Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400
Pocono Raceway Distance: 400 miles (160 Laps)
Sunday, June 3 2 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 50), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)
NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono Green 250
Pocono Raceway Distance: 250 miles (100 laps)
Saturday, June 2 1 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 100)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rattlesnake 400
Texas Motor Speedway Distance: 250.5 miles (167 laps)
Friday, June 8 9 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 167)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Kyle Busch Looking for Another Win Streak
Fresh off a career day at Charlotte Motor Speedway, last week’s race winner Kyle Busch returns to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 400 (on Sunday, June 3 at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) hoping to ride the wave of success. As his did in Charlotte on Sunday night, Busch picked up his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at the Pocono 2.5-miler last July – his only win in 26 starts at the track. It was a strong showing, however, with Busch winning from the Busch Pole position – a place he started at both Pocono races in 2017. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota has been finishing nearly as well as he starts at Pocono. He has three Busch pole awards (August 2015 was the other) and four top-10 finishes in the last six Pocono races, including the last three-straight. He led 100 laps in this race last year and finished ninth. He led 74 laps in the second Pocono race later in the summer en route to his first victory at the track.
Harvick Is Right Back At It
Although Kevin Harvick’s two-race winning streak was rather abruptly halted Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a last-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600, he can arrive at Pocono Raceway feeling hopeful. Harvick has yet to visit Victory Lane at the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” and is 0-for-34 there. He has led laps in only five of the last 15 races (63 total laps). However, last season was a sign that his fortune may be changing.
He was runner-up in both races (to Ryan Blaney and to Kyle Busch) and has posted four second-place finishes among six top-10s in the last seven races at Pocono. His overall average finish since 2005 – despite not visiting Victory Lane – is 10.5, trailing only Erik Jones’ 5.5 average finish.
Quiet Success for Logano
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano is keeping a stealth eye on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings. He is second to Charlotte winner Kyle Busch by 67 points, which isn’t too shabby considering Busch has four wins to Logano’s one. And Logano’s 10 top-10 finishes equals the outstanding top-10 production of both Busch and five-time season winner Kevin Harvick. He has three top-five finishes in the last five races, including the Talladega victory, and he’s led laps in all but three of the season’s 13 races. It all should make an encouraging outlook at Pocono for Logano, who won this race in 2012 from the Busch Pole position. But, he’ll have to turn around a recent string of poor finishes at Pocono to come out on top. Despite five top-10s in the last eight races there, his most recent three starts netted finishes of 37th, 23rd and 27th.
Fond Memories for Hamlin
The “Tricky Triangle” as Pocono is lovingly known, has been one of the most productive venues for Denny Hamlin, who won the first two Pocono starts of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, sweeping the 2006 season races as a 25-year-old rookie. And of note – both of those wins came from the Busch Pole position. He scored another set of back-to-back victories while winning the second Pocono race of 2009 and the first of 2010. More recently, he has five top-10s in his last eight starts at the track. It bodes well for Hamlin, who is one of five drivers ranked among the top 10 in points without a victory in 2018. Third place is the best showing for Hamlin this season and he’s done it three times (Daytona, Richmond, and this past Sunday night at Charlotte). He has four top-10 finishes in the last five races and has led laps in 10 of the season’s 13 races to date. His eight top-five finishes are second only to Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick who all have 10.“We’re just third or fourth best every week,’’ the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota said Sunday night after his third-place finish at Charlotte. “That’s frustrating, but it could be 35 spots worse.” “We’re either really good or we’re average at best. We need to get a little bit better. I think the 78 (Truex), the 4 (Harvick) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) are all a little bit faster than us and we’re just kind of right there next in line.’’
Kurt Busch is Heating Up
Pocono may just be the venue that Kurt Busch uses to automatically punch his ticket to NASCAR’s Playoffs. The former series champion has three wins and two Busch Pole Awards there. And he has three top-five finishes — including a 2016 victory – in his last six Pocono races. Busch has looked impressive this year in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford and takes a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes into Pocono this weekend. He has seven top-10s through the season’s 13 races and is ranked sixth in the points standings – and his three Stewart-Haas teammates join him in the championship top-10. Kevin Harvick is third, Clint Bowyer is eighth and Aric Almirola in 10th.
Pocono Could Be the One for Erik Jones
Granted it’s based on only two starts, but second-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones has already put up impressive numbers at Pocono Raceway – enough to statistically make him the top-rated driver in several key loop data categories (which includes races since 2005). Jones finished third in his Monster Energy Series debut at this race last June – his first career Cup top five – and answered with an eighth-place finish later in the summer. So, his 5.5 average finish and 8.312 average running position help boost his driver rating to a 106.5, the series-best. And while two races are not enough of a sample size to properly compare with those who have been racing at Pocono for a dozen years, it does provide plenty of optimism for his visit this weekend.
He ran 290 of the two races’ 320 laps in the top-15 and led laps in both races. His 20 laps out front in this race last year was his second-highest total of laps led his rookie season, second to an impressive 260 laps out front and a runner-up finish at Bristol in the fall. Jones has five top 10s through the first 13 races of 2018 in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota and led a season-high 64 laps before posting a season-best finish of fourth at Texas Motor Speedway last month. He’s ranked 13th in the points standings – well within the early-look top-16 threshold for qualifying for the Playoffs.
Sunoco Rookie Runs
Pocono Raceway is a significant venue for one of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ high-profile Sunoco rookies, Bubba Wallace. This is where Wallace made his series debut last year (finishing 26th), filling in for the injured Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports car he now drives full-time. Wallace is in a tight Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle with Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, whose tough-luck day at Charlotte (he finished 39th after being involved in an incident) helped significantly tighten the points standings between them. Wallace, who finished 16th at Charlotte, has one top-five effort – a runner-up finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 – and is ranked 23rd in the standings. Byron, who has one top-10 and three DNFs in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, is ranked 22nd – a slim two points ahead of Wallace.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Aero Package Highlights Return To Pocono Raceway
Pocono Raceway has been a 2.5-mile track since 1971, but it wasn’t until recently (2016) that the NASCAR Xfinity Series started competing at the famous triangular-shaped facility. In the series’ third trip to the “Tricky Triangle” this weekend, fans and media alike will have the opportunity to see some action-packed, close racing as the aero package that incorporates the enlarged splitter and spoiler, specially designed air ducts and restrictor plates will be used in the Pocono Green “250” Recycled by JP Mascaro & Sons on June 2 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
This specific aero package hasn’t been used in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since last season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where it set track records in green flag passes for the lead (29) and lead changes (16).
Kyle Larson took home the checkered flag in the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono Raceway in 2016, a race that saw three green flag passes for the lead and six total lead changes. Then last season, Brad Keselowski grabbed the win in an event with 10 green flag passes for the lead and 12 lead changes.
With 10 different drivers winning the first 11 races of this season, another new winner could again be on the horizon. Three drivers in the top five of the series championship driver points – standings leader Elliott Sadler, fourth place Daniel Hemric and fifth place Cole Custer – are all still looking for their first win of 2018. Of the top five in championship points, the same three are the only ones with previous experience at Pocono – average finishes: Sadler (5.0), Custer (7.0), Hemric (9.0). Sunoco Rookies Christopher Bell (second in the driver standings) and Tyler Reddick (third in the driver standings) will be making their series debuts at Pocono this weekend.
A Look At The Top Five In Points Nearing Halfway Of The Regular Season
Nearing the halfway point of the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, the top five drivers in the title hunt are all still within 62 points of the standings lead, making the regular season championship and the 15 Playoff points that go with it still anyone’s to win. Here is a quick look at the top five in points and their accomplishments this season:
Elliott Sadler – No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – is the current standings leader with a 48-point lead over second place Christopher Bell. Sadler has held the points lead following all but two races thus far this season. In 11 starts in 2018, Sadler has posted nine top fives and 11 top 10s. He also has produced a series-leading 4.6 average finish this season and won three stages, accumulating three Playoff points. Coming into this weekend, Sadler has made both previous series starts at Pocono, posting one top five, two top 10s and an average finish of 5.0. Sadler is looking to end a winless streak that has reached 51 consecutive races, dating back to Kentucky in 2016.
Christopher Bell – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry – resides in second in the series driver standings, 48 points behind Elliott Sadler in the points lead, and a mere seven points ahead of third-place Tyler Reddick. Bell and the No. 20 JGR team were dinged with a 10-point penalty following Charlotte, but were able to hold onto second in the standings. In 11 starts this season, Bell has amassed three poles, one win (Richmond), seven top fives and an average finish of 10.9. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender has also accumulated seven Playoff points this season – five from his win at Richmond and two more from stage wins. This weekend will be a challenge for Bell, as it will be his debut in this aero package and his series track debut at Pocono Raceway.
Tyler Reddick – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – currently hangs on to third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship standings, just seven points behind second-place Christopher Bell and just two points ahead of fourth-place Daniel Hemric. Reddick kicked the season off with a big win at Daytona and since has been trying to navigate the steep learning curve a title hunt in your rookie season can throw at you. In 11 starts this season, Reddick has posted one win (Daytona), two top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 11.1. This weekend will be Reddick’s series track debut at Pocono Raceway, but he is not a stranger to the new aero package as he competed at Indianapolis last season for Chip Ganassi Racing – he started 18th but finished 37th after being caught in an incident.
Daniel Hemric – No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro – sits fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings two points back from Tyler Reddick in third and five points ahead of fifth-place Cole Custer. After a slow start to the season, Hemric has found his stride in the title hunt. In 11 starts this season, Hemric has produced two poles, four top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 11.1. Hemric has also won two stages, accumulating two Playoff points. He made series track debut at Pocono last season, starting second and finishing ninth. He also competed at Indianapolis last season in the aero package that will be run this weekend, posting an eighth-place finish.
Cole Custer – No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang – rounds out the top five in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, five points behind fourth-place Daniel Hemric and 15 points ahead of sixth-place Justin Allgaier. Custer’s talent is continuing to blossom before our eyes. In 11 starts this season, he has posted two poles, two top fives and eight top 10s (second-most this season behind Elliott Sadler’s 11). His average finish this season is 10.7. Custer made his series track debut at Pocono last season; starting third and finishing seventh. He also competed at Indianapolis last season, posting a top five in the aero package that will be run this weekend at Pocono.
Paul Menard To Debut In The Team Penske No. 22
Paul Menard will race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend at Pocono riding in the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske. He last drove in a Xfinity contest in 2017 and registered three top-10 finishes in seven starts, including a second-place showing at Indianapolis. Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford is currently second in the Xfinity Series owner standings. It trails first-place Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota team by 67 points through the first 11 races of the season. The No. 22 has reached Victory Lane four times this season with three different drivers: Brad Keselowski (Phoenix, Charlotte), Joey Logano (Auto Club) and Ryan Blaney (Texas). Menard claims three career Xfinity Series victories. His last win came at Road America in 2015.
Fast And Furious: Grala Places 10th In Debut With Fury Race Cars
Eleven days ago, promising 19-year-old NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Kaz Grala was left without a ride after his JGL Racing Team shut down operations. Luckily for Grala, Fury Race Cars stepped in. Prior to last weekend, Fury Race Cars had only competed in the Late Model and Modified divisions of NASCAR in its first two years of existence. Grala didn’t disappoint the upstart organization in its series debut, placing 10th in Saturday’s Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was the second top-10 finish of the season for the Massachusetts native, who sits 16th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings. “Our debut performance at Charlotte is going to be hard to follow up, but that’s not stopping anyone here at Fury Race Cars from working hard to get even better. I can’t wait to see how it goes,” said Grala. The Sunoco Rookie of Year contender is scheduled to run the next three series contests for Fury Race Cars, and this weekend will be his series track debut at Pocono Raceway. “I love going to Pocono because it’s one of the quirkiest tracks on the circuit. I’ve done two races there before in ARCA and Trucks, with a pole in the ARCA race,” said Grala. “With our aero package this weekend, however, I’m not sure how much prior experience is going to matter. Nobody knows exactly what to expect or what kind of racing style we will see on Saturday, so I have to be prepared for anything.”
Playoff Bubble Update: Cindric Clutches On To Final Spot
Nearing the halfway point of the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season the competitive intensity is rising as several drivers need to better position themselves if they want a shot at the postseason. Currently Austin Cindric, who has split seat time between Roush Fenway Racing and Team Penske this season, holds the 12th and final Playoff spot in the series; just 19 points ahead of 13th-place Michael Annett and 21 points ahead of 14th-place Ross Chastain – both of whom made the Playoffs last season.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Monsters Invade Pocono – This weekend just three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be competing at Pocono Raceway – Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), Paul Menard (No. 22 Ford) and Chase Elliott (No. 23 Chevrolet). Busch, the series leader in wins (91), is looking to add to his record total with a win this weekend; he finished fourth in this event in 2016.
Lots Of Series Track Debuts This Weekend – Experience will be at a premium come Saturday in the Pocono Green “250” Recycled by JP Mascaro & Sons at Pocono Raceway on June 2 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio as 15 of 41 drivers entered will be making their NASCAR Xfinity Series track debut.
Pocono Inks Multi-Year Deal With JP Mascaro & Sons – Pocono Raceway announced this month a multi-year partnership with J. P. Mascaro & Sons under which the June 2 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at ‘The Tricky Triangle’ has been named the Pocono Green 250 Recycled by J. P. Mascaro & Sons. Also, as part of this partnership, J.P. Mascaro & Sons will serve as at the ‘Official Waste Services and Recycling Provider of Pocono Raceway.’
“Being a family business ourselves, we welcome the opportunity to partner with J. P. Mascaro & Sons, a third-generation family-owned and operated business that is an industry leader in waste service and recycling solutions,” said Pocono Raceway’s President, Ben May.
Tickets to the Pocono Green 250 Recycled by J. P. Mascaro & Sons are available starting at $25.00 for adults and free for kids, ages 12 and under. For tickets and more information, visit www.poconoraceway.com/tickets.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Johnny Sauter Seeks Fourth Victory in Texas
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has another weekend off before they hit the road to Texas Motor Speedway for the Rattlesnake 400 on Friday, June 8 (at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Johnny Sauter is having a career-season with three wins so far in 2018 (Daytona, Dover and Charlotte). Sauter’s victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway marked his first at the track and 20th career series win. It was also his 10th win with GMS Racing since joining the team in 2016. Sauter now has 20 consecutive top-10 finishes at 1.5-mile tracks. The last time the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series went to Texas, Sauter took home the victory. He’s been a strong contender at the speedway, having visited it 19 times. He has four wins at the track, nine top fives, 15 top 10s and three poles. Could Sauter go back-to-back and win not only two races in a row but two in a row at Texas? Quite possibly. Sauter has won two races in a consecutively three times in his career – 2013, 2016 and 2017. It should be noted that of his 20 career wins, Sauter has won the most at Texas with four followed by three each at Martinsville and Daytona.
Sauter Racing to History
Sauter has become the sixth different driver in series history to post three or more wins (Daytona, Dover and Charlotte) in the first seven races of the season; joining Kyle Busch (four wins: 2014, 2011), Matt Crafton (three wins: 2015), Mike Skinner (three wins: 2007, 1996, 1995), Ron Hornaday Jr. (three wins: 1995) and Ted Musgrave (three wins: 2001). If Sauter wins at Texas, he will be the third driver in series history to post four or more wins in the first eight races of the season. Kyle Busch and Mike Skinner are the only other drivers to ever do that.
In 1995, Mike Skinner won eight of the 20 series races and captured the championship. Like Sauter, he won three of the first seven races (and went on to win four of the first eight races). None of the other drivers went on to win the championship after posting three or more wins in the first seven races of the season.
Looking ahead to Texas, Sauter has visited Fort Worth 19 times in his career and has been very successful. Matt Crafton is the only driver who has visited the track more than Sauter with 34 trips to the 1.5-mile oval. So far this season, Sauter hasn’t started outside of the top ten and has finished in the top five in every race except for Martinsville, where he finished 19th. Since the second race at Martinsville last year, Sauter has run in ten races total and hasn’t finished outside of the top-five in any of them except Martinsville this spring. Of those ten races, he won five
Texas Motor Speedway Trends
Looking back at some of the interesting trends coming out of Texas Motor Speedway, from 2014 to 2017 the eventual series champion won at the track each year. Matt Crafton won at Texas in 2014 and went ahead to win the championship. In 2015 Erik Jones did the same, followed by Johnny Sauter in 2016 and Christopher Bell in 2017.
Before 2014, this happened four times. In 2010 and 2006 for Todd Bodine, in 2001 for Jack Sprague and in 2000 for Greg Biffle.
Could this track be a helpful hint when foreshadowing the next champion?
There are only four active drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series who have won a race at Texas Motor Speedway – Kyle Busch, Matt Crafton, Travis Kvapil and Johnny Sauter.
Crafton Craves a Win
Matt Crafton is still struggling to get his first win of the year. His most recent win was last season at Eldora, which was also his only win of the season. The veteran rules on 1.5-mile tracks in the past but has not had any success so far this year. He has visited Texas 34 times, the most of any driver in the series, but only has two wins at the track. However, he has 13 top fives and 23 top 10s under his belt to go with those two wins (2014 and 2015). Crafton has only finished outside of the top-10 in 11 of his 34 starts at Texas. Since the second race at Texas in 2013, he has placed in the top five eight times. He led the most laps of his career at Texas in 2016 with 133, a race in which he finished second. The last time Crafton finished a season without winning a race was in 2012, although there are still 16 races left in the season for him to fight back. Right now, Crafton sits in sixth place in the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings down 92 points from the standings lead.
Ford has yet to win a race yet this season. So far, Chevrolet leads with four wins and 263 points and Toyota is behind them with 3 wins and 253 points. Ford has accumulated 228 points, putting the manufacturer in third place.
Heading into Texas Motor Speedway, a Ford has only three victories at the track and the last one was in 2000. Since then, Chevrolet and Toyota have dominated the track.
From 2014 to the first race at Texas in 2016, a Toyota has won five times. The second race at Texas in 2016 was won by a Chevrolet and the same thing happened in 2017.
Texas Motor Speedway Quick Facts
Oval: 1.5 miles
Width: 58 feet (minimum)
Turns: 750-foot radius
Banking: 20 degrees in Turns 1 and 2, 24 degrees in Turns 3 and 4, five degrees in straightaways
Frontstretch: 2,250 feet long
Backstretch: 1,330 feet long
Fastest Race: 158.002 mph/1 hr., 23 mins., 44 sec. – Erik Jones (2015)
Slowest Race: 109.988 mph/2 hr., 20 min., 44 sec. – Ron Hornaday Jr. (2008)
Qualifying Record: 185.134 mph/29.168 sec. – Noah Gragson (2017)
Closest Winning Margin: 0.116 of a second (Tom Bodine over Mike Skinner, 2006)
Largest Winning Margin: 13.302 seconds (Matt Crafton over Justin Lofton, 2014)
Winner’s Best Starting Position: 1st – Jay Sauter (1999), Greg Biffle (2000), Bryan Reffner (2000), Clint Bowyer (2006), Todd Bodine (2007)
Winner’s Furthest Starting Position: 22nd – Todd Bodine (2004)
Most Laps Led by Winner: 140 – Ron Hornaday Jr. (2008)
Most Laps Led by Non-Race Winner: 133 – Matt Crafton (2016)
Fewest Laps Led by Winner: 1 – Todd Bodine (2006)
Youngest Winner: William Byron, 18 years, 6 months, 13 days (2016)
Oldest Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr., 52 years, 11 months, 21 days (2011)
Most Lead Changes: 19 (2011, 2015)
Most Leaders: 11 (2011)
Fewest Lead Changes: 1 (1997)
Fewest Leaders: 2 (1997, 2006)
Most Cautions: 10 (2011, 2017)
Most Caution Laps: 46 (1998, 2011)
Fewest Cautions: 1 (2015)
Fewest Caution Laps: 5 (2015)
Most Cars Finishing on Lead Lap: 24 (2005)
Fewest Cars Finishing on Lead Lap: 6 (2000, 2002, 2007)
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR