Pocono has worked itself down to one date on the calendar, and this is it! Last year we had back-to-back days by design (and we were there!), the year before they did it back-to-back BECAUSE of COVID, and before that we had one race at the start of June, and another at the end of July. For drivers, today is their only chance to look awesome on the Tricky Triangle.
Here’s what to look for:
–Denny Hamlin is our Polesitter today, and this is a track he’s definitely had some success on. He swept the 2006 races as a rookie, won the Summer 2009 race and the Spring 2010 race, back-to-back, and a few more since then, too. Hamlin has earned his way to the Playoffs already, but I don’t think he’d turn down another Win.
–Alex Bowman won the first of two Pocono races last year, passing Kyle Larson for the lead on the last lap. Today, he’ll start 17th and have a little bit of work to do. The Showman has been shown to the garage the last few weeks, exiting each of those races earlier than he meant to. Can he go the full 400 today? Let’s find out!
–Kyle Busch is the consensus “favorite” to win today, and the fact that he won the last time we were here doesn’t hurt that. AND it is “M&Ms Appreciate Day” at the M&Ms Fan Appreciation 400. Seems like as good as time as any to capture the flag, no? This is the first time in 2022 he’s been “the favorite;” can Rowdy answer the call?
–Kevin Harvick actually has the best record of any driver here over the last ten races, and boy, does he need it! After Christopher Bell won last week’s race, that pushed Kevin Harvick out of Playoff contention. With just six weeks to punch your ticket, Harvick needs to REALLY pick up the pace, or “simply” win a race! This maybe be his best/last chance to make it to the 2022 Playoffs.
-Kurt Busch had earned his way to the final round of Qualifying, and when he took to the track…he found the wall. Fast and hard. Concussion protocol. As a result, Kurt Busch will NOT be driving this race, but his car will still be there…and piloted by Xfinity Series phenom Ty Gibbs. Yes, as 23XI is a sister team to Joe Gibbs Racing, it was (I’m guessing) a no-brainer to put Gibbs in the car this weekend. He still needs a little more time in the over before he’s fully ready for the Cup Series, but this will be a very unexpected “toe dip” to see how things are going. 19 years old, and making his first Cup Series start. Where were you at 19? Hmm..
No food today, got back late from watching BILLS CAMP! Yeah! Can you believe we’re like three weeks away from PRESEASON? How did that happen already? They looked good out there, our new Punter was blasting 80-yard drills…IN THE AIR. No bounce and roll, 80 yards, 20 to goal line. Crazy. Warm receptions for all of our stars, and Von Miller got a pretty nice welcome, too. I’ll work on getting some pics up, but nothing I captured is anything really to write home about. In any event: fun! And good to see the boys back on the field.
Coverage of today’s race starts on USA at 3:00pm, green flag scheduled for 3:05pm.