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Micah Roberts - Blogs

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POCONO 400 PRACTICE NOTES: LOGANO FASTEST, JOHNSON STRONG

By Micah Roberts
Posted 06/08/2012 at 06:59 PM

Joey Logano laid down the fastest lap (179.501 mph) during the final practice session in preparation for Sunday’s Pocono Raceway. The session featured more long runs than Friday’s early session with only one driver -- Logano -- running 10-consecutive laps. During ‘Happy Hour’, nine drivers went as many as 10 straight laps. The bulk of all the top speeds were run in qualifying trim. ************ One of the major questions for this race was answered by Marty Snider and Larry McReynolds via twitter. The question posed by Frederic Crespi asked how many teams in practice today were using the same chassis from testing. TNT’s Marty Snider said that about half the teams ran back-ups in the two day test session held Wednesday and Thursday at Pocono, while Larry McReynolds said, “Not sure, but do know a lot of them tested their primary car the last two days.” ************* The importance of knowing exactly what chassis is brought means a lot in this week’s equation. It would seem the most logical choice for each team was to use the extra two days of testing to their advantage for the race on Sunday. By us not knowing exactly what driver switched them, it makes it tougher to analyze who will be the best on Sunday. How relevant are the testing notes and what drivers are confirmed? **************** The only confirmed driver that I have heard is Jimmie Johnson who tested with a back-up and is using his primary for this weekend’s activities. That primary car is a two-time winner taking the checkers at Darlington this season and Kansas last fall. ********************* Johnson was less than impressive in testing using a back-up, but was fourth-fastest in the early session while having the 21st-quickest lap (176.370) in the final practice. Johnson also topped the charts with the best 10-consecutive lap average. ******************* Carl Edwards was another driver who had struggled with his car in testing, but was very happy with the speeds obtained (21st) in the early session. When they put the qualifying trim on in the final session they shot to the top of the board (179.361), which stood until Logano beat it. But it was still good enough to be second best. *************** Saturday’s qualifying takes on a major role here because the race is 400 miles, 100 miles shorter than any other race in Pocono history. Start position is almost the key to the race. McReynolds mentioned on TNT that some teams would be strategizing like they do on road courses where they cycle around pit stops backwards. Each fuel window looks to be about 26 to 28 laps. ************ Because of that importance on start position, it's quite possible a few teams from the early practice didn't care to run their fastest in that session -- the one that determines qualifying start time. Qualifying starts at 11:00 am (ET) Saturday when the track is cooler. The fastest drivers from the early session will start later when the surface is warmer, which will likely create slower times. ************* Jeff Gordon finished with the third fastest lap (179.108) followed by Paul Menard (178.798), Kyle Busch (178.540) and Kasey Kahne (178.455). ************* The two stars from the test sessions were A.J. Allmendinger and Mark Martin and they came out blazing in the first practice session with top-5 speeds. Allmendinger closed out final practice with the ninth fastest lap (177.459) and Martin 20th (176.370). ******************* Kahne had strong average times among drivers running 20 laps or more -- 33 laps run -- and should be considered a contender. Another star in average speeds was four-time Pocono winner Denny Hamlin who ran a session high 42 laps. **************** As for as the top speed in the final session, it's nice to see Logano step it up here and be fast. He's fighting for his young NASCAR life at Joe Gibbs Racing and is probably best known at Pocono for his "His wife wears the firesuit" comment in regards to getting punted late by Kevin Harvick in 2010.

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