Rain washes out qualifying at Pocono
June 07, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
Party in the Poconos 400: Lineup
LONG POND, Pa. -- Persistent rain at Pocono Raceway washed out all activity scheduled for Friday at the 2.5-mile track, but likely alleviated a little anxiety for one driver also competing this weekend in the Nationwide Series event at Iowa Speedway.
NASCAR announced Friday afternoon that a 90-minute Sprint Cup Series practice and a qualifying session had both been rained out, setting the lineup for Sunday’s event on owner’s points according to the rule book. That puts a pair of two-time Pocono winners on the front row for the 400-mile race, with series leader Jimmie Johnson joined by Carl Edwards.
"There are a lot of good benefits from starting on the pole, from track position to pit road picks," Johnson said. "We'll take it. The great season that we've had so far and the quick start, it's nice to have that. It's one of the benefits (as points leader) when things rain out. So we certainly earned this first starting spot, and we'll try to take advantage of it on Sunday."
Sprint Cup practices are still slated for 10 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. local time on Saturday, when forecasts call for a reduced chance of precipitation. That wasn’t the case Friday, when steady rain fell all day at the triangle-shaped track, leaving pools of standing water in several areas.
“The engineers are out there right now running all the numbers and trying to figure out where we would want to start,” Edwards said. “… I guess there were some teams that came out here and tested; I don’t know which teams those were. Those guys are praying for it to rain tomorrow, because there will be a huge advantage that they have if we don’t get any practice. If we get a practice tomorrow and if it happens to be a shortened one, it will be a very intense practice session. We’ll be trying everything we can. We’ll be working with as many of the Ford teams as we can to not waste time.”
Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick tested at Pocono for two days last week, as did Richard Childress Racing drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. “Well just kind of leave it up to race runs tomorrow,” Patrick said, “which is not a bad thing.”
Not everyone was as pleased. Denny Hamlin, trying to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup despite missing several races with a broken vertebra, will start 17th. He’ll also lose a practice session on the first event weekend after Toyota Racing Development has retooled its engines to put more of an emphasis on reliability over horsepower.
“We’ve been on such a qualifying roll. I don’t know what our average is this year with me in the car, but it’s been pretty low,” Hamlin said. “I think obviously not qualifying will hurt us. Also, were going to lose a practice in the sense of trying to get a feel for what we’ve got in power and things of that nature. We would like to have practice, but everyone’s in the same boat. But 17th, it’s not too big of a deal. This race is long enough, you can make up for it.”
The relatively early cancellation at Pocono was likely a relief to Joey Logano, one of four drivers -- along with Landon Cassill, Joe Nemechek and J.J. Yeley -- who are also entered in Friday night’s Nationwide event at Iowa. Rather than waiting around, the afternoon cancellation in northeastern Pennsylvania allowed Logano to jump on a plane and try and make Friday’s practice sessions at Iowa, although teammate Sam Hornish Jr. was available to shake down his No. 22 car if needed.
“We’ll use Sam to tune in the 22 a little, make sure there are no vibrations and leaks, to give me something close and go from there,” Logano said earlier Friday. “Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation. As a driver, you want to be in the car and set it up yourself, because all of us drive a certain way. But I couldn’t think of anyone better to put in the car then Sam.”
Of the four drivers doing double duty, Logano is the only one with Chase aspirations. The Penske Racing driver is 18th in the standings, 36 points out of the 10th and final guaranteed playoff berth coming to Pocono, where he won the June event last season. That’s why is Sprint Cup car is the priority this weekend, and he won’t forego any track time at Pocono to get to Iowa.
“We’ll do what we’ve got to do to get all the track time, to make sure we have the best shot here,” said Logano, who will start 21st Sunday by virtue of his position in owners’ points. “Because if you look at our season, we’re 18th in points, but we’re only 30-something points out, I think. So we’re very capable of getting in the Chase this year, and we can’t afford to not give it our all at this point. We’ll make sure we focus on the Sprint Cup car and try to get the best finish we can.”