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|Pocono Organics 325 NASCAR Cup Series race
|Saturday, June 27, 3:30 p.m. EST
|How to watch
NASCAR is making history on Saturday and Sunday. For the first time in the sport’s history, a pair of NASCAR Cup Series races will be contested on the same weekend and at the same race track. Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325 precedes Sunday’s Pocono 350, as drivers will race on consecutive days, using the same car for both races.
Pocono is a 2.5-mile speedway, but it bears little resemblance to a conventional NASCAR oval. The triangular track features three distinctly different corners: Turn 1 modeled after now-defunct Trenton Speedway; Turn 2, nicknamed the “Tunnel Turn,” inspired by Indianapolis Motor Speedway; and Turn 3 attributed to the relatively flat Milwaukee Mile.
Saturday’s race will be contested at 325 miles (130 laps), with stage breaks scheduled at Laps 25 and 77. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin won last year’s Pocono races, which were held eight weeks apart.
|Martin Truex Jr.
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On consecutive days, Cup Series drivers will have to run a total of 675 racing miles without changing cars—or engines. The combined distance is certain to tax the equipment to the limit. And it ensures that drivers will do their utmost to protect their cars in the first of the two events.
Last Sunday’s event at Talladega Superspeedway marked the halfway point in the Cup Series’ 26-race regular season. With drivers starting to pay attention to the standings as the Playoffs approach, Pocono affords an opportunity to accumulate twice the number of points available on a typical Cup weekend.
With that in mind, you can expect a conservative approach to the first leg of the doubleheader on Saturday. Drivers will weigh carefully the risk/reward of making a move that might lead to an accident. Accordingly, the Pocono Organics 325 will favor drivers who know how to take care of their equipment, rather than drivers known for their aggression.
(Note: Drivers with wrecked cars on Saturday can go to a backup, with NASCAR’s permission, but, in that case, they must start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field.)
The Toyota camp—specifically Joe Gibbs Racing—has been almost as dominant at Pocono in recent years as the Ford drivers have been at Talladega. JGR has won the last five Cup events at the Tricky Triangle, with Kyle Busch (+500) accounting for three victories and Martin Truex Jr. (+600) and Denny Hamlin (+650) one each.
All three of those drivers will start within the top 12 on Saturday, with the first six rows filled by lot with the top 12 drivers in the series standings. That’s an important advantage at Pocono, where 10 of the last 12 Cup races have been won from starting positions within the top 10.
Hamlin boasts five victories and 18 top 10s in 28 starts at the 2.5-mile track. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota found the secret to Pocono early, winning both events at the speedway from the pole during his 2006 rookie season. No one of late has been as dominant as Busch, who has won one race at Pocono in each of the last three years.
Granted, Kevin Harvick has two victories this season. Granted, he and crew chief Rodney Childers are adept at getting the most out of their cars without the benefit of practice—the current state of affairs during NASCAR’s reopening.
And granted, Harvick has a record of remarkable consistency at Pocono Raceway, where he has finished second four times and fourth three times in the last 11 races. The one thing Harvick doesn’t have, however, is a victory.
So why is Harvick (+450) the betting favorite for Saturday’s race? Second and fourth are even numbers. In fact, Harvick has finished in an even-numbered position in 11 of the past 12 races at the Triangle. Only one problem: an even number won’t get you to Victory Lane.
Denny Hamlin (+650)—Just as there are horses for courses, there are drivers for race tracks, and Hamlin’s mastery at Pocono has lasted throughout his career. Though Kyle Busch (+500) has been the most prolific Pocono winner of late, we’ll take Hamlin at the longer odds.
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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