The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the Pocono Raceway for the second of a pair of trips this year. In the midst of the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania, the track has been infamous for its history of having rain within the area on a frequent basis.
This year, it is 50/50 on whether or not the poor weather will show up for Sunday’s Gobowling.com 400. For the second straight year, the company is the title sponsor of the event, and they also have their colors on Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Ford. During Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the rain was able to hold off, and the Sun came out for a large portion of the 150-mile spectacle. The forecast is similar for Sunday’s race as 43 Sprint Cup Series teams are prepared to race at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ for 400-miles.
Kyle Larson, the newly turned 22-year-old, set a new track record on Friday afternoon during qualifying for the Gobowling.com 400 at Pocono. Larson led the field to the green flag at Richmond International Raceway, but that was due to qualifying being rained out and set on practice speeds. The pole locked him into the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway for next year as it was his first career pole.
After winning the first race at Pocono this year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking to take out the broom stick. Earnhardt Jr. is second in points behind last weekend’s winner Jeff Gordon. After struggling to begin the weekend, the No. 88 team has picked up speed as they were fifth quickest in final practice. With 14 top-10s this year, he will be a factor in Sunday’s event. However, with Gordon coming off of his 90th career victory – he is expected to be strong once again this weekend. He will start fifth in his No. 24 car, but he has been one of the top-three fastest cars over the course of the weekend.
Brad Keselowski was extremely close to winning the June race at the triangular-shaped speedway. But with debris on his grille – Keselowski had to drop back behind Earnhardt Jr. with a handful of laps remaining in the race. On Saturday evening, the former Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series champion captured his 30th career race in NASCAR’s second-tier division. He dominated the race at Iowa Speedway – leading 146 of the 250 laps as he held off a hard-charging Michael McDowell after a late-race caution to score the victory. Keselowski flew back to Pocono as he will pull off the double for possibly the final time with Ryan Blaney possibly moving up to that ride in 2015.
Denny Hamlin will be racing without his crew chief Darian Grubb this weekend. Grubb was suspended for six events due to multiple rear firewall covers having issues following a third-place finish at Indianapolis. Hamlin’s replacement crew chief will be Mike Wheeler, whom of which has worked as the No. 11 team’s car chief since 2006. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota won his first pair of races at NASCAR’s highest level at Pocono back in 2006, and has been quick all weekend. Hamlin will start the Gobowling.com 400 from the 13th position, but was ninth in Happy Hour and 15th in Saturday’s first practice session.
Stewart Haas Racing was strong in the June Pocono race. However, none of their four drivers were able to close the deal. Team co-owner Tony Stewart was leading the race, but had a pit road speeding penalty which dropped him back to the 13th position after pacing the field for 24 laps. Kurt Busch was the lone driver from the organization to finish inside of the top-10 after leading five laps in the 160-lap event.
Michael Waltrip Racing is looking for their first win of 2014. Clint Bowyer sits 10th in points and hasn’t finished outside of the top-15 at Pocono since the August race in 2012. His teammate Brian Vickers made his return to Pocono in June – finishing 19th. Moreover, he sits 17th in points and needs a solid run this weekend.
The green flag will take place at 1:05 p.m. ET as NASCAR moved up the start time by 13 minutes due to the pending weather.