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July 21, 2023

What to Watch: 2023 Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway

(⏰ Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET | 📺 USA, NBC Sports App | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Pennsylvania, the 21st points-paying race of the 2023 Cup Series campaign.

Weekend schedule | TV schedule | Weather tracker | Pocono 101

📍 Location: Long Pond, Pennsylvania
📐 Track length: 2.5 miles
🎟️ Buy tickets: Find weekend passes, seats for the race
💰 Cup Series race purse: $7,243,361
📏 Race distance: 400 miles | 160 laps
🔢 Stages: 30 | 95 | 160

🚪 Entry list: Cup Series drivers entered
📋 Starting lineup: William Byron races to P1
🚗 Pit stall assignments:
Where drivers will pit on Sunday
🏆 Most recent winner: Chase Elliott, 2022

Key things to watch 🔑

Saturday’s sessions

William Byron concluded another qualifying session with an additional Busch Light Pole Award to his mantle, with the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports driver claiming his third of the season and his 11th overall in the NASCAR Cup Series. Martin Truex Jr. will start on the front row with Byron, while HMS teammate Kyle Larson will lead the second row in conjunction with Kyle Harvick. Christopher Bell rounded out the top five. | Read the full practice, qualifying recap

Big story line

When will they win? Shockingly, 11 of the 19 race winners from the 2022 season have yet to reach Victory Lane — including Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. If either fails to make the playoffs this season, it will be the first time since 2016 that Hendrick Motorsports failed to put three or more cars into championship contention. As the dust starts to settle and the regular season rapidly winds down, it is clear that drivers at the top of the standings are separating themselves from the rest of the field. Three drivers – William Byron (4), Martin Truex Jr. (3) and Kyle Busch (3) – combine for half of the trips to the Winner’s Circle this season. Eight other drivers have just one win. And with only five races remaining before the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway, time is running out for the others to join them. | Complete look at the current playoff picture

History tells us…

Denny Hamlin will be a contender. Hamlin has six victories at the Pennsylvania triangle, including two in the last six races. He has also led laps in 10 of his last 11 trips to Pocono, an astounding feat. He simply knows how this place works. Continuing off momentum from the seventh-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he could very well be the next driver this season to hang a crooked number in the win column. Where he has struggled lately is stringing together consistent finishes, but he should be confident and comfortable this weekend. After all, he is tied with Jeff Gordon for the most wins at the track, and he is likely eyeing being the lone holder of the record. | Power Rankings: Why Sunday could see Hamlin climb the charts

He may not be the betting favorite to win, but watch out for…

Bubba Wallace. Wallace is right near the elimination line, fighting for a berth in the Cup Series Playoffs. As the summer months wane, he and the No. 23 Toyota team have picked up the pace, earning back-to-back top-10 finishes after a string of eight finishes of 14th or worse. To have made it through that sort of a slump and still contending for a Round of 16 spot has to be sort of a relief for Wallace and company. But there is still a lot of work left to do. Wallace opens at a respectable 28-1 opening odds on DraftKings, meaning that people have obviously seen potential in him to shake up the race. He’s not a long shot, but he’s not among the favorites, either. Based on a solid run and eighth-place finish in 2022, preceded by a fifth-place effort in 2021, he could be an interesting pick to win. | Bubble Watch: Full look at the elimination-line battle

Thank you, NASCAR fans! ❤️

For all of the highs and lows in this ever-changing sport, thanks for making the last 75 years the best yet. We couldn’t do it without you.

Familiar favorites ⭐️

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

– At-track photos: Best shots from Pocono race weekend | Scroll through gallery
– Paint Scheme Preview:
Take a look at these incredible new schemes | Pick a favorite
– Fantasy Fastlane: Getting tricky in Pocono | Top plays, sleepers
– Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin targets “Tricky Triangle” trophy yet again | Latest driver rankings
– Betting odds: See which driver is favored to win the race | Top bets, underdog picks
– Stacking Pennies:
Kyle Petty fills in for Corey LaJoie | Listen to the podcast

💎 NASCAR 75: Learn more about the history of the sport, from pioneers to current stars | Visit NASCAR 75 hub

Hot off the press 📰

Key stories and breaking news from the week leading up to the race.

– Bubble Watch: Examining where drivers close to elimination line stand | Read more
– Project 91:
Shane van Gisbergen returning at Indy road course | Read more
– Justin Haley:
Signs new contract for 2024 with Rick Ware Racing | Read more
– ‘Just business’:
Haley talks further about move | Read more
– Denny Hamlin:
How Cup Series star unintentionally arranged fans’ marriage | Watch video
– Incoming debut:
Brodie Kostecki joining RCR for Indy road course | Read more
– Leading laps: Kevin Harvick surpasses 10,000 laps led mark | See where he ranks
– Modifieds:
Ryan Preece, Newman take part in tire test at North Wilkesboro | See images
– Kind gesture:
Kevin Harvick donates to Joey Logano’s foundation | Read more
– Playoff push:
Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman look to clinch postseason bid | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy and Fan Rewards.

– Fantasy Live: Participate in interactive gameplay from week to week | Choose your lineup
– Fan Rewards: New in 2023, get rewarded for your participation | Learn more
– NASCAR BetCenter: Don’t miss your chance to make picks each week | Visit the BetCenter
– Going the distance:
2023 Cup Series championship odds | See them here
– The Action Network: Michael McDowell presents interesting value at Pocono | Expert analysis

Pocono precision 📐

It’s harder than it seems to navigate the “Tricky Triangle,” so see which drivers have mastered this unique circuit.

– History, tucked inside a triangle: Read up on the allure of the ‘Tricky Triangle’ | Read more
– Do you remember?:
Memorable moments at Pocono | Relive them here
– Pit road stats:
Looking back at Loudon, preparing for Pocono | Read more
– Best of the best:
All-time best drivers at Pocono Raceway | Hamlin, Busch, others
– Memory Lane:
Ryan Blaney reflects on first Cup Series win in 2017 | Watch the video

Take some notes 📝

Five hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Five drivers without a win in 2023 have won before at Pocono.
The driver leading the most laps won five of the last seven races of 2023.
Denny Hamlin won two of the last three Cup races held at Pocono on July 23rd (2006 and 2020).
Eleven of the 19 drivers that won in 2022, have yet to win in 2023.
None of the last nine races at Pocono were won by a driver getting his first win of the season.

🔮 Advance to Victory Lane: Racing Insights projects Sunday’s finishing order