Who will have an edge at Pocono Raceway this weekend? Lee Spencer gives her take on the 10 best drivers for the Pocono 500.
Kasey Kahne is the defending winner of the Pocono 500. Although he started from the pole, Kahne relinquished the lead of the first lap to Jimmie Johnson but was able to regain the point for 69 of 200 laps, including the last 15. In 10 Pocono starts, Kahne's posted one win, two top fives and four top-10 finishes. Kahne set the current track qualifying record of 172.533 mph in 2004 and his average starting position of 7.4 is the second best on the tour.
Kurt Busch dominated the August 2007 race by leading 175 of 200 laps for his second Pocono win. In 16 career starts, Busch has posted seven top fives and eight top 10s. Since taking over the blue deuce in 2006, Busch's Pocono percentages improved considerably. In six starts, the No. 2 scored three top fives and four top 10s.
Matt Kenseth has never won at Pocono Raceway, but he's tied with teammate Carl Edwards for the best finishing average (14.2) among current Roush Fenway drivers. In 18 starts behind the wheel of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford, Kenseth has posted three top fives, eight top 10 finishes and has been running at the end of every race.
Carl Edwards needs a win to turn his season around and that could happen this weekend at Pocono. Edwards won in his first start and his last on the 2.5-mile tri-oval. He's posted three top fives and four top 10s at Pocono but has been inconsistent as a whole. If he has a weakness at Pocono, it's qualifying. In eight starts, his average starting position is 26th.
Ryan Newman won his first stock car race as a 22-year-old development driver for Penske Racing at Pocono in 2000. Newman has always enjoyed Pocono and if the fish are biting, the weekend is that much better. His qualifying reputation is solid with an average start of 10th in 14 Pocono starts. Rocketman won from the first of his two pole positions in 2003 and has scored five top fives and six top 10s.
Despite a damper on the week from a rained out Prelude to the Dream, Tony Stewart carries the momentum of the points lead into Pocono. Stewart's sole Pocono win came in this event in 2003. In 20 races, Smoke's posted six top fives and 14 top 10 finishes. His third of 10 career poles was scored at Pocono in 2000 Stewart's fourth start at the track.
Mark Martin leads all current Pocono competitors with three poles, which he earned behind the wheel of the No. 6 Ford. But Martin has won an equal amount of poles this season in the No. 5 Chevrolet and could very easily improve that number to four on Friday. In 44 starts, Martin is winless at Pocono, but he's been incredibly strong with 19 top five and 31 top 10 finishes. Only one Pocono DNF was not mechanically-related.
Jeff Gordon tops all current Pocono competitors with four wins on the 2.5-mile tri-oval. In 32 starts, he's posted 15 top-fives and 22 top 10s. His average finish of 10.3 is third best on the tour. Gordon last won this race two years ago following a brutal wreck in the 2006 Pocono 500.
Fresh off of his Dover win, Jimmie Johnson is poised for a solid run at Pocono. He led 59 laps in this race last year the most since he won consecutive Pocono races in 2004. J.J. has two poles in 14 Pocono races for the second best starting average on the tour 7.4. His finishes are equally stout five top fives, nine top 10s and no DNFs for an average showing of 9.8.
Denny Hamlin won from the pole in his first and second career start at Pocono. Until last year, Hamlin had never finished worse than sixth. He leads the tour in average starts and average finishes 6.7 and 6.2 respectively. In six starts, he has led 300 of the 1,106 laps raced.