NASCAR

Pocono practice pivotal for Reutimann

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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Six of the nine drivers attempting the Busch-Cup double this weekend are locked into the top 35 in owner points so they can focus on race conditions in Friday's hour-and-a-half Cup practice at Pocono (noon ET on SPEED) before flying to Nashville for Busch practice. The three go-or-go-home Cup drivers — Dave Blaney, Mike Bliss and David Reutimann — are in a little bit of a box. Attempting to make his first Cup race at Pocono, Reutimann has to focus on getting in the show on Friday. If he makes the race, he'll depend on his teammates #151 Dale Jarrett and Michael Waltrip — for race information should they qualify for the race.

Of those three drivers, Reutimann definitely faces the biggest challenge as he's doing triple duty, practicing and qualifying an ARCA car for more track time at Pocono. Blaney will be working with a new crew chief this week, Tommy Baldwin, who has replaced Kevin Hamlin on the No. 22 car. They've got a little bit of work to do, but Baldwin has been with Bill Davis Racing all year so that should ease the transition.

Who to Watch

  • Denny Hamlin: After sitting on both poles and winning both races at Pocono last year, Hamlin would be the hands-down favorite.
  • Kurt Busch: Finished second in both races there last year, Busch is right up there next to Hamlin as a favorite with a win and top-five finishes in half of his 12 starts.
  • Tony Stewart: Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate normally runs well at the three-sided track with a win and 11 top-10 finishes in 16 starts.
  • Brian Vickers: As well as Vickers has been running, he could be a sleeper because he's qualified in the top eight in six of his starts there. It appears that Toyota has definitely helped its cause with some changes in the engine combination.
  • Ryan Newman Heading to a track where he has a win with some momentum from two consecutive poles and a 2nd-place finish at Dover, Newman should run well because he has run well there before.
  • Carl Edwards: Edwards has won and finished 4th at Pocono so expect him to run well.
  • Greg Biffle: Another Roush Fenway Racing driver, Biffle, normally runs well at Pocono.
  • Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon: The 48 and 24 side of the Hendrick group will run well this weekend. Johnson has always performed well there with the season sweep in 2004 and no finish worse than 15th.
  • What to Watch

  • Three for all: It unique because it's a triangle. It doesn't have two straightaways, it has three of varying lengths. It doesn't have two ends of the racetrack, it almost has three with one for each turn. Each one is completely different. No other racetrack on Earth resembles it.
  • Plenty of time: Qualifying well sets the tempo for the weekend, but the race is 200 laps and 500 miles on a very wide racetrack. You can make up ground because there are plenty of places to pass. If you start in the middle or the back of the field, it may take you a while, but if you've got a good handling car, you can get back to the front.
  • Total package: On our conference call for this week's NASCAR Performance (SPEED, Sat., 11 p.m. ET), Chad Knaus, Bootie Barker and I compared notes and agreed Pocono Raceway is hard to get into and out of because it isn't in the most optimal location, but it's a neat racetrack. Every possible element in our sport comes into play over 500 miles at Pocono Raceway. You've got to have a good handling and aero package. You've got to have good horsepower. Brakes are a big because you enter the corners so fast, including the 90-degree Turn 1. Strategy and fuel mileage often win these races.
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  • Bigger is better on pit road: With one of the best pit roads on the circuit, it's wide and has among the biggest pit boxes, unlike last week's race. But Dover is working to rectify its problems.
  • Fuel in focus: Fuel mileage played a role in the outcome of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and it usually is a factor in races at the next two tracks — Pocono and Michigan. It doesn't change your strategy, but you've got to figure your fuel mileage more closely this week. While you can get by with running out of gas at some tracks, you'll have to wait for 10 or 15 minutes after the race ends to get a push back to the pits at this 2 1/2-mile track. It's the last place in the world you want to run out of gas. It will absolutely make your day go about as far south as it can go.


    FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.

    "How to Become a Winning Crew Chief" is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com.

  • Tagged: Dale Jarrett, Dave Blaney, David Reutimann, Michael Waltrip, Mike Bliss, Kevin Hamlin

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