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Keeping Pace

TUESDAY, JUNE 2, 2009, 12:13 A.M.

Analyzing The Pocono 500 At Pocono Raceway

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

All NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been scheduled for 500 miles. By design, the inaugural race was run to a length of 480 miles due to the energy crisis.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 1, 2009) – Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway shined a spotlight on a growing rivalry. It’s old guard vs. new guard – perennial powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports vs. the new kids on the block, Stewart-Haas Racing.

Hendrick claimed the Dover battle with Jimmie Johnson’s win, but lost the points lead in the process.

Tony Stewart took over the lead, becoming the first driver-owner to hold the top spot since Alan Kulwicki did it to close out the 1992 season. Next up for Stewart: A victory. He has three runner-up finishes this season, suggesting a win will come sooner than later.

Also on the verge of a Victory Lane visit is Stewart’s teammate, Ryan Newman. Newman has scored four consecutive top-five finishes. The last time he accomplished the feat was 2003, when he posted five in a row. Newman had a career-high eight victories that season.

Still, Hendrick has a slight edge in the matchup. The team has five wins in the season’s 13 races – two from Johnson, two from Mark Martin and one from Jeff Gordon.

The key to that stat: 50 potential Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup bonus points. Each driver earns 10 bonus points toward his Chase seeding for each win during the first 26 races.

The bonus point opportunities are slowly slipping away. The Dover race marked the halfway point of the “regular season.”

But here’s the good news for Stewart and Newman: If history is any indication, they’re a lock to make the Chase. In each of the last two seasons, 11 of the 12 drivers in the top 12 after the 13th race made the Chase after race No. 26.

Selected Driver Highlights
Note: All driver statistics that follow are from Pocono Raceway. The Loop Data statistics – Driver Rating, Average Running Position, etc. – in this release, however, cover the last seven races at Pocono. NASCAR’s scoring loops began collecting data for statistical purposes in 2005.

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
• Two wins, seven top fives, eight top 10s
• Average finish of 15.7
• Average Running Position of 10.1, second-best
• Driver Rating of 106.8, second-best
• Series-high 209 Fastest Laps Run
• Average Green Flag Speed of 159.147 mph, third-fastest
• 1,117 Laps in the Top 15 (74.0%), fifth-most
• 271 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)
• Two wins, three top fives, four top 10s
• Average finish of 14.3
• Driver Rating of 95.7, seventh-best
• 94 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 158.568 mph, 13th-fastest

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
• Four wins, 15 top fives, 22 top 10s; two poles
• Average finish of 10.3
• Average Running Position of 11.9, seventh-best
• Driver Rating of 95.3, eighth-best
• Series-high 657 Green Flag Passes
• Average Green Flag Speed of 158.761 mph, sixth-fastest
• 1,016 Laps in the Top 15 (67.3%), eighth-most
• 313 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota)
• Two wins, four top fives, five top 10s; two poles
• Average finish of 6.2
• Series-best Average Running Position of 6.5
• Series-best Driver Rating of 123.6
• 201 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
• Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 159.808 mph
• 1,002 Laps in the Top 15 (90.6%), ninth-most
• 266 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)
• Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
• Average finish of 9.8
• Average Running Position of 11.0, fifth-best
• Driver Rating of 100.8, fourth-best
• 53 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 159.152 mph, second-fastest
• 1,144 Laps in the Top 15 (75.8%), third-most
• 312 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Mark Martin (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet)
• 19 top fives, 31 top 10s; three poles
• Average finish of 10.7
• Average Running Position of 11.3, sixth-best
• Driver Rating of 98.2, fifth-best
• 66 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 158.993 mph, fifth-fastest
• 1,165 Laps in the Top 15 (77.2%), second-most
• 297 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet)
• One win, five top fives, six top 10s; two poles
• Average finish of 13.9
• Average Running Position of 10.6, third-best
• Driver Rating of 96.8, sixth-best
• 578 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 158.706 mph, seventh-fastest
• 1,132 Laps in the Top 15 (75.0%), fourth-most
• 334 Quality Passes, third-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet)
• One win, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
• Average finish of 13.0
• Average Running Position of 10.9, fourth-best
• Driver Rating of 102.4, third-best
• 43 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
• 593 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 159.050 mph, fourth-fastest
• Series-high 1,182 Laps in the Top 15 (78.3%)
• Series-high 354 Quality Passes

Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota)
• Four top fives, four top 10s
• Average finish of 14.5
• Average Running Position of 11.9, eighth-best
• Driver Rating of 95.0, ninth-best
• 68 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 158.572 mph, 12th-fastest
• 1,083 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7%), sixth-most
• 294 Quality Passes, eighth-most

At Pocono Raceway:

• Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974.
• There have been 62 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway.
• There was one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since.
• All NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been scheduled for 500 miles. By design, the inaugural race was run to a length of 480 miles due to the energy crisis.
• Buddy Baker won the first pole at Pocono.
• There have been 35 different pole winners at Pocono, including David Pearson who won the pole there in June 1984 but did not race. Only 15 drivers have more than one pole there.
• There have been 21 pole winners in the last 26 races. Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne (two each) are the only repeat pole winners there since 1995. Qualifying was canceled once.
• The pole has been swept just three times: Bill Elliott (1985), Ken Schrader (1993), Denny Hamlin (2006).
• Richard Petty won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono.
• 28 different drivers have won races at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott with five victories; 19 drivers have won more than once there.
• There have been 14 different race winners in the 18 races since Bobby Labonte swept in 1999. Jimmie Johnson swept 2004 and Denny Hamlin 2006. Kurt Busch won the July race in 2005 and 2007. Carl Edwards won the June 2005 race and the August 2008 race.
• There have been six season sweeps at Pocono, including two of the past five seasons.
• Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond each won three consecutive races at Pocono.
• 45 of 62 Pocono races have been won from a top-10 start; 13 by the pole winner.
• The June 2005 race was won by Carl Edwards from the 29th starting position, the deepest in the field that a race winner has started.
• Rick Hendrick leads all car owners with 11 Pocono victories.
• There have been two green-white-checkered finishes: June 2005 (201 laps) and July 2005 (203 laps).
• Denny Hamlin won his first two races at Pocono, claiming both victories from the pole. His 6.2 average finish there is the best of any driver with more than one start at the track

NASCAR in Pennsylvania
• There have been 97 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Pennsylvania.
• 136 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Pennsylvania.
• There are three race winners from Pennsylvania in NASCAR’s three national series:









Dick Linder








Jimmy Spencer








Mark Donohue








Pocono Raceway Data


Race #: 14 of 36 (6-7-09)


Track Size: 2.5 mile (200 laps/500miles)


·     Banking/Turn 1: 14 degrees


·     Banking/Turn 2: 8 degrees


·     Banking/Turn 3: 6 degrees


·     Frontstretch: 3,740 feet


·     Backstretch: 3,055 feet


·     Shortstretch: 1,780


Driver Rating at Pocono 


Denny Hamlin                123.6


Kurt Busch                    106.8


Tony Stewart                 102.4


Jimmie Johnson            100.8


Mark Martin                   98.2


Ryan Newman               96.8


Carl Edwards                 95.7


Jeff Gordon                    95.3


Brian Vickers                 95.0


Kevin Harvick                 90.8


Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2008 races (8 total) at Pocono.



Qualifying/Race Data


2008 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (170.219 mph, 52.873 seconds)


2008 race winner: Kasey Kahne, 125.209 mph, 6-8-08)


Track qualifying record: Kasey Kahne (172.533 mph, 52.164 secs., 6-11-04)


Track race record: Rusty Wallace (144.892 mph, 7-21-96)



Estimated Pit Window: Every 28-30 laps, based on fuel mileage.

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.