2018 NASCAR Preview: Week 21 – Pocono

Hey, weren’t we just here?..

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If it feels like we just visited this track, it’s because we did.  The events at Pocono Raceway are together on the schedule, with the 1st visit near the beginning of June. While a good run in that first race seems to indicate a great day at the second, that isn’t always the case.

Here’s what to look for:

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First pole in the Cup Series! Not how I expected it to happen, but proud of my team and the @stanleytools #Camry we have this weekend. Looking forward to tomorrow! #STANLEY (Photo: @Daniel_SuarezG)

-Some drama before the race, both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch had their times disallowed (and eleven other drivers, too), the Pole then awarded to Daniel Suarez, quickest behind them.  While the other two will drop deeper the field for their transgressions (Optical Scanning Station failure and “outside tolerance at the chassis station,” respectively), Suarez will have the best view from the front.  He finished 24th a few weeks ago, but 7th at the 2017 Overton’s 400.  And for some history, Suarez also becomes the first Mexican to win a Pole in NASCAR’s elite series.  Not the prettiest way to do it, but it counts.

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin chat before qualifying gets underway. (Photo Credit: Jessica Ruffin | NASCAR Digital Media)

Denny Hamlin gets to move up to the front row as well, great news for him at a track where he has had great success.  In fact, he won BOTH of these races — as a rookie — back in 2006.  Two more wins here since then (also back-to-back, Summer 2009 and Spring 2010), and finished 4th in the 2017 Summer race.  Not so good in June, however, crashing out for a 35th finish with 14 to go.

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Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, runs to his garage stall prior to practice. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky | Getty Images)

-Looked like we may not get to talk about the “Big Three” this week (after two of them got move to the back, see above), but they’re called that for a reason.  Martin Truex Jr. won the Pocono 400 in June, so he’ll obviously be someone to watch.  3rd in this race last year, too, part of a stretch of three Top 6 finishes.

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LONG POND, PA – JULY 30: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 30, 2017 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch won the 2018 Overton’s 400 (take a wild guess at who ran runner-up), 74 of 160 laps for the win after starting from the Pole.  He won’t start there this year.  Twice he’s come from 34th or worse to finish very well; 38th to 4th as a rookie (2005), and then in 2011 a 34th to 3rd.  With penalties to other drivers as well, he’ll disembark from 28th.  (As a bonus, he won the Gander Outdoors 150 truck race here on Saturday, too.)

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Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford, drives through the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick, last year’s #2, will start in Row 15, 29th.  2nd to 4th in the Spring, “Happy” has yet to hit Victory Lane at Pocono.  Some great runs though; of his last eight attempts, he’s finished 2nd or 4th six times.  He’s coming off a win last week at New Hampshire after a duel with Kyle Busch, could it come down to those two again after digging through the field?  We don’t have to wait long to find out.  (And as always, if he gets a Top 10, free Bloomin’ Onion — with purchase — at Outback!)

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Kyle Busch, driving the No. 18 car, left, leads the field into turn one after taking the green flag to start the Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway Sunday in Long Pond, Pa. (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images)

Coverage of the race starts on NBCSN at 2:30pm, green flag scheduled for 2:48pm.

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