* In the Loop: Denny Hamlin And Kurt Busch * Rookie Standings: Montoya Setting The Pace Keys To Victory The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway this week for another round of 500 miles on one of the most uniquely shaped tracks...
* In the Loop: Denny Hamlin And Kurt Busch
* Rookie Standings: Montoya Setting The Pace
Keys To Victory
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway this week for another round of 500 miles on one of the most uniquely shaped tracks on the circuit - three completely different turns.
* Having the right chassis setup is crucial. The three corners at Pocono are so different. Drivers need to know how to get the most out of their cars through each corner
* There should be the opportunity for a great deal of green-flag racing, so crew chiefs must manage the team's pit strategy and make sure fuel mileage and tire situations are what they need to be during the course of the race, in particular, the last laps.
In The Loop: Hamlin A Ringer At Pocono
Jeff Gordon used pit strategy to win his fourth-career Pocono race last June. Otherwise, Denny Hamlin may have made it three-for-three at the 2.5-mile Long Pond, Pa. track.
In 2006's two Pocono races, Hamlin started and finished at the front, capturing both the pole and the checkered flag. It was Hamlin's first visits to the track, and he mastered the unique layout perfectly. Hamlin showed the success was no fluke in June, leading a race-high 49 laps en route to a sixth-place finish. The three performances have put Hamlin at the top of practically all key Loop Data categories. Hamlin leads in Driver Rating (137.5), Average Running Position (4.9), Fastest Laps Run (164) and Fastest Green Flag Speed. He has also spent 92% of his Pocono laps in the top 15, which is the highest percentage of any driver.
Another driver to watch should be Kurt Busch. Thirteen points behind 12th-place driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., Busch has enjoyed tremendous Pocono finishes in recent years. Though he finished 16th in June, Busch nabbed a win in 2005 and two runner-up finishes in 2006. He could charge into the top 12 with another good finish Sunday.
Busch has a Pocono Driver Rating of 109.9 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 8.7 (second-best), 108 Fastest Laps Run (second-best) and 720 Laps in the Top 15 (third-most).
Arguably the hottest driver in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is Tony Stewart, winner of two consecutive races. He'll look to become the first driver to win three consecutive races since Jimmie Johnson in 2004 (fall events at Charlotte, Martinsville, and Atlanta).
Stewart has had Pocono success. He won there in 2003 and currently has four consecutive top-10 finishes there -- including a fifth-place finish in June. He has a Driver Rating of 102.8 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 10.9 (fifth-best), 35 Fastest Laps Run (tied for fifth-most) and 201 Quality Passes -- passes of cars in the top 15 under green -- which is more than any other driver.
NNCS, Etc. ...
* Raybestos Rookie of the Year Update
* Race To The Chase Goes To The Northeast For Round 6: Watkins Glen
* Manufacturers Championship: Chevrolet still holds the lead
Raybestos Rookie Update: Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) showed everyone that no matter what type of race car he can put up good finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Montoya, a previous Indy 500 winner placed second in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in his first attempt.
Montoya now sets the pace for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings by expanding his lead to 208 points.
David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford) leads the NASCAR Busch Series rookie standings but is runner-up to Montoya in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup rookie standings by 24 points.
Paul Menard (No. 15 Menards Chevrolet) currently sits third in the rookie standings with 141 points after finishing 20th at Indianapolis.
On Deck: Watkins Glen... Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) is the defending race champion of next week's Centurion Boats at the Glen, which will be Round 6 of the Race to the Chase, at Watkins Glen International.
Watkins Glen hosted its first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race in 1957, and Buddy Baker drove to victory that afternoon. But no driver has been as dominant as Jeff Gordon on the 11-turn road course with four wins, three of which were consecutive from 1997-'99.
The action begins at 1 p.m. on ESPN, the third of six broadcasts this season.
Manufacturer's Championship: In last week's event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chevrolet grabbed another win totaling 16 this season and extending its lead to 59 over second-place Ford.
The Race: Pennsylvania 500
The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Date: Sunday, August 5
The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
TV: ESPN, 1 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 2.5-mile tri-oval
The Distance: 500 miles; 200 laps
The Purse: $4,935,998
2006 Winner: Jeff Gordon
2006 Pole: Denny Hamlin
Pre-Race Schedule (local/ET time): Friday -- Practice, 12-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:40 p.m.; Saturday -- Practice, 9-9:45 a.m.; Final Practice, 10:50-11:50a.m.