Denny Hamlin has won his second pole of the year as he set the pace during the final round of qualifying at the Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 400. Hamlin’s speed of 181.415 mph was barely able to edge out Kurt Busch as he now has 19 career poles in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His lap was also quick enough to abolish the old track record set by Joey Logano in 2012.
This is the first time Hamlin has sat on the pole at Pocono since 2006. In 2014, Hamlin has now qualified on the front row three times, and finished sixth after sitting on the pole at Bristol, but led just four laps during that event.
“We were definitely not a pole winning car after practice, and even after the first round. It all worked out for us for a pole run,” Hamlin said.
Logano will start seventh in the No. 22 Ford after the Fords were seemingly not strong during practice. However, Logano believe his Team Penske car is going to be fast enough to contend for the victory.
“I don’t think we were struggling. I think we were trying things to get the setup where we wanted it to be. When you come to the race track for the first time with a new rules package, there are a lot of big differences to get used to,” Logano said after qualifying.
Brian Vickers paced the majority of Friday’s lone practice session, and was fastest in the first round of qualifying. However, Vickers dropped to fourth in the second round, and evidently will start ninth in the No. 55 Toyota.
“We got a little too tight. I’m not sure why. I guess we have to go back and figure it out,” Vickers said.
After winning back-to-back races, Jimmie Johnson will start 20th in the No. 48 Chevrolet as he made two attempts in the second round of qualifying, but could not break into the top-12.
“The driver blew Turn 2. I just got too greedy down in two and lost the nose in corner exit,” Johnson said.
Here are some notables from qualifying:
-Matt Kenseth missed the cut to move to the second round as he will start 26th on Sunday. Kenseth struggled in both Pocono races last year, and is coming off of back-to-back top-fives.
-Kasey Kahne also missed the top-24 for the third time this season. Kahne will start 27th in the No. 5 car after putting the 20th quickest time up in Friday’s practice.
-Austin Dillon made it to the final round of qualifying for just the third time this season.
-Alex Kennedy will start 42nd in his first start of 2014.
-Dave Blaney spun out in Turn 1 during his qualifying lap. Blaney was not able to complete a lap, but will start at the tail end of the field since only 43 cars are entered in the race.
Brian Vickers set the pace during the first practice session of the weekend with a time of 49.764 seconds at 179.986 mph. The current track record of 180.223 mph was set by Joey Logano in 2012.
Vickers set a time that was several tenths of a second quicker than the rest of the field early in practice, but then Brad Keselowski came out with less than five minutes left in the session and set a sub-50 second lap. The No. 55 Toyota went back out and was able to set a time that would have become the track record.
During the first practice, weepers appeared on the track in Turn One and Turn Three. Originally, NASCAR was looking at the weeper in Turn One which appeared on the apron near the entrance of the corner. Then, after examining the track, NASCAR officials found another weeper in Turn Three. The weeper in Turn Three took longer to dry compared to the one in Turn One as the Air Titan had to come out to dry the spot on the track.
Pocono Raceway was repaved in 2012 after paving just one portion of Turn Three back in 2011. The track is in an area which the weather is an issue. However, it did not rain at Pocono Raceway on Friday even though the sky was filled with cumulous clouds throughout the day.
Drivers were reporting tight conditions throughout practice. Austin Dillon radioed into his team that the car was plowing as he was going back to the gas in the corners. Besides Keselowski, the next highest Ford was 17th with Carl Edwards who was outside of the top-20 for the majority of practice.
Reed Sorenson ran the most laps with a total of 20 in Friday’s session. After running ARCA Series practice, Kyle Larson was 10th after running 17 laps.
Michael Waltrip is known for his humorous character. However, he has notably taken his one-of-a-kind personality to help develop Michael Waltrip Racing from a marketing standpoint.
Over the past few years, MWR has teamed up with partners such as Five-Hour Energy, Aaron's and NAPA to create some interesting TV-spots. This year, with Brian Vickers driving the No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota on a full-time basis, the organization is working with Aaron's on a brand new commercial.
Vickers is not known for his television skills like Waltrip. However, over the years, Vickers has done multiple commercials, albeit not as outstanding as Waltrip's which have gained notoriety amongst his peers.
This commercial features Vickers in a bathtub - yes a bathtub. Then Waltrip, his boss and two-time Daytona 500 champion, shoves his way through a crowd of teenage girls - showcasing his comical point-of-view. It might be far fetched, but what commercial with Waltrip has not been one that catches the eye of race fans? He even teamed up with Mark Martin over the past two years for some commercials with Aaron's.
The commercial is a part of Aaron's “Own the Life You Want” campaign. This campaign puts a greater emphasis on how “Aaron’s makes owning easy through lease ownership, so you can own the life you want.” Vickers earned his first top-five finish of the 2014 season at the Texas Motor Speedway this past weekend, and continues to improve in his return to full-time racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
In 2010, Brian Vickers’ life took a drastic turn. Taken to the emergency room, the doctors thought he was suffering with pneumonia. Unfortunately, that’s not uncommon. Blood clots are one of the most under-diagnosed conditions that individuals face.
On Wednesday, in association with Blood Clot Awareness Month, Vickers and Dr. Jack Ansell, a leading blood clot specialist and Professor of Medicine at Hofstra-North Shore/LIJ School of Medicine, held a web seminar to bring awareness to the illness.
Vickers was diagnosed with his first blood clot in 2010 at the young age of 26. Missing the remainder of the 2010 NASCAR season, Vickers fought hard to dissolve a blood clot in his left leg, lung and finger. He underwent heart surgery later that year to repair holes in his left and right atrium, a condition called May-Thurner Syndrome that he discovered he had.
With MTS, individuals are prone to more clots and for Vickers, more clots developed. In 2013, he was sidelined yet again with another blood clot and missed the rest of the season. He is back in 2014, now behind the wheel of the No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing full time and bringing Blood Clot Awareness to the forefront of his campaign.
“It’s something that very few people really know or understand the science and symptoms and take the time to research it,” Vickers said during the web seminar. “At the end of the day the most important thing you can do when you think something is wrong is go see your doctor. But taking the time to learn some of these symptoms and going to sites like TreatMyClot.com and learning more is critical.”
For Vickers and Dr. Ansell, raising awareness and helping people understand the signs and symptoms of a blood clot is their main goal.
Dr. Ansell explained that a blood clot in a deep vein, like Vickers experienced, is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) with signs and symptoms of
- Pain or tenderness
- Warmth or redness of the skin on the affected leg
A DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a blood clot that travels to the lungs, also something that Vickers suffered from in 2010.
For Vickers, experiencing shortness of breath and weakness were unusual but not alarming in 2010, until he finally went to the doctor and discovered the true cause of his symptoms. News of his first clot left him wondering if he would ever race again.
“The first time they started very subtle. I had shortness of breath, no real pain associated with it, I was just weak. The strength I had for normal physical activity was diminished and just really short of breath and didn’t know why,” Vickers said.
“I just thought, it’s an off day, and I just kept going and ignored it. Then that shortness of breath turned into pain and that pain became more and more often and more and more severe and even when it was painful, I largely ignored it. Just pure stubbornness and hardheaded, I thought I was young and invincible and clearly I wasn’t. Finally it got so bad that I had no choice but to go to the emergency room. I could hardly breathe and every breath was extremely painful, fortunately I did get there in time but I no doubt cut it close.”
Vickers and his doctors worked out a treatment plan to get him healthy and back in the car. Taking Warfarin, a blood thinner, and changing his diet, he worked hard and got back to racing. When the symptoms started resurfacing again in 2013, Vickers new he had to step back and take care of his health in order to be ready to race full-time in 2014.
In just a few short weeks, Vickers and MWR head to Fontana, California to compete in the Sprint Cup Series event at Auto Club Speedway. The No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota will partner with TreatMyClot.com and feature a purple paint scheme to raise awareness of blood clots.
“We’re really excited about that, it’s an amazing cause. We really hope to continue to raise a lot of awareness through the support of a lot of folks. If you think something is wrong, go see a doctor,” Vickers said. “That’s the biggest message, if you think something is wrong go see a doctor and encourage others.”