Pocono Raceway is one of the few independently owned tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule and hosts two events per season. Known as the Tricky Triangle, Pocono's three distinct turns are all banked differently and inspired by other race tracks: the defunct Trenton Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and The Milwaukee Mile. Finding a setup that will play well in all three turns can be a quite a challenge.
Practice session: Friday, Aug. 2, at 11:30 a.m. EDT; Saturday, Aug. 3, at 9 a.m. EDT, 11:30 a.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, Aug. 2, at 3:10 p.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, Aug. 4, at 1 p.m. EDT
Location: Long Pond, Pa.
Length: 2.5 miles
Turn 1: 14 degrees
Turn 2: 8 degrees
Turn 3: 6 degrees
Front stretch: 2 degrees
Back stretch: 2 degrees
Short stretch: 2 degrees
Drivers to keep an eye on
Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's/Disney's Planes Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Johnson rocked everyone to sleep during June's Party in the Poconos 400. He won from the pole and paced 128 of the 160 laps with a perfect average running position of first.
In the six races since, Johnson has remained on fire, finishing outside the top 10 just once, with a victory at Daytona International Speedway and a runner-up performance last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Carl Edwards | No. 99 Fastenal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Newman: steady at Pocono
Over the last four Pocono races, Edwards has recorded an average running position inside the top 10 three times. Back in June he qualified on the outside pole but had to work extra hard to finish 18th after losing a lot of spots to check on a questionable lug nut following a pit stop.
Edwards held an average running position of eighth last week at IMS but had to settle for 13th after losing out during a restart. There's been a shade of bad luck for Carl but not enough to downgrade him at Pocono.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Earnhardt turned the corner at Pocono starting in 2011. Over the last five races there he's scored four finishes inside the top 10, with a podium finish in June. During that event he was one of only two drivers to spend the entire race running in the top 15.
Earnhardt has now finished inside the top 15 in five straight races this season, including last week's sixth-place showing at IMS.
Tony Stewart | No. 14 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
Stewart has recorded three consecutive top-fives at Pocono despite some bad starting spots.
Over the last three races of the season, Smoke has two top-fives and might have gone three for three if not for running out of fuel at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Going back eight starts, Stewart has a total of five top-five finishes but finished 20th or worse the other three times.
Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Redd's Apple Ale Ford | Penske Championship Racing
The August event has been the preferred race for Keselowski when it comes to racing at Pocono. He won in 2011 and placing fourth a year ago. Back in June the No. 2 was seen holding a career-best average running position of seventh, but a late bobble by Keselowski caused him to finish just outside the top 15.
In the last three races, Keselowski has held an average running position of 12th or better each time out but has just one top-20 to show for it. The Blue Deuce will be painted red this week and poised for a makeover in the luck department as well.
Kurt Busch | No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing
Back in 2011, the older Busch brother landed on the podium after each trip to the Tricky Triangle during his final season at Penske. In the last 10 races of this season, Busch has finished inside the top 15 a total of eight times, including a seventh-place performance at Pocono.
Missteps happened at Michigan International Speedway and New Hampshire to foil promising runs from the outside pole. Busch is still a risky option but becoming more consistent as the season moves along.
Ryan Newman | No. 39 Hass Automation 30th Anniversary Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
Newman owns a streak of 11 consecutive top-15s at Pocono and finished fifth back in June.
Even though he disappointed by crashing at Loudon, Newman came right back by winning last week at Indy after capturing the pole. Such a dominating performance is unlikely this week, but the soon-to-be free-agent driver could be separating himself from the middle tier at just the right time.
Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
In a span of five races from 2009 to 2011, Hamlin recorded an average running position of sixth or better at Pocono, highlighted by a pair of wins. Hamlin hasn't run as well in the three most recent events on the Triangle; the repaving took away some of his best tricks, but he still landed a top-five and a two top-10s.
It's a lost season for the No. 11 team, but it's always worth a look on one of their preferred tracks.
Temper your expectations
Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
In the last four Pocono races, Harvick has finished 14th or worse on three occasions. Back in June he qualified a career-best fifth and finished ninth but has managed an average starting position of only 19.2 in 25 career starts.
Unless he looks sharp in practice and qualifies very well, Harvick should be passed up. He's by no means a terrible pick, but he just doesn't stack up well against fellow elite drivers.
Kasey Kahne | No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Aside from finishing as the runner-up in this race last year, Kahne hasn't managed a top-10 finish at Pocono since 2009. In June he qualified well but never got up to speed when the green flag dropped and went right back to the garage area. That type of disaster is rare but also one of several marks against Kahne's shaky resume on the Tricky Triangle.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.