Pocono Raceway is one of the most unique tracks in NASCAR – in fact, it may be the most unique track in any racing series. It's a track that was seemingly built by committee with three turns instead of the usual two, each patterned after a popular track at the time of its construction.
Each straightaway is a different length, and since this is a scalene, (i.e. lopsided), triangle, the radiuses are also different. The banking in each turn is unique with Turn 1 the steepest. As drivers progress around the track, the straightaways become shorter and the turns are flatter, so there is a bit of a corkscrew effect.
Turn 1 was patterned on Trenton Speedway with 14 degrees of banking. Turn 2 was patterned on Indianapolis Motor Speedway with eight degrees, and Turn 3 was modeled after the Milwaukee Mile. An old adage in road course racing indicates that drivers want to set their car up to be fastest in the final turn leading up to the finish line since that is where the money gets paid. No matter what the team does, this is a track that requires compromise.
Since Indy was one of the tracks Pocono was patterned on, we used that track as a comparative in the past and could study three races per year to determine who might be fastest on these courses. Pocono and Indy are both unique, but in similar ways. Both ovals are geometrical oddities with tight, flat corners. Both are 2.5-miles in length.
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With Indy moving their race to the infield road course and Pocono dropping to just one event in 2022, this course is truly unique. Handicappers might find a little inspiration in driver records from the one-mile flat tracks of Phoenix Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but that aid will be minimal.
Pocono debuted on the NASCAR calendar in 1974. Nine years later it received a second date, in no small part because of a friendly relationship between the Mattioli family and the Frances – the majority owners of the series. The two dates were always extremely close to one another on the calendar and that hurt attendance. This track was ripe for experimentation.
Before COVID-19 hit and scrambled the 2020 calendar, Pocono was scheduled to be the only track with a doubleheader weekend. The pandemic caused major disruptions to the other tracks' calendars, but this is the only course now to have run races on consecutive days two years in a row.
Track officials believed the format was successful. In a statement on their web site, they say: "Bringing the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader with fans to life was a privilege. The doubleheader concept was well-received by our race fans, partners, and guests. It yielded a sold-out infield, sold-out suite level and a strong attendance."
But it seems this was not enough to yield a second date in 2022.
Because Pocono is a flat track, it is a rhythm track. As with the other minimally-banked tracks and road courses, drivers have to brake early and accelerate at the apex. Because the two races proximity on the calendar has long been within about a month, it has been easy to create and maintain streaks.
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Power Rankings After Week 21
15: Kevin Harvick
14: Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin
11: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski
6: Martin Truex, Jr.
5: Erik Jones
4: Kyle Larson, Joey Logano
3: Chase Elliott
2: Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, William Byron
1: Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez
Kyle Busch: 2 top-fives, 10 of 11 top-10s, 2 lead lap finishes
Kevin Harvick: 5 top-10s (and 11 of 12), 5 lead lap finishes
Alex Bowman: 3 top-10s, 3 lead lap finishes, running at the end of all 12 races
Kyle Larson: 3 top-10s, 3 lead lap finishes, running at the end of all 14 starts
Joey Logano: 2 top-10s, 2 lead lap finishes
Brad Keselowski: 2 lead lap finishes (and 11 of 13), 6 lead lap finishes
William Byron: 8 lead lap finishes (every start)
Aric Almirola: 8 lead lap finishes
Denny Hamlin: 7 lead lap finishes
Austin Dillon: 5 lead lap finishes
Martin Truex Jr.: 5 lead lap finishes
Kurt Busch: 4 lead lap finishes
Chase Briscoe: 2 lead lap finishes
Chris Buescher: 2 lead lap finishes
Michael McDowell: 2 lead lap finishes
Daniel Suarez: 2 lead lap finishes, running at the end of all 10 starts
Tyler Reddick: 2 lead lap finishes, running at the end of all 4 starts
Ryan Blaney: Running at the end of all 12 starts
Ty Dillon: Running at the end of all 10 starts
Ross Chastain: Running at the end of all 6 starts
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