Pennsylvania 400 Preview
July 30, 2013
By Micah Roberts
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For those looking to wager on this Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway, the first order of business at hand is to not only look at what happened in the June 9 race at Pocono, but also last week’s results from the Brickyard 400. The similarities between the two 2.5-mile tracks lie within the long straightaways and at least one instance -- turn 3 at Pocono -- that resembles Indy’s flat turns.
Ten of the top-15 finishes in the first Pocono race finished in the top-15 Sunday at the Brickyard, including Sunday’s winner, Ryan Newman, who finished fifth at Pocono. Jimmie Johnson won the June race and finished second on Sunday using the exact same chassis for both races, which was also the same one that he used to win last year’s Brickyard 400. However, that beast of a chassis is unlikely to be turned around this quickly and be ready for this week, even though there shouldn’t be too much tinkering required on it because the set-ups for each track are similar.
The No. 48 team will have its press release sent out by Wednesday which will detail what chassis Johnson is using this week, and if it isn’t the same chassis he used to lead the most laps at Pocono and Indy this year, it shakes up the odds considerably for everyone else. Or rather, it gives everyone else a fighting chance.
If it wasn’t for an out-of-the-ordinary late muff by the No. 48 pit crew in their final pit stop that last 17 seconds, Johnson would have been able to win at Indy again -- for a record fifth time. Newman’s crew made the winning move by taking only two tires in their final pit stop, while Johnson’s took four, but the margin victory was just under three seconds. If Johnson’s crew had just been able to shave off three seconds and make just an average pit stop, Johnson would have been able to make the winning pass on Newman with about two laps to go.
No one’s crying for Johnson, though. This guy has four wins on the season already and is making a mockery of the points system by having a 75-point lead over second-place Clint Bowyer. That’s almost two entire races of maximum points that Johnson leads by which is why he’s an overwhelming EVEN (Bet $100 to win $100) money favorite at the LVH Super Book to win the Chase this season.
As for Newman, he moved up three points in the standings to 16th but still needs some help to gain the final wild card spot in the Chase with six races to go. For the lucky few that had the foresight to take Newman last week, he paid off at 50/1 odds. Following a good practice session and then qualifying well enough to start from the pole, his odds were dropped down to 25/1 at the LVH.
Other drivers that fared well at both events this season were Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3rd at Pocono, 6th at Indy), Tony Stewart (4th at each), Kyle Busch (6th, 10th), Kurt Busch (7th, 14th), Joey Logano (10th, 8th), Jeff Gordon (12th, 7th), and Juan Pablo Montoya (14th, 9th).
The only driver among the top-7 finishers at Pocono that didn’t finish within the top-15 at the Brickyard was Greg Biffle, who was runner-up to Johnson at Pocono. He should be looked at as a strong candidate this week just because during his poor performance last week, he wasn’t using his Pocono chassis. We’ll know what car he’s bring by Wednesday, but I’d be willing to lay odds that the No. 16 team will be bring that same Pocono chassis from June that ran so strong.
Jeff Gordon will be looking for his seventh Pocono win on Sunday in what will be his 42nd start on the track, and ironically, it's also his 42nd birthday. How can you not bet on that combination, right? The best thing to like about Gordon this week is a strong run at Indy last week, and the fact that he won this race last season.
A driver that has performed well at Pocono his entire career, but didn’t fare well Sunday at Indy is Denny Hamlin. Over his career, he has four wins on the tricky triangle with a 10.5 average finish. He’s been mired in slump recently, but Pocono should get him going again and contend for the win.
If you’re thinking sweep with Johnson, it’s happened quite a few times in the past beginning with Bobby Allison in 1982. Then it was Bill Elliott in 1985, Tim Richmond (‘86), Bobby Labonte (’99), Johnson (’04) and Hamlin (’06) following suit with the double. A Johnson win would be his fourth at Pocono, both coming in season sweeps.
Because it’s doubtful Johnson will be using the same car, I’m going to look elsewhere for a winner this week.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #14 Tony Stewart (7/1)
2) #16 Greg Biffle (25/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
4) #39 Ryan Newman (15/1)
5) #24 Jeff Gordon (10/1)