The NASCAR Cup Series is set for its first doubleheader and trip to Pocono Raceway this season. Pennsylvania’s “Tricky Triangle” will play host to Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and Sunday’s Pocono 350 (4 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). This weekend marks the first time that NASCAR’s top division has point races on consecutive days at the same track.
As has been the case with other events since the sport’s return after the COVID-19 outbreak, both races will be held without practice or qualifying.
The events will mark the 14th and 15th NASCAR Cup Series races of the year, the 10th and 11th since the coronavirus pause. With plenty of variables in play for an action-packed Pocono weekend, here’s a primer with helpful information for the doubleheader.
Pocono Raceway is a 2.5-mile triangular track — nicknamed the “Tricky Triangle.” Each turn has a varied degree of banking: Turn 1 is 14 degrees, Turn 2 is 8 degrees and Turn 3 is 6 degrees. Turns 1 and 3 are connected by a 3,740-foot frontstretch, while Turns 2 and 3 are bridged by a 3,055-foot back straightaway. The short straightaway has a length of 1,780 feet. Each turn is modeled after a different track with Turn 1 modeled after Trenton Speedway, Turn 2 (i.e. the tunnel turn) modeled after Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Turn 3 modeled after the Milwaukee Mile.
The NASCAR Cup Series held its first race in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 4, 1974 with the Purolator 500. Richard Petty won in the No. 43 Dodge, beating runner-up Buddy Baker by 18.8 seconds. Petty led a race-high 152 laps in the 192-lap event, which was shortened from the original 200 laps scheduled due to rain. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon holds the record for most all-time wins at Pocono with six.
Saturday’s 325-miler will be the 85th race for NASCAR’s top division at Pocono. Sunday’s 350-miler will then mark the 86th.
Saturday: Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 25, Stage 2 at Lap 77, and the final stage is slated to conclude on Lap 130.
Sunday: Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 30, Stage 2 at Lap 85, and the final stage is slated to conclude on Lap 140.
Both NASCAR Cup Series races will be held without practice and qualifying as the sanctioning body tries to limit exposure for on-site personnel to control the spread of coronavirus. Saturday’s starting lineup will be determined by a random draw Thursday among groups in the team owner standings:
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points
Sunday’s starting lineup will then be based off of Saturday final results. Positions 1-20 will be an inversion of the top 20 finishers. Positions 21-40 will see the bottom 20 start where they finished in the first race.
Pit-stall selection for Saturday’s race will be based on the finishing order from Monday’s event at Talladega Superspeedway. Saturday’s winner will then have first pick for Sunday’s pit-stall selection, as others follow in order.
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for intermediate-sized tracks will be in effect with a tapered spacer used to set a target of 550 horsepower. The cars will use aero ducts in addition to other aerodynamic devices to increase downforce.
Because Pocono Raceway is a flat track, teams will use various tuning tools to maximize grip and performance, with one of those being adjusting left-side air pressures. Goodyear has integrated multiple construction updates over the past several seasons, allowing teams to be at the bottom end of left-side air pressure recommendations without harming the structural integrity of the tire. Observing those minimums are an important part of maximizing durability.
“Pocono has a unique track layout and always presents a challenge,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Being 2.5 miles in length, fuel windows are relatively ‘short’ in terms of the number of laps. … Depending on how the cautions fall, we may see some varying pit strategies that could jumble the field. Also this weekend, with back-to-back races in the Cup Series, it will be interesting to see how teams use the information from Saturday’s race to make adjustments and improvements for Sunday. Since we have restarted the season, teams have had no practice, so Sunday will really be more like a ‘normal’ race where teams have had a chance to adjust on their cars from day to day.”
Teams in all three NASCAR series will run the same tire setup. It’ll feature the same right-side tire code ran at this track last season, but the left-side tire is a new code with a construction update.
The NASCAR Cup Series will have six sets of tires for each race. The NASCAR Xfinity Series will have five sets (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1). The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will have four sets (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET on FS1).
STATS TO KNOW
— Toyota drivers have won the last five races at Pocono Raceway. Kyle Busch has won three (July 2017, July 2018 and June 2019) of those five in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Martin Truex Jr. took the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota to Victory Lane in June 2018. Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took the July 2019 checkered flag. All those drivers happen to race for Joe Gibbs Racing now, too.
— Chevrolet, meanwhile, is winless in the last seven Pocono Raceway events. Kurt Busch was the last Chevrolet driver to win at the Pennsylvania track with his former No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing entry in June 2016.
— Hendrick Motorsports has the most starts (245), wins (17), poles (13), top fives (70), top 10s (126) and laps led (3,270) at Pocono Raceway.
— Four drivers have scored their first career win at Pocono Raceway: Jeremy Mayfield (June 1998), Denny Hamlin (June 2006), Chris Buescher (August 2016) and Ryan Blaney (June 2017).
— In the last six Pocono Raceway events, only two drivers have led the most laps. Kyle Busch has four times: 100 in June 2017, 74 in July 2017 (won), 52 in July 2018 (won) and 79 in June 2019 (won). Kevin Harvick handled the other two races: 89 in June 2018 and 62 laps in July 2019.
— Only two of the 12 stage winners at Pocono Raceway went on to win the race. Kyle Busch (August 2017) and Martin Truex Jr. (June 2018) both won Stage 1 en route to their overall victories.
Source: NASCAR statistics, Racing Insights
Tune in to television coverage Saturday on FOX (3:30 p.m. ET) and Sunday on FS1 (4 p.m. ET) or on the FOX Sports App for both events. For full radio coverage from Pocono Raceway, listen in to MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on-air.
RELATED: Ways to follow the races
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNERS
Kyle Busch won the 2019 Pocono 400 on June 2, 2019. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led a race-high 79 laps, including the last 21, to win the 160-lap event. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski finished runner-up by 2.224 seconds.
Denny Hamlin won the 2019 Gander RV 400 on July 28, 2019. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led 32 laps, including the last 20, to win the 163-lap event in overtime. Teammate Erik Jones finished runner-up by .314 seconds. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick led a race-high 62 laps but ultimately came in sixth.
ACTIVE POCONO WINNERS
Denny Hamlin (five); Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch (three); Martin Truex Jr. (two); Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman (one)