Ponoco: Mark Martin preview

EVERYTHING BUT A WIN: In 46 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Martin has scored 19 top-five finishes, 32 top-10s and three pole positions. Pocono, where Martin has an average start of 8.7 and average finish of 10.8, is one of only four active...

EVERYTHING BUT A WIN: In 46 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Martin has scored 19 top-five finishes, 32 top-10s and three pole positions. Pocono, where Martin has an average start of 8.7 and average finish of 10.8, is one of only four active tracks where he has yet to visit Victory Lane. He also has yet to take the checkered flag at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, Martin's average start at Pocono is a personal best for him at an active track.

SO CLOSE: Martin has finished in the runner-up position at Pocono six times -- a stat that ties his six second-place finishes at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Martin has visited Victory Lane at Darlington and Dover.

POLE SITTER: Martin's next Sprint Cup Series pole position will be the 50th of his career and will place him eighth on the all-time pole winner's list. He has earned three pole positions at Pocono.

THE NO. 5 TEAM: Under the direction of crew chief Alan Gustafson, the No. 5 team has competed in 10 events at Pocono, earning one top-five finish and three top-10s. In their first race together at the triangular track in 2005, Gustafson and the No. 5 team rebounded from a 38th-place starting spot to finish fourth -- the team's best Pocono finish to date with Gustafson.

GUSTAFSON TOPS: Gustafson was named the Wypall Wipers Crew Chief of the Race for his team's fourth-place performance at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on Sunday. The crew chief of the race is chosen by crew chiefs Todd Berrier and Frank Kerr along with television commentator and former crew chief Jeff Hammond.

POINTS: With a fourth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Sunday, Martin and the No. 5 team advanced one position to 10th in the Sprint Cup championship standings. Martin is just 13 points behind ninth place and 97 out of fifth.

POCONO CHASSIS: Gustafson has chosen Chassis No. 5-582 for Sunday's race at Pocono. This is the same chassis that Martin drove to a 16th-place finish at Darlington Raceway last month.


MARK MARTIN, DRIVER, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON POCONO RACEWAY.): "Pocono is one of my top-five favorite racetracks. It's great to race on. And of course it's really, really different than any other track we go to. Pocono has its three distinctly different corners, a good amount of banking and long straightaways. In order to do well there, you have to have big horsepower under the hood. Your car has to handle well through all three turns, if you can get it that good. It's a big challenge. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one corner in order to get the other two better. It's a tough place to conquer."

MARTIN (ON NOT WINNING AT POCONO.): "I've had the fastest car there about five times. I just couldn't get to the start-finish line first! (LAUGHS.) Track position plays a huge role, of course. Then you add in fuel mileage, pit stops, the timing of cautions. So many elements have to go right to win a race. I just haven't been able to put the whole package together there. It's about putting your best foot forward and making your best effort. There's no doubt that this team will do that this weekend."

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON THE DIFFICULTIES OF POCONO.): "Recently, the corners at Pocono have changed even more. Turn 1 is very rough. Turn 2, they've added that big curb to it, which plays into it some. Then Turn 3, they paved the patch there, so that's smoother and has more grip than the other two. So, it's more than the shape of the track that makes it difficult. For a crew chief, you can't see much either, the cars are so far away. It's very difficult to read the car. Sometimes you can see things visually with the car, but you can't there. It's a tough track, but I like the challenge about it. It's one of those places, too, that if you're not good, you can change everything and you're not going to gain much. If you're off, it's hard to get it right."

GUSTAFSON (ON PIT STRATEGY AT POCONO.): "The lap times at Pocono are so long that you can look at strategy a little different than anywhere else. You race Pocono like a road course, that's a common saying pit strategy-wise. The thing that makes it that way is that the lap times are so long. Pitting under green isn't that big of an issue because you don't get lapped. You can pit early or off sequence, have a clean track that makes you run faster and when the sequence cycles around, you've actually made up time. I actually think Pocono is a little easier on track strategy than other tracks, because the negative side isn't as bad. If you make a bad call or take a gamble, either way, if you stay on the lead lap, the repercussions aren't a big deal. You have more cushion. Pit strategy can have a big impact on the race at Pocono. It's a little easier to find a sweet spot or an advantage in pit strategy there. With that in mind, this is also a big fuel-mileage track. You can short pit and gain time on the track if your fuel mileage is good enough. Fuel mileage will always play into the pit strategy."

GUSTAFSON (ON WHICH TURN IS THE HARDEST.): "Turn 1 is the toughest. It's the most loaded corner. It's the toughest on these bump-stop, short-travel cars. With the old cars, before the patch, Turn 3 was the most difficult. It was rough and flat. Now with the paved patch, it's made that corner easier, especially the exit. Turn 1, with the load we get down there and the amount of brake there, it's tough. It's possible to have all three turns good at the same time. It's more difficult to line the corners up here, but you can get them all pretty good. The guy who wins the race is going to have all three corners really good."

GUSTAFSON (ON THE TIMING OF THE POCONO RACES.): "We don't race at Pocono for so long. The two races are so close together that it's almost like we race there once. We come to Pocono, and it's been almost a year, and so much changes in a year. There's no other track that we can use as a reference for Pocono. You are kind of going off of instinct instead of past experience. So much has evolved since the last time we raced there, you have to just put all that together and take your best guess at what works. There's no good reference point. All of that makes practice very important and practice at Pocono is really difficult. The lap times are so long, and getting in and out of the garage is lengthy there, too. Getting up to speed takes a long time. Very few teams make long runs there, if you make a 15-lap run, you're looking at 20 minutes with getting in and out of the garage. So that's a huge time out of your practice session."

-source: hm

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin