Wednesday, Oct 04

Josh Wise, the driver of the No. 98 car, will be switching manufacturers up a little bit over the next few weeks. Phil Parsons Racing usually utilizes Chevrolets, but due to a lack of funding, they switch things up and run Ford Fusions at the restrictor plate tracks.

This weekend, Wise is running a Ford. However, that will not be the only time he will be using a blue-oval styled car. Speedway Digest has learned that the No. 98 team will race a Ford at Indianapolis in late July. Due to Pocono’s similar characteristics to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Wise said it was the best decision for the team to run a Ford due to their lack of funding.

At Sonoma, Wise will have the Dogecoin colors return to the No. 98 car. After fans purchased more memorabilia than needed to fund the Talladega race, the team thought it would be a good idea to run the scheme in order to give thanks to the fans. Wise had a special helmet designed by Off Axis Paint as it enables him to have the helmet aboard his car throughout the season.

Currently, Wise stated the team does not have funding for the majority of the remainder of the season. In the past, Phil Parsons Racing was known for being a start-and-park organization, but after a few solid performances early in 2014, the team opted to run all of the races for the entire season.

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.

 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Kyle Larson, has won the pole award for the ARCA 200 at Pocono. Larson’s No. 4 Chevrolet, fielded by Turner-Scott Motorsports, set the pace in ARCA Series qualifying with a staggering time of 53.106 seconds – edging out second-place qualifier, Brennan Poole, by over a tenth of a second.

Larson will be pulling the double this weekend as he will race the No. 42 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as per usual. Prior to Pocono, Larson has run just two career ARCA Series events, including a second-place finish at Daytona last season. During this weekend’s event, Larson has teamed up with his Cup Series sponsor, Target, to run the ARCA Series event in an attempt to gather more experience before hitting the Pocono Raceway for the first time.

“It just helps me learn the track a little bit better. I’ve never raced here before. I’m trying to run as many laps as I can,” Larson said. “I’m not sure if it’s hurting me a whole lot, but it certainly is helping.”

Larson later joked about how the team has made him drive around town in his Chevrolet Camaro – attempting to figure out a way to shift smoother in the Cup Series car where drivers shift at least two times per lap.

Justin Allison will start third in the No. 88 car. Allison is the grandson of former NASCAR driver, Donnie Allison. Current ARCA Series point leader, Grant Enfinger, will start ninth as teammate to Allison. Entering Pocono, Enfinger has five top-10s in six ARCA Series races this year. Of those who qualified inside of the top-10, Poole (who will be replaced by John Wes Townley for Saturday’s event), Frank Kimmel and Enfinger are the only drivers to record a victory in the ARCA Series. 

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. 

The leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings doesn’t have a win yet. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Well, Matt Kenseth is a man that won the 2003 title with just one victory, and he might just do that again.

However, with the new championship format, going win-less throughout the 36-race schedule could severely hurt a driver’s ability to contend for the title. Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have won the 2013 crown, but that was the exact opposite of what NASCAR is expecting this year.

Kenseth took over the championship points lead after Dover as Jeff Gordon finished 15th even though he ran inside of the top-five throughout the day. Entering Pocono, he holds a two-point lead over Gordon, and has a good cushion over third-place Carl Edwards.

With the new format, 16 drivers will qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Those drivers will have to earn at least one win to qualify, and if there aren’t 16 different winners, the point’s leader will automatically qualify for the Chase along with the next amount of spots available in the Chase that are winless but are high in the standings. Now, questions have risen about whether or not Kenseth should worry about winning if he stays as the leader in the championship standings as positions in the Chase are filling up left and right.

“It is definitely different. It was a radical change from what we had. We sit here as the points leader, but it’s a little confusing at times. Hopefully, we can get a win,” Kenseth said.

After Dover, Kenseth and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team have earned 10 top-10s along with five top-fives. However, he is going back to the way he used to race with Roush-Fenway Racing – starting out races rather slow, but picking up the pace by the halfway mark. Kenseth stated during a press conference on Friday morning that the team has adjusted better to the new aero package than he thought, but they have just not been able to seal the deal.

“It doesn’t change at all really,” Kenseth said about his approach now that he has the points lead. “Every week, you go out there with the idea of trying to win. You try to do everything you can to win the race. People always ask about changing strategies or trying harder, but if it were that easy – we would be winning every week.”

In 28 starts at Pocono, Kenseth has yet to score a win at the Tricky Triangle. However, he contended for the victory during the 2003 edition of the Pocono 400, and is expected to run well this weekend even though he finished outside of the top-20 in both Pocono races last year. 


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