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ADAM ANSELL'S TOP 25 FOR POCONO
1. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has won the past two Pocono events, a site that has been very good to him since he joined the Sprint Cup Series. In nine starts, he has four wins (swept 2006), six Top Fives, seven Top 10s and two poles (both in '06). He has an Average Finish of 8.6. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Hamlin leads all competitors in Driver Rating (119.1), Average Running Position (9.3), Laps Led (479), Fastest Laps Run (328) and Fastest Green Flag Speed (159.505 mph). Hamlin is battling Jimmie Johnson for the top spot in the Chase standings. Both are tied with five wins this season and as of now, one point separates them in the Series standings. Both stars in a dead heat and with just six races left until the Chase, wins are at a premium. This week, Hamlin gets the edge.
2. Tony Stewart: Stewart captured another Top Five last week at the Brickyard 400, his fourth in his last seven Cup starts. Over his past 10 starts at Pocono, he has one win (June 2009), five Top Fives and nine Top 10s with an Average Finish of eighth. Overall he has two wins (June 2003), eight Top Fives and 17 Top 10s. He ranks fourth in DR (101.4) and fifth in ARP (11.5). "Smoke" leads all drivers with 1,612 Laps in the Top 15. If the Chase were to begin today, he would remain in his current position of ninth, but because only five drivers currently in the Top 12 have a win. A victory at Pocono would reshuffle Stewart up to sixth. You can bet that will be on his mind Sunday afternoon.
3. Kyle Busch: In 11 starts at the site, Busch has two Top Fives and three Top 10s, but those figures only tell half the story. In five starts at Pocono prior to the June event, Busch had an Average Finish of 26th including a dead last performance in 2008. But after a few words of wisdom from teammate and Pocono master Hamlin, Busch won the pole, led 32 laps and finished second in the spring event. He ranks just 15th in DR (83.1) and ARP (16.2). As for the three-way log jam for third in the Chase standings, Busch is on the outside looking in at Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, both ahead of him in the points standings. With his spot in the Chase secure, and no drivers threatening to catch the trio in wins (two each), Busch has the luxury of going all out for the Checkered Flag.
4. Kevin Harvick: Harvick doesn't have the historical success at Pocono as some of his closest competition - just three Top Fives and six Top 10s in 19 starts. He ranks 11th in DR (90.1) and 12th in ARP (14.6). But he's got the momentum with one win and four Top Fives in his last five Cup starts. In those four finishes, he has an Average Finish of 2.8, a DR of 109.7 and an ARP of 8.8. He's also coming off his best performance at Pocono in the June event, where he finished fourth and led five laps, his first time ever leading at the site. And most importantly, his spot in the Chase is secure meaning he will press for that all meaningful third win.
5. Kurt Busch: Although his sixth-place finish in the June event was a bit lucky, as he held an ARP of 22.2 that day due to an early penalty, history speaks for itself. In 19 starts at Pocono, Busch has two wins (2005, 2007), seven Top Fives and 10 Top 10s. He's led at least two laps in nine of his past 11 starts at the site. He also qualifies extremely well, starting in the Top Four in four of the past six Pocono events. He ranks second in DR (103.7) and seventh in ARP (11.6). Since his win at Charlotte, he's been quietly consistent, with two Top Fives and five Top 10s. With his spot in the Chase safe as well, Busch is another driver this weekend that'll bring an all-or-nothing attitude to the track.
6. Jimmie Johnson: The typically consistent Johnson has been more of a feast-or-famine type driver this season than we're used to. In his last three Cup starts, he has an Average Start of second, but an Average Finish of 26th. In his two starts prior to that, Johnson won at both Infineon Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. While he has led at least one lap in each of those five events, he's just not looking like the four-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion. In 17 starts at the site, he has two wins (swept 2004), six Top Fives, 11 Top 10s and two poles. Johnson ranks second in DR (103.7) and in ARP (10.9). He's led at least 22 laps in four of his past five starts at Pocono. He broke out of his first three-race slump of 2010 in the June event at Pocono. Don't be surprised if he does it again this weekend.
7. Carl Edwards: Since his latest Nationwide Series run-in with Brad Keselowski, the clean-cut Edwards has taken on a bit of an edge. The thing is its working. In his last three Cup starts, Edwards has finished in sixth, second and seventh, leading at least one lap in two of the events. In 11 starts at Pocono, Edwards has two wins (2005, 2008), four Top Fives and five Top 10s. His wins came from the 29th and 15th starting positions, so don't worry about where qualifies. He ranks fifth in DR (98.5) and 13th in ARP (15.1). Edwards will be extremely undervalued in Tiered/Grouping formats, and is running as hot as he has since his monster 2008 season.
8. Jeff Gordon: Gordon is the guy with the most to lose between now and the Chase. He ranks second in the Sprint Cup standings but with zero wins recorded this season he's in line to be reseeded down to sixth. Adding more pressure is the fact that if any one of the six drivers in the Chase without a win collects one Gordon would be pushed further down the ladder. In 35 starts at Pocono, Gordon has four wins (last was 2007), 16 Top Fives, 24 Top 10s and two poles. He ranks sixth in DR (96.1) and third in ARP (11.0). His glaring streak of one win in his last 93 Cup starts doesn't appear to have an end in sight.
9. Joey Logano: Logano has three Top 10s in his last six Cup starts. In the June event, Logano was primed for a Top Five before he was spun out. After the race, he lashed out at the man responsible, Harvick. It was uncharacteristic for the reserved Logano but good to see him show a little moxie. In three starts at Pocono he has an Average Finish of 21st. He ranks 20th in DR (74.3) and 19th in ARP (19.0). Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin also offered Logano a few pointers before the June event, and whatever he said obviously had an impact. Logano will come at the best value of the JGR drivers, and is an excellent start in Tiered/Grouping formats.
10. Kasey Kahne: With three Top Fives and four Top 10s in his last six Cup starts, Kahne is running as well as he has all season. If you scratch the DNF he put up in the June event, he has two Top Fives and three Top 10s in his past four starts at Pocono. He's also led at least 35 laps in three of his past five Pocono starts. In 13 starts at the site, Kahne has one win (2008), three Top Fives, five Top 10s and two poles. He ranks 10th in DR (92.0) and ARP (14.0). His lame duck status at Richard Petty Motorsports will not have a negative effect on how he finishes out 2010.
11. Clint Bowyer: Has led at least 23 laps in his past two Pocono starts. 78.1 DR.
12. Jeff Burton: Seven Top Fives and 16 Top 10s in 33 Pocono starts. 89.1 DR.
13. Matt Kenseth: Three Top Fives and eight Top 10s in 21 Pocono starts. 89.6 DR.
14. Mark Martin: 19 Top Fives, 32 Top 10s and three poles in 47 Pocono starts. 95.8 DR.
15. Greg Biffle: Has led at least two laps in three of his last five Pocono starts.
16. Jamie McMurray: 69.6 DR.
17. Martin Truex Jr.: 82.6.
18. David Reutimann: 64.7.
19. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 80.1.
20. Ryan Newman: 94.5.
21. Juan Pablo Montoya
22. Sam Hornish Jr.
23. AJ Allmendinger
24. Marcos Ambrose
25. Reed Sorenson
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