Notes of Interest

● Pocono (Pa.) Raceway is known as the “Tricky Triangle” for its three distinct corners connected by three straightaways, including an enormously long 3,740-foot frontstretch. It is the only triangle-shaped track on the NASCAR Cup Series calendar, and its layout was designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward, who modeled each of its three turns after a different track. Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is from the legendary Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at 8 degrees, is a nod to the turns at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at 6 degrees, is based on the corners at The Milwaukee Mile. The first race on the 2.5-mile triangle occurred in 1971, but it wasn’t until Aug. 4, 1974 that NASCAR visited, with the inaugural race won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty.

● The Great American Getaway 400 will serve as Noah Gragson’s third career NASCAR Cup Series start at Pocono. The driver of the No. 10 Overstock.com Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Stewart-Haas Racing finished 24th in his first Cup Series race at the 2.5-mile triangle in 2022 and improved that mark by two positions in 2023 when he finished 22nd.

● While Gragson is still building his NASCAR Cup Series resume at Pocono, his CV in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track is stout. The 25-year-old racer from Las Vegas has four Xfinity Series starts at Pocono, with three finishes of sixth or better. In fact, his last Xfinity Series start at Pocono was his best. On July 23, 2022, Gragson started ninth but worked his way to the lead after 25 laps. He wound up pacing the field three times for a race-high 43 laps, including the final 22, to take the win by .281 of a second over runner-up Ty Gibbs.

● Before Gragson came to Pocono as a rookie in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2019, he was a rookie in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, making a single start at Pocono in 2017. He qualified eighth and was a top-10 regular until he became embroiled in a three-truck accident on lap 40 that ended his race.

● Gragson also has three ARCA Menards Series starts at Pocono. He first saw the track in 2016, but it was an inauspicious beginning to his time at Pocono, as his car stalled on just the fourth lap. While Gragson’s team was able to finally fix his racecar, it took a while, 51 laps to be exact. But the 29 laps Gragson did run provided valuable experience, which Gragson turned into top-10 runs in 2017 and 2018, when he finished ninth and 10th, respectively. That 2018 ARCA race, however, probably should’ve ended in victory lane. Gragson won the pole for that race and led three times for a race-high 37 laps before he was penalized for an errant wheel from his pit box. ARCA officials sent Gragson to the rear of the field, and while he rallied to 10th, he could never regain the form he had earlier in the race when he was able to race in clean air.

● Overstock.com adorns Gragson’s No. 10 Ford Mustang Dark Horse at Pocono. The partnership amplifies the recent relaunch of Overstock.com, home of crazy good deals that offer quality and style for less. Overstock.com is for the savvy shopper who loves the thrill of the hunt and it includes product categories customers know and love, like patio furniture, home furniture and area rugs, while reintroducing jewelry, watches and health-and-beauty products.

Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 10 Overstock.com Ford Mustang Dark Horse

What makes a lap at Pocono so challenging?

“You’ve got three different corners and the challenge is to get the car set up optimally in all three corners. But the reality is that you’ve got to compromise one corner so you can be good in the other two. Just trying to get the car handling right all the way around the racetrack and feeling good about it is hard. All the corners are important, and you really have to be good in all of them, and if you get your car dialed in, you can get all three pretty good.”

What makes the Tunnel Turn so difficult?

“It’s just super flat as far as banking, and you’re pretty hammer down through there. It’s all timing. You might touch the brake, barely. You carry a lot of speed, and you have to be right with your steering input. If you hang it out and turn in late by a half-second, or turn in a bit early, you’re going to be angled and positioned wrong and you’re going to have to get back out of the gas again on exit. So it’s important to get through there and time it right, and you definitely have to give yourself room.”

How big of a deal is aero at Pocono, specifically, battling through dirty air when you’re in traffic?

“I feel like you have more options now because they’ve resined the second lane the last five or six years. You can run side-by-side pretty well around there and just go to the lane that they’re not in, so it’s not terrible.”

Pocono seems to have a road-course element to it – some flat, fast corners, some bumps, plenty of shifting – does that make it a track that puts more of the race in your hands?

“Every corner is different, so it’s hard to get into a rhythm. When you go to a regular racetrack, their overall configuration is kind of the same with the way they’re banked and angled. Pocono’s a bit different just because it’s a triangle and three different corners that they tried to replicate from other racetracks, so it’s hard to get into a rhythm there.”

You won at Pocono in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In fact, you did it in your fourth and final Xfinity Series start there. Was that win a result of your experience at Pocono, because you knew what you needed in your racecar, or was it just a matter of taking a really good car and delivering with it?

“Probably a bit of both. I think the experience we had and us building up a notebook over the years allowed us to bring a good package. Pocono’s one of those tracks where you’re only as good as your car. If the car won’t do something, you’re probably not going to run great. When it’s dialed in and you can hit on something, you’re probably going to have speed and contend for the win. That’s what I felt like we had in the Xfinity race in ’22. I still had to work my tail off holding off Ty Gibbs. It was probably one of the best battles I’ve had racing. We raced each other super hard. It was a lot of fun.”

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