Pocono: News of note, schedule

*TNT Starts Six-Race Broadcast Schedule *Denny Hamlin Dominates at Pocono *Mattioli and France Families Share Special Relationship No. 70 Chevrolet Holds Important 35th Position In Owner Points Johnny Sauter (No. 70 Yellow Transportation ...

*TNT Starts Six-Race Broadcast Schedule
*Denny Hamlin Dominates at Pocono
*Mattioli and France Families Share Special Relationship

No. 70 Chevrolet Holds Important 35th Position In Owner Points

Johnny Sauter (No. 70 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) continues to have a strong-hold on the 35th position in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup owner points which guarantees him a starting spot in Sunday's race. Despite a 32nd-place finish at Dover, the Gene Haas-owned team retained the final guaranteed starting spot.

The No. 10 Dodge owned by Jim Rocco and driven by Scott Riggs is 36th in owner points, 86 points behind Sauter.

Bill Elliott, who was tabbed to drive the Wood Brothers-owned No. 21 Ford in mid-May has qualified for both races he has attempted without using one of his six past champions provisionals.

TNT Starts Broadcast Schedule; Kyle Petty In Booth

TNT will broadcast Sunday's Pocono 500, the first of six telecasts this season. The network takes over for FOX which broadcast the first 14 races this season. TNT will telecast the next six races, including the prestigious Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7. The cable network concludes its broadcasts at Chicagoland Speedway on July 15.

Bill Weber will be the host of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series coverage on the network. He will be joined in the broadcast booth by Wally Dallenbach and Kyle Petty. Matt Yocum and Marty Snider will anchor pit road coverage.

Petty will step out of his No. 45 Dodge for five of the six TNT races to join Weber and Dallenbach in the broadcast booth. He will be back in his car at Infineon Raceway on June 24, and will help call the action from behind the wheel.

"I'm looking forward to getting into the booth," Petty said. "I really enjoy working with Bill and to work with Wally and some of that group will be fun. It just so happens they have six races in the middle of the season that was perfect for me. I'm at that point in my career I've got to start looking for my next career and my next job anyhow."

Replacing Petty this weekend will be NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Chad McCumbee (No. 45 Goody's Cool Orange Dodge). Although McCumbee has yet to make a start in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, he has several starts at Pocono in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. In his last three ARCA starts at the track he has finished fourth, second and fifth.

"I don't have to tell you that this is the biggest weekend of my racing life," McCumbee said. "I have been working towards this day since I first strapped myself behind the wheel of a go-kart at the age of 10. It is an honor to be picked to drive for Petty Enterprises and I am still wondering if this is all a dream."

Montoya Holds Lead In Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/ Havoline Dodge) continues to lead the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings by five points over David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford). Paul Menard (No. 15 Menard's Chevrolet) remains third despite missing the race at Dover. David Reutimann (No. 00 Burger King Toyota) is fourth followed by A.J. Allmendinger (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota).

Hamlin Looks To Continue Pocono Dominance

Denny Hamlin's (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) sweep last year at Pocono Raceway was nothing short of astounding.

In his first visit to the unique tri-oval, Hamlin won the Bud Pole and calmly maneuvered through the field after suffering a blown tire while in the lead. Hamlin fell to the back of the pack on Lap 50 because of the mishap, but regained the lead again on Lap 103.

The second race felt more like a calm Sunday stroll for Hamlin, leading 151 laps of the 200-lap race. In that race, Hamlin scored a Driver Rating of 149.0, a point below a maximum rating of 150.0.

"I think it was just that I was blessed with a great car as soon as we unloaded," Hamlin said of his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points win. "Ever since then it's just been a place I've felt really comfortable running. It took about two laps before I realized, the first time I was there, that it was a race track that I really loved and that we were going to run well there."

Hamlin spread the credit around after his victory.

Of his crew chief Mike Ford and the No. 11 FedEx team, Hamlin said, "They've done such a great job preparing the cars for me. Mike worked with Bill Elliott and had a win at Pocono with him. It seems like it's one of the race tracks that he feels like you know he's got a good grip on. So, I have obviously benefited a lot from that."

Hamlin also pointed to a video game simulator in helping him prepare for the three distinct turns and the three different straightaways.

Whatever the reason for the success -- team, video games, Hamlin himself -- the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet navigated the 2.5-mile track with unparalleled success.

In leading 234 laps last season, Hamlin put together an impressive portfolio of Loop Data statistics. Going into Sunday's Pocono 500, Hamlin sits atop the standings of numerous categories.

Most glaring is Hamlin's average Pocono Driver Rating -- 143.1. That number is far and away the best going into the race (Brian Vickers has the second-best Driver Rating at 119.1).

Hamlin also has top marks in Average Running Position (5.203), Green Flag Speed and Speed in Traffic.

Also impressive is Hamlin's Fastest Laps Run total -- 145. In two races, Hamlin has 38 more Fastest Laps Run than second-best Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) (107) who has run four races since the inception of NASCAR Loop Data.

Now, Hamlin is expected to repeat the improbable.

"Now there is an expectation that you go back to Pocono and win and that is a really hard thing to do in this sport," Hamlin said. "And with as well as we have been running this season, I think when we go back to Pocono people are going to expect the No. 11 FedEx Chevy to be upfront - expecting us to win. So, we've got a lot of pressure this time around, where last year we had no expectations and whatever we did was going to be OK."

***

Next Race: Pocono 500

The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 10

The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
TV: TNT, 1 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 2.5-mile triangle
Distance: 200 laps/500 miles

Purse: $4,940,543

2006 Winner: Denny Hamlin
2006 Pole: Denny Hamlin

Pocono Pre-Race On-Track Schedule (local/ET time): Friday -- Practice, 12-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying -- 3:40 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 10-10:45 a.m.; Final Practice, 11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya