Pocono has received a lot of attention by fans in recent years, but not in a good way. Many blame the odd shape of the triangle for boring, stretched out racing and lack of passing on the track. The owners tried to address this recently by reducing the length of the spring race to increase drama, but that hasn’t changed the product.
However, there is good news for the track: It’s schedule placement.
If Pocono has proved anything, its that it can have big Chase implications, which is magnified by being so close to the final cut off.
In each of the last three years, the winner of the second annual Pocono race, has used that win to launch a strong charge before the Chase, sneaking in each time. Here are the numbers.
2012: JEFF GORDON
In possibly the strangest parting of the seas effect ever, Gordon restarted 6th and went on to win after the the cars in front of him all spun in turn one. The rains then came and Gordon had his first win of the season, putting him in contention with Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Marcos Ambrose for the second Wild Card. We all know he beat Busch for that spot by one point. The Pocono win started a stretch of seven podiums in 10 races.
2011: BRAD KESELOWSKI
Last season BK won 5 times on his way to the title, 2011 wasn’t so easy. Going into Pocono Keselowski had a win, but only one other top 5 and three more top 10’s, putting him outside the top 20 in points. By winning, he moved up to 18th with 2 victories, making him a top contender for a Wild Card. He rode that momentum to four straight podium finishes, including another win. Kelesowski finished the regular season 11th in points and his two victories earned him the first Wild Card position.
2010: Greg Biffle
In 2010 Biffle had no wins going into Pocono and teetering on the Chase cut off. The Chase format this year didn’t have Wild Cards, the top 12 teams made it and everyone’s wins counted for bonus points. With the win, the Biff earned valuable bonus points and cushioned his position in the top 12 going into the Chase. His win enabled him to start the Chase in 6th, he would go on to to finish there after getting one Chase win.
This season, a win by Gordon, Logano, Keselowski or Stewart, all of whom have had success on the triangle, would drastically change the Chase outlook. A return to form by Denny Hamlin, who swept Pocono in 2006 and has four wins total, would help him take some positives out of what has been a very difficult season.