Pocono II: Round 21 preview

* Carl Edwards Ready For Busy Weekend * Seeding Becomes More Important Each Week * Gordon Goes For A Sweep At Pocono * Gibbs Teammates Heating Up On The Line... 'Double-Talk' From Carl Edwards DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2007) -- In advance...

* Carl Edwards Ready For Busy Weekend
* Seeding Becomes More Important Each Week
* Gordon Goes For A Sweep At Pocono
* Gibbs Teammates Heating Up

On The Line... 'Double-Talk' From Carl Edwards

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2007) -- In advance of this weekend's events, Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race, the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, and on Saturday, the historic Canadian debut of the NASCAR Busch Series, the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal.

Q: Carl, obviously on track you're having one of the greatest seasons in NASCAR history. Carl, big weekend ahead -- two races, two different countries -- what's the outlook going in?

Edwards: I am really excited about this weekend to say the least. I'm excited about every weekend, but this one, to go to Canada, be part of such a historic event, in such a historic city as Montreal, it's going to be really exciting. Leaving this afternoon to go to Montreal for a media day all day Wednesday. I believe Patrick Carpentier and myself are going to go run around town and see some things. He's going to show me around. PK (Pierre Kuettel), my crew chief on the No. 60 Scotts Ford, is from Canada, so he's going with me. Just really excited about that race. Then obviously excited about Pocono. We've run really well there. We got a win there in 2005. I love racing there. You know, it should be a fun weekend. I believe we have all the customs and stuff in order so that we can go back and forth pretty easily. Just ready to go racing.

Race To The Chase, Round 5: Penske Drivers On Outside Looking In

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) and Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman (No. 12 Mobil 1 Dodge) have their teams moving in the right direction in the series standings currently 13th and 14th respectively. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) sits on the bubble, 13 points ahead of Busch and 59 ahead of Newman. Neither Newman nor Busch made the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup last season. But this season may be a different story. Newman heads to Pocono with a 2003 win at the track and five top-five finishes, including a runner-up finish earlier this season. Newman - a.k.a 'the Rocket' - also has been known to put the No. 12 Dodge on the pole at Pocono, notching two in his career, including earlier this season. Busch has less ground to make up than his teammate, and he, too, has had success at Pocono with a win in 2005 and six top fives.

Earnhardt Jr. will have to be on his toes because the competition is closing in. This race could be the one Penske Racing uses to make a move because Earnhardt has only three top-five finishes in 15 starts at Pocono.

'Seedings' In Forefront As Chase Nears

There are six races to go before the start of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Each week, race victories become more important as drivers strive to accrue vital Chase "bonus points." Starting this year, the 12 drivers who qualify for the Chase will have their point totals "reset" to 5,000. They then will have bonus points -- 10 for each victory -- applied.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) currently is set to benefit the most from this increased emphasis on winning. After accidents at Chicagoland and Indianapolis placed him 37th and 39th respectively, he has dropped to ninth in the series standings. But setbacks in the standings won't hurt Johnson when the points are reset. He has four wins, tied with his teammate Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and both drivers have earned 40 bonus points each to date, which would make them the top-two seeds to start the Chase (5,040 points apiece). Seeding ties are broken by the comparison of drivers' best finishes beyond victories. Johnson would jump from ninth to second because of the seeding process.

Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) also will benefit from the seeding process after capturing consecutive wins at Chicago and Indianapolis. Stewart currently sits fifth in the standings but if the points were reset now he would move ahead two possible spots for third in the seeding.

Jeff Gordon Looks To Sweep Pocono in 2007

Jeff Gordon rolls into Pocono Raceway with not only the series standings lead, but also looking to sweep both races there this season. Gordon won the Pocono 500 in June and now looks to become the seventh driver to pull off the Pocono season sweep. If Gordon succeeds, he will put himself with some pretty exclusive company.

The first driver to sweep both races at Pocono was Bobby Allison in 1982. Allison went on to make it three consecutive races at Pocono when he put his Buick in Victory Lane in 1983. Bill Elliott was soon to follow in Allison's footsteps, grabbing both Pocono victories in 1985.

The third driver must have taken a page from Allison's notes because Tim Richmond put his Chevrolet in Victory Lane three consecutive times including a sweep in 1986 and the first race at Pocono in '87. Allison and Richmond are the only two drivers to achieve that at Pocono. The fourth driver, Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge), was in his fifth year driving for Joe Gibbs Racing when he swept both races in 1999. Labonte ended up finishing second in the series standings that season.

The two most recent drivers to sweep were Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) last season and Jeff Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in 2004.

Of all six drivers that have accomplished the sweep feat, Hamlin was the only one to do it as a rookie in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

Gordon has captured two Bud Poles and four wins at Pocono. He also has been very consistent, posting 20 top-10 finishes there in 29 starts. If Gordon wins, he also will take the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup seeding with five wins, giving him 5,050 points when the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup begins.

JGR Has Two Championship Contenders

In an era when the competition in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is at its closest, peaking late in the season is the way to turn a mediocre start into a year where a driver can contend for the championship. Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin are doing just that at Joe Gibbs Racing.

* Stewart is coming off two impressive victories at Chicago and Indianapolis that moved him up into fifth in the standings. Last season Stewart fell short of making the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup by 45 points, but this year Stewart is on a mission not to be the odd man out. In the 2006 Race to the Chase, he posted only six top-10 finishes, including a win at Daytona, but it didn't help. He finished 18th or worse in the other four races, negating the momentum he had built.

Stewart then won three of the last ten races more than any driver ranked in the top 10 and in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Now, Stewart has a lot of momentum in his corner and looks to capitalize on it at Pocono, where he placed seventh last August. Stewart has a win at Pocono in 2003, and could make it three in a row. Stewart has led most miles (1054.42) and the most laps (831) in the series this season.

* Hamlin, last year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year, has been hot all season, racking up one win, seven top-five and 14 top-10 finishes, which has landed him second in the series standings. This week he returns to Pocono, where he posted his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win last season, and ended up sweeping both races. Hamlin finished 22nd last week at Indianapolis. He also finished sixth earlier this season at Pocono. Hamlin currently would start sixth in seeding for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, dropping him four possible spots. Winning at Pocono would put him in front of his teammate Stewart in the seeding putting him in third behind Johnson.

-credit: nascar

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Patrick Carpentier , Jimmie Johnson , Gilles Villeneuve , Carl Edwards , Bobby Allison , Denny Hamlin
Teams Team Penske , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing