Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 14: Pocono I

The summer drive for the 2011 Sprint Cup season is underway as the competition stops at Long Pond, Pennsylvania at the notorious “tricky triangle,” at Pocono Raceway for the “Five Hour Energy 500.” The drivers will need five hours of energy at least to handle a race that truly should be cut back to 400 miles.

Is NASCAR becoming less relevant on television? Fox just concluded their portion of the NASCAR season with hardly any promotion for their race coverage at all this year other than those hideous exploding manhole commercials. Now the Cup travels to TNT, and unlike previous years, it’s been kept a secret. Don’t forget to turn to your TNT channel on your dial for the next six races before the ESPN smoke and mirrors are turned on for the rest of the season.

Weather could be a factor. First, storms tonight could have washed the rubber from qualifying and practice from the track. AccuWeather’s forecast indicates temperatures in the low 70’s tomorrow with a chance of thunderstorms at noon, then cloudy from 1 pm to 3 pm, an hour of possible thunderstorms to 4:00 pm then partly cloudy up to 75 degrees remaining party cloudy for the rest of the daylight hours dropping off to the mid 60’s around sunset.

After last year’s horrific accident which sent Kasey Kahne’s car airborne and saw Elliot Sadler smashing head-on into an earthen barrier, it will be interesting to see to what extent safety has been improved at one of the least safety conscious facilities. Reports are SAFER barriers have been installed thirty feet from the track along the backstretch. Catch fencing is now in place from turn one to turn two.

Here are the top starters for the race:

1- Kurt Busch (#2), Dodge
2- Paul Menard (#27), Chevrolet
3- Jeff Gordon (#24), Chevrolet
4- Denny Hamlin (#11), Toyota
5- Regan Smith (#78), Chevrolet
6- Carl Edwards (#99), Ford
7- Marcose Ambrose (#9), Ford
8- Ryan Newman (#39), Chevrolet
9- David Reutimann (#00), Toyota
10- Mark Martin (#5), Chevrolet
11- David Ragan (#6), Ford
12- Clint Bowyer (#33), Chevrolet
13- Jamie McMurray (#1), Chevrolet
14- Jimmie Johnson (#48), Chevrolet
15- Tony Stewart (#14), Chevrolet
16- Juan Montoya (#41), Chevrolet
17- Kasey Kahne (#4), Toyota
18- Bobby Labonte (#47), Toyota
19- Joey Logano (#20), Toyota
20- Brad Keselowski (#2), Dodge

Other top points leaders include: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88) in 21st, Matt Kenseth (#17) in 27th, Kevin Harvick (#29) in 32nd, Kyle Busch (#18) in 34th, and Greg Biffle (#16) in 37th.

The worthless slugs are well-represented as we can increasingly expect Robby Gordon’s trash can on wheels to join to the “not legit/we quit” squad. This week’s roster of most likely quitters in order of starting position: Joe Nemechek, Michael McDowell, Scott Riggs, Scott Wimmer (running for Robby Gordon, and T.J. Bell. Thankfully, Mike Skinner failed to make the field. Who’s fault is that since the should have retired from Sprint Cup veteran found plenty to cry about how unfair it was to be Dale Earnhardt’s teammate. We will continue to monitor these shameless exploitation specialists who have leeched millions of dollars away from legitimate competitors so far this year as the drain continues at hundreds of thousands of dollars each week.

Looking at the starting field, it’s noteworthy to see Denny Hamlin start #4. Despite having a difficult season so far, his fortunes at Pocono have been good. Paul Menard started off the season looking like a true competitor but has fallen off; his spot on the outside pole might be the right medicine to get his season moving forward again. Regan Smith continues to prove he is not a fluke as Marcos Ambrose in 9th is surely trying to get all the pieces assembled for his first Sprint Cup win.

A strange irony this year is that Kevin Harvick, the current leader in victories, continues to struggle qualifying. Something’s off in that garage, but if the field were frozen for the Chase right now, he’d top the standings.

There are simply too many variables present to get a good read on the possible outcome of this race other than noting one of the drivers most successful at the track in recent years is right where he needs to be to stage a win. Eyes will be on the #11 Toyota for a good race.


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