NASCAR

Pocono Viewer's Guide

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

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At Pocono Raceway, expect the unexpected, do the best with what you have and move on. After winning the pole on Friday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered an unfortunate incident when a service vehicle collided with the No. 8 car. There's traffic on the track, but there's also a lot of traffic in that garage area. NASCAR does a very good job of keeping everybody safe and keeping people out of harm's way. The damage wasn't too bad, and that race team has dealt with adversity and losing crew chief Tony Eury Jr. to suspension. They've dealt with Dale Jr. announcing that he was going to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. at season's end. It shouldn't be a setback for them.

Who to Watch

  • Tony Stewart: Everybody was asking, "How come Tony hadn't won a race?" Well, the performance was there; they just didn't have the finishes or the luck to show for it until Chicagoland and Indy. He has an excellent shot of winning his third race in a row at Pocono. Plus, it's his time of year.
  • Jeff Gordon: With four wins, Gordon has a good chance to complete the third Pocono sweep in the last four years.
  • Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch have been moving forward as a team. After Newman's early troubles at Indy, Pocono is a very good racetrack for him as well as Busch.
  • Casey Mears: I'll go out on a limb a little bit. Even though he's in a backup car, Mears has a shot to win. He runs very well on flat, fast racetracks.
  • Denny Hamlin: Having mentioned all of those guys, Hamlin is still the favorite. It's uncanny how he's adapted to this track, winning two of three races he's run here. He's the guy to beat on Sunday. Everybody has to go through the 11 car.
  • What to Watch

  • Pitting for track position: Teams can gamble a little bit at Pocono to get track position. They may get out of sequence on the pit stops, but teams have to be patient as they plot their strategy, too.
  • Fuel for thought: A couple of years ago, Jeremy Mayfield's then-crew chief Kenny Francis held his breath as he counted down the laps to try to make it to the end on fuel. A caution waved so it was a non-factor, but you can't run out of gas because it's such a big track. If you run out of fuel on the 3,740-foot frontstretch, you can't get back to pit road. You'll see long, green-flag runs so teams test their fuel mileage in practice. They're going to count backwards from the end of the race to determine how many laps they can run before they make their last pit stop. It's not the key to winning, but it's certainly the key to having a shot to winning.
  • Can't compromise: On SPEED's Trackside, Mark Martin said teams can't compromise one corner to be good in the other two like they used to do. They've got to be really good in all three.
  • Speed Mail Steve

    Pit Perspective

    Everybody is feeling the pressure now, especially the teams trying to get into the top 12 in points with only five races left until the Chase for the Nextel Cup. The crews are trying to make lightning-fast pit stops, but sometimes they are in such a hurry that the gasman doesn't have time or just doesn't get all the gas in the fuel cell. It could come back to haunt you. After pit stops, crews weigh the fuel cans to know exactly how much gas is in the car by determining how much is left in the can. A gallon of gas weighs close to seven pounds. That's why teams can be so precise about fuel mileage. It sounds like a little thing, but you can't have any spills. You've got to make sure you pack that cell full of fuel.

    Finish Line

    You've heard drivers compare Pocono to a road course, and Darrell Waltrip calls it a roval. It has so many characteristics of different racetracks, but no other racetrack even compares to Pocono. It requires complete concentration without any lapses. You've got to hit your marks lap after lap because it's very line-sensitive.


    NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.

    Tagged: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeremy Mayfield, Mark Martin

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