The second part of the NASCAR Cup Series’ Pocono Raceway doubleheader weekend will be held Sunday afternoon with a 350-mile race around the “Tricky Triangle.”
The race will wrap up the first tripleheader in NASCAR history at one track. The day starts with Sunday morning’s Truck Series race (rescheduled after Saturday’s rain), the Xfinity Series race at 12:30 p.m. ET and the Cup Series race at 4 p.m. ET.
The top-20 finishers from Saturday’s Cup race will be inverted for Sunday’s starting lineup.
Here are the details for Sunday’s race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given by James Mascaro, director of special projects for J.P. Mascaro & Sons at 4:13 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:24 p.m.
PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 7 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments are at 1:30 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 3:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 4:05 p.m. by Billy Mauldin of Motor Racing Outreach. The national anthem will be performed by saxophonist Mike Phillips at 4:06 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 140 laps (350 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 85.
TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 4 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race. Its broadcast begins at 3 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms with a high of 79 degrees and a 50% chance of rain at the race’s start.
LAST RACE AT POCONO: Kevin Harvick snapped a 38-race winless streak at Pocono Raceway, earning his first career win there on Saturday. He’s been close several times before, including four runner-up finishes there before Saturday’s triumph.
The executive overseeing Ford’s racing program said the company is “committed to motorsports” even as the manufacturer faces economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports, said motorsports remains important to the manufacturer but admitted that “scrutiny to make sure we’re getting the return from every dollar is probably higher than it ever has been before, or at least in the last five years.
“So that is part of the discussions that we have internally with our motorsports steering team and governance board that we have with our racing partners, but Ford is a company founded based on motorsports with Henry Ford (winning a race in 1901) and ultimately forming the company over 100 years ago. It’s part of who we are today, so we’re here to be in motorsports. We’re committed to motorsports.”
“The season is going really well so far,” Rushbrook said. “Certainly the four races before the break that we had with our two wins out of those four races and just continuing that momentum even a little bit better for our win percentage since we’ve returned from that break.”
2. Missing practice
Although racing without practice appeases some fans, it creates challenges for some teams.
Chris Buescher, who is in his first season back at Roush Fenway Racing and has a new crew chief in Luke Lambert, said the lack of practice has impacted his team.
Buescher said the team knew “that it was going to be very difficult to start up coming back to a new team with a new crew chief and not having the ability to do any testing, and then after just four races taking away all of our practice.
“That’s made it extremely difficult for us as a team trying to build chemistry and come together, so we’ve been put at a pretty serious disadvantage, and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do in the last several weeks. We’ve made some huge gains that are really helping us be able to be more competitive.”
Buescher opened the season by scoring four consecutive top-20 finishes, which included a third-place result in the Daytona 500. Those races featured practice.
When the sport resumed in May after a 71-day pause because of the coronavirus pandemic, practices were eliminated. In the nine races since, Buescher has three top-20 finishes, including a sixth-place finish Monday at Talladega.
Cup teams are not scheduled to practice at upcoming races at Pocono, Indianapolis, Kentucky, the All-Star Race at Bristol and Kansas. Weekend schedules for upcoming races at Texas and New Hampshire have not been revealed.
With 13 races left until the playoffs begin in September, Buescher and his team will need to show better results despite not having any practice time.
“I feel like we should be stepping our game up every week going forward right now,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten a lot of the elementary stuff behind us that we had to learn as a group and being new with Luke Lambert leading the charge for the 17 group, for me not being able to go into the shop and be a lot more hands-on with everything has been very difficult.
“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and pride myself in being able to know exactly what’s underneath our race cars, what’s going into it and how we’re going to be better. With this distance, it’s just made it difficult, so where we’re at we definitely have a chance to make (the playoffs) still. We just have to clean up. We have to keep progressing in what we’ve been able to do the last couple of weeks.”
3. Looking ahead
While Cup races Saturday and Sunday at Pocono Raceway, it is not expected to be the only doubleheader weekend this season for the series.
NASCAR has not announced its schedule beyond Aug. 2 but Michigan International Speedway and Dover International Speedway are expected to host doubleheaders after both tracks had earlier races postponed by the pandemic.
Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, said this week that he would be concerned most about engines at Dover.
“I’m a little bit more nervous about a doubleheader at Dover than the other tracks,” Yates said. “Dover is a long race no matter what and it’s also a race where on a green track you turn a lot of RPMs and as the lap times fall off, the RPM comes way down, so when we go there to qualify or when we used to qualify we would turn 9500 RPM on Friday in qualifying, but during the race you’re about 9000 RPM, so it’s a big swing. Conditions change a lot, so I think Dover is the one that makes me nervous and obviously we’ll do our homework and prepare, but just something to look out for and it is a different track.”
As for running two races this weekend at Pocono and the impact on engines? Yates said it shouldn’t be a problem.
“When Pocono was originally laid out, we were going to have practice and qualifying and then two 350-mile races, which would have put us over 700 (miles),” Yates said. “… So if we were to go over 700 miles, we would need to change springs after Race 1 before the second race. Now that we’re not going to have practice or qualifying, we’re going to run both races without changing valve springs. We’ve made a pretty extensive checklist, so we’ll probably end up changing oil and checking the filters, going back through some things that you would normally do after a race event.”
4. More of the same?
Drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing have combined to win each of the last five Pocono races.
In the last six Pocono races, Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have five wins, 11 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. They’ve also combined to lead 51% of all the laps run in those races. Joe Gibbs Racing has 14 career wins at Pocono. The only track JGR has won more races at is Richmond. JGR has 16 Cup victories there.
5. Leading the way …
Ryan Blaney has scored the most points in Cup since the series resumed in May. He has scored 342 points, collecting one win and six top-five finishes in those nine races. After Blaney in points scored since the season resumed is Martin Truex Jr. (328 points), Kevin Harvick (326), Brad Keselowski (323) and Denny Hamlin (317).
Although Toyota has won four of 12 Cup races this season, including the past two, the president of Toyota Racing Development used the words “embarrassing,” “dog crap” and “unacceptable” in discussing a recent race, and performance this season.
A third of the way through the Cup season, Toyota has not shown the strength it did last year in winning 19 of 36 points races and the championship.
David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development said this week that the manufacture’s advantage has declined.
“It’s not that we’ve fallen behind as much as they’ve caught up, and there’s no question that that new Chevrolet Camaro and the nose that is on that car has elevated their program,” Wilson said. “The fact that they’re only sitting on two wins right now is shocking to me. I always look at not necessarily the wins, but the potential, what is the true potential of your race cars and that being a function of raw speed. You could argue that we’re punching above our weight right now and they’re not running at their full potential.”
Wilson said even with wins in the last two Cup races, that’s not satisfying because of the performance of the Toyota cars.
“Coming off two wins, I still think we’re on our back foot a little bit,” he said. “In many respects I feel much better about our loss at Atlanta than our win at Martinsville. … The reason I say that is because at Atlanta we had three cars in the top five, we led laps, we had a couple of cars that were good enough to win that race.
“In Martinsville, we embarrassed ourselves. This is one of the most embarrassing races I can remember for the Toyota family. We weren’t ready for the new tire that Goodyear brought to the racetrack. There’s circumstances behind it, but I’m not going to make excuses for it. We weren’t prepared for it.
“Our engine drivability was terrible. On pit lane and restarts. We could have had our worst finish since 2007 had it not been for Martin (Truex Jr.)hanging on long enough to get the car balanced correctly for the tires and putting himself, ultimately, in a position to win the race.
“I was encouraged at what we saw at (last weekend) Homestead. Where we need to be better is our consistency of how we unload from the haulers across the camp. We’ve had too many guys that are just dog crap for the first stage and use that time to try and catch up. That’s unacceptable. We should be better with the tools that we have, with the experience that we have, we should be better.
“There’s definitely room for improvement. Having said all of that, within our camp, within the JGR camp, we’re still positive because we know that our potential is there to lead laps and win races if we execute consistently on pit lane, if we do a better job with our sim, we will be in a position to win more races.”
Toyota is aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing, Leavine Family Family and Gaunt Brothers Racing. The drivers for JGR and Leavine all have scored significantly fewer points in the first stage compared to the second stage, illustrating Wilson’s frustration with how the teams begin the race.
Erik Jones has scored 12.5% of all his stage points in the first stage. Reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch has scored 29.6% of all his stage points in the first stage. Martin Truex Jr. has scored 37.8% of all his stage points in the first stage. Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin has scored 41.6% of all his stage points in the first stage.
To compare, Chase Elliott, who has a series-best 141 stage points this season, has scored 51.8% of all his stage points in the first stage. Joey Logano, who is tied with Truex for second with 127 stage points, has scored 49.6% of all his stage points in the first stage.
Among manufacturers, Fords have won six of the season’s first 12 races and Chevrolet has won twice this season.
Even if Toyota went on to win 12 Cup races this season, based on its current pace, it would be its fewest wins in a season since 2014. Toyota has averaged 15.6 Cup wins a season since 2015.
2. Looking ahead to 2021
With the Next Gen car’s debut pushed back to 2022, the sport will have an additional year with the current rules. That also means an additional year with a similar workforce. With the move to the Next Gen car, teams are expected to reduce their workforce because of limits on the cars.
Now, teams will keep a similar workforce through next year while finding sponsorship at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the economy.
David Wilson, president of the Toyota Racing Development, said next year will be among the key points discussed in a meeting among the manufacturers with NASCAR next week.
“Part of the agenda is going to be looking at ’21 and how do we as an industry help our teams bridge one more year that wasn’t in the plan,” Wilson said. “We already have enough teams in trouble and on the brink. The focus needs to be not selfishly on us as individual (manufacturers) but on the industry as a whole.”
Among the changes is a reduction in the throttle body from 59/64” to57/64” that is expected to reduce horsepower by 35-40. That would put teams around 510-515 horsepower this weekend.
NASCAR also has eliminated the aero ducts to help reduce the likelihood of tandem drafting.
One change not made was to the spoiler. John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president of innovation and racing development, explained why such a change wasn’t made.
“Certainly spoiler changes were looked at,” Probst told reporters this week. “… The items that were under consideration were largely centered around slowing (cars) down, which would usually mean a bigger spoiler.
The spoiler that we have on there now is as tall as we can get them without putting significant bending … on the deck lid to the point at which we’d be worried structurally.From that standpoint, getting larger wasn’t really a good option. The more direct knob for us to turn to slow the cars down is directly to the horsepower.”
Another change is the addition of slip tape to the rear bumper. The contact from Ryan Blaney‘s car to the rear of Newman’s car triggered Newman’s crash.
“We’re trying to make the rear bumper of the car being hit like ice, where they slide across, don’t contact and start influencing the car in front laterally, left to right, if you will,” Probst said.
4. COVID-19 protocols
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, was asked this week if the sport has had anyone test positive for the coronavirus and about the status of protocols NASCAR has in place for each race weekend.
“Everything has been going, actually, remarkably smooth, in terms of the protocols that have been set in place,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve certainly had some folks who may have presented some symptoms that we’ve turned away early. That’s up to them to disclose if there were any issues in terms of did someone have COVID or not, but I would say (the protocols have) worked 100% according to plan.
“We’ve not had challenges during an event where anything has come up where we’ve had to react during the hours that the garage was open. It’s been if there were any issues prior to someone entering the facility, which have been very minimal.
“We expect there will be some challenges. We need to continue to do our due diligence. We need to continue to wear our masks. We need to continue to follow the protocols.”
5. Leader of the pack
Team Penske has won seven of the last 11 Cup races at Talladega Superspeedway, a 63.6% winning percentage.
Brad Keselowski has won four times during that stretch. Joey Logano has three wins during that time, and Ryan Blaney won last year’s playoff race.
Gordon led the first lap of overtime, but Logano was side-by-side with him as they took the white flag.
By the time they reached Turn 1, the lead was Logano’s.
One lap later, Logano had his fourth career win. He was the seventh different winner through seven races.
Two races later Logano would claim career win No. 5 at Richmond Raceway. He’d end the year with five wins and would be part of the first Championship 4 in Miami.
Also on this date:
1957: Fireball Roberts led a 1-2-3-4 sweep by Peter DePaolo’s team in a 100-mile race at North Wilkesboro. Roberts won over Paul Goldsmith, Ralph Moody and Marvin Panch. It was the first of three wins in a row for Roberts.
1974: David Pearson won the Rebel 450 at Darlington over Bobby Allison. Similar to many races that year, the race distance was cut by 50 miles due to the national energy crisis. Ironically, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era,” Pearson led the final 11 laps and had to coast across the finish line after running out of fuel.
1991: Michael Waltrip led 208 of 367 laps at Darlington before a 37.4-second pit stop due to a jammed air hose relegated him to an eventual third-place finish, according to “NASCAR: A Complete History.” Ricky Rudd wound up with the win over Davey Allison.
How NASCAR and racing community are helping during COVID-19 fight
* NASCAR’s Research and Technology Center in Concord, North Carolina has shifted from building parts and working on the Next Gen car to producing face shields.
According to the AP report, NASCAR has a team of eight engineers volunteering their time to keep five 3D printers operating nearly 18 hours per day to produce protective face shields for health care workers. The largest printer is capable of producing three shields every 2 ½ hours.
“That’s the one we try to keep running almost nonstop,” Eric Jacuzzi, senior director of NASCAR’s aerodynamics and vehicle performance, told the AP. “You are sitting around watching the news and you think, ‘We just put this big, beautiful new machine in, let’s see what we can do and use it for something good.’”
NASCAR is donating all shields it produces to health care facilities and workers. It is also working with North Carolina State University as consultants to help hospitals with their own 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment, according to the AP report.
* Ford is embarking this week on a project to build as many as 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days, according to the AP. The company has also lent a team of engineers and is providing facilities and equipment to help 3M build respirators.
Todd Hoevener, Ford Director of Technology, Strategy and Planning, told SiriusXM NASCAR on the “Happy Hours” program Wednesday afternoon, “This week we are ramping up to be able to ship one million (face shields) by the end of the week.”
* Chevrolet’s parent company, General Motors, is working with Ventic Life Systems to produce more than 50,000 face masks daily, as well as is ramping up production to build 10,000 ventilators per month, according to the AP.
* Toyota is also producing face shields and working to manufacturer ventilators, as well, according to the AP.
* NASCAR Cup driver Brad Keselowski’s company, Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing, is using 3D printers and CNC machines to build face shields.
* Roush Fenway Racing has donated 1.5 cases of N95 masks to Lake Norman Regional Medical Center and donated shields and safety glasses elsewhere. The team told the AP it is producing aerosol boxes that “protect medical professionals as they treat COVID-19 patients.” In addition, parent company Roush Industries is working on developing other personal protective equipment.
* Hendrick Motorsports has redirected some of its manufacturing resources to produce face shields for healthcare workers. Other NASCAR teams that have donated masks or other supplies include Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and JR Motorsports.
* IMSA team CORE Autosport told the AP it has produced and sold several thousand face masks for health care professionals.
* Technique Inc., which produces chassis kits for NASCAR teams, has repurposed its Jackson, Michigan factory – just a few miles from Michigan International Speedway – and expects to increase production to 20,000 face shields by the end of this week, according to the AP.
* The largest team in NHRA drag racing, Don Schumacher Racing, is using its two 3D printers non-stop to build headbands that attach to face shields, the AP reported.