Snapshot: GoBowling.com 400
August 03, 2014, Stu Hothem, NASCAR.com
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What: GoBowling.com 400
Where: Pocono Raceway
When: Sunday, Aug. 3
Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV/Radio: ESPN (Coverage begins at noon ET), MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90)
Distance: 160 laps, 400 miles
Pit road speed: 55 mph
Caution speed: 70 mph
Fuel window: 32-35 laps
Avg. time of race: 3 hours, 22 minutes
On the front row (See the full lineup here)
1. Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (183.438 mph*)
2. Joey Logano, Team Penske (183.408 mph)
*15th track record of the season in Coors Light Pole Qualifying
Failed to qualify:
Defending race champion:
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports, No. 5 Chevrolet
Driver rating (based on data from the past nine years):
Denny Hamlin, 109.0
Jimmie Johnson, 108.7
Fastest in practice:
First practice: Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (180.353 mph)
Second practice: Busch (178.859 mph)
Third practice: Brad Keselowski, Team Penske No. 2 Ford (178.547 mph)
Four different Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won the last four races at the Tricky Triangle, padding Rick Hendrick's all-time wins lead at the track with 16. The next closest owners are Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske with nine victories apiece. With three of its four team drivers locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, defending race winner Kahne is on the outside looking in after losing a late-race lead to teammate Jeff Gordon last week at Indianapolis.
Lookin' for a broom:
Pocono 400 race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the ground running on Friday, tweeting he was "lookin' for a broom" to complete the season sweep in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Dale Jr. would become the sixth driver to complete the feat, joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison (1982), former premier series champions Bill Elliott (1985), Bobby Labonte (1999) and Jimmie Johnson (2004) as well as Tim Richmond (1986) and Denny Hamlin (2006).
Sticking with it:
Before the June race, Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing team gave him Camaro to learn how to drive a stick and shift, a skill necessary for success at Pocono. Larson won the ARCA race that weekend and finished fifth in the Pocono 400 Sprint Cup race. Two months later, Larson appears to have mastered it, becoming the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver to win a Coors Light Pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Six drivers with multiple wins and who cannot fall out of the top 30 in points have clinched spots in the season-ending playoffs: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. On Sunday four more drivers have a chance to clinch: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola. Harvick's two wins mean he needs only to clinch a top-30 spot. Busch has clinched a top-30 spot, but needs another win to clinch. Hamlin has yet to clinch a top-30 spot. He would clinch with a win and some help. Almirola would need to win this weekend to clinch and get some help to also lock up a top-30 spot.
Who's the next winner?:
With only six races to go until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, there are only six more chances for drivers to win their way into the playoffs. Based on best average finish of drivers with more than five starts at the track, Tony Stewart (11.0), Ryan Newman (11.5), Clint Bowyer (14.8), Martin Truex Jr. (14.9) and Matt Kenseth (15.3) are the top five to watch. Among drivers without wins, Stewart has the best average driver rating (98.9). In his quest for a third Pocono win in June, Stewart led 24 laps but a speeding penalty on pit road at Lap 119 cost him a chance at a breakthrough victory.
Filling in on the No. 11:
Following a penalty at Indianapolis, NASCAR suspended No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Darian Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill. Race engineer Mike Wheeler will call the shots for Denny Hamlin, and former car chief Chris "Spider" Gillin, who came off the road at the end of 2013, is back with the team at Pocono.
Doing the double:
Brad Keselowski defended his U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland NASCAR Nationwide Series title on Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. Landon Cassill joined Keselowski on the Iowa-Pocono plan and scored a 13th-place finish.
Former Pocono winners in the field:
Jeff Gordon (6); Denny Hamlin (4); Jimmie Johnson (3); Kasey Kahne (2); Carl Edwards (2); Tony Stewart (2); Kurt Busch (2); Brad Keselowski (1); Ryan Newman (1); Greg Biffle (1); Joey Logano (1); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1)
Fantasy sleeper, presented by Rotowire :
Jamie McMurray. Things appear to be lining up for a very successful weekend at Pocono for Chip Ganassi Racing. Not only does the No. 42 team have a good look heading to the three-turn oval, but the No. 1 team of McMurray could be a steady performer as well. McMurray owns finishes of 10th-, 17th-, 13th-, 16th- and 10th-place in his last five trips to Long Pond, Pennsylvania. His 10th-place finish here in June was no fluke. It was his fifth-career Top-10 finish at the 2.5-mile tri-oval. There seems to be a lot of indicators pointing toward a top-15 finish for the CGR veteran at Pocono.