasonal worksheet will have an even better shine.

Blarney for Blaney?

Ryan Blaney’s statistical sheet for this season is quite impressive.

The Team Penske driver has led 16 of the 20 races. He is No. 2 in laps run in the top five and also in the top 10. His average finish (12.2) ranks third, and he is tied for third in top-five finishes with seven.

Yet this is the Blaney headline: He might miss the playoffs.

Blaney remains winless this year and is the first non-winner currently eligible for the playoffs. He is 15th in the playoff standings based on points. Martin Truex Jr. is 16th and, with the standings as they are, would make the playoffs along with Blaney.

But there are six races remaining in the regular season, and stumbles by Blaney and/or wins by drivers who have not won could boot him out of the playoffs.

Blaney could quickly change his standing by winning, of course. He has one career victory at Pocono Raceway.

Entry lists

The Pocono Cup entry list totals 36 drivers, including non-regulars J.J. Yeley, Noah Gragson and Josh Bilicki.

Pocono Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list contains 39 drivers for 38 spots. Among the non-regulars entered are Sage Karam, Stefan Parsons, Rajah Caruth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Cole Custer.

Pocono Xfinity entry list

The Pocono Camping World Truck Series race is the regular season finale. Zane Smith leads the point standings by 58 entering the race.

The field has room for 36 trucks. Thirty-eight drivers are entered. The list includes Norm Benning, Austin Hill, Todd Bodine and Kaz Grala.

Pocono Truck entry list

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, July 22

Forecast: Mostly sunny. High of 86 degrees.

  • 4:30 – 5 p.m. — Camping World Truck practice (FS1)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Camping World Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, July 23

Forecast: Mostly sunny. High of 88 degrees.

  • 9:35 – 10:05 a.m. — Xfinity practice (USA Network)
  • 10:05 – 11 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (USA Network)
  • Noon — Camping World Truck race (60 laps, 150 miles; Fox, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)
  • 2:35-3:20 p.m. — Cup practice (USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)
  • 3:20-4:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (90 laps, 225 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)

Sunday, July 24

Forecast: Partly cloudy early. Scattered showers and thunderstorms in afternoon. High of 87 degrees. 50 percent chance of rain.

  • 3 p.m. — Cup race (160 laps, 400 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)

COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

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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