The NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers left the Monster Mile of Dover International Speedway for the Tricky Triangle of Pocono International Raceway this weekend.
President and CEO, Brandon Igdalsky, of Pocono Raceway orchestrated a great fan incentive by offering $10,000 to 10 fans if Jeff Gordon wins the Party in the Poconos 400 presented by Walmart on Sunday.
Gordon, of course, has been a fan favorite for over two decades and won at the track in August of last year in a rain-shortened event. In fact, Gordon holds the track record for most wins in NASCAR Sprint Cup with six.
For the sake of the fans that could potentially reap the rewards of this windfall, and that Gordon’s career that needs some resuscitation at this point in the season, I hope he wins. But logic dictates we look at other competitors in the race as well.
After all, last August Igdalsky offered a similar contest stating if Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Pennsylvania 400 a lucky fan would walk away with a cool $100,000. Earnhardt Jr. placed 8th.
But the fans love the opportunity to play this game with Igdalsky knowing a chance exists to not only enjoy their sport and but also possibly earn some cash.
Gordon is a strong pick at Pocono as Earnhardt Jr. was last season. But with Gordon’s record to date – he is currently 11th in the points with third place the highest finish he’s seen all season – he may not be a top contender. Still, Gordon won this event in 2011.
Joey Logano is a driver who could very well swoop in for a win at Pocono this weekend. Although 18th in points does not indicate a successful season at present, Logano has secured four top-fives and five runs in the top 10. He is also the defending champion of the race.
If his equipment holds and he avoids scuffles with other drivers, Logano could very well find himself in Victory Lane on Sunday.
With back pain ever-present and acute at times, Denny Hamlin may seem like a tricky pick at the Tricky Triangle, but there was a time that Hamlin ruled at Pocono.
As a rookie in 2006 he swept both races of the season. In August of 2009 he picked up another win and followed that with a victory in June of 2010.
Hamlin knows his way comfortably around Pocono’s tri-oval and seems to run even better in pain so look for him to be a strong contender come race day.
Tony Stewart is fresh from a win at Dover, a place he’d already had a couple of victories. The weather cooperated with Stewart – who always seems to come alive when the weather turns hot – Dover was in the 90s last weekend.
Momentum is a huge thing in NASCAR. If you have it, it can take you through a successful season. The only problem is, the forecast for Pocono is a spring-like day in the upper 70s, not hot.
Will “Smoke” be? He was the 2009 winner of this race and has two victories at Pocono to date.
Five years ago Kasey Kahne celebrated in Victory Lane as the winner of this event. Now he sits in the Hendrick Motorsports stable with arguably the strongest teammates on the circuit – Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, and Earnhardt Jr.
This season Kahne boasts a win, five top-fives and six top 10s. He has been at the front of several races and seems poised to win again. He could very well do that at Pocono on Sunday.
Look for points’ leader Johnson to be a force to be reckoned with as he is each weekend. He only has a couple of wins here but they were consecutive as he swept in 2004.
Second in points, Carl Edwards, could be a threat here as well. He claims a win at the August 2008 event and a 2005 victory at this race.
My dark horse pick? Kurt Busch. He’s running incredibly well this season and is so close to a win he can taste it. I was in the stands and watched Busch win in the August 2007 event and know he has the chops to claim victory again.
Who do you think will get to victory lane in the Party in the Poconos 400 presented by Walmart? Let me know!
Please take a moment to check out this Emerson Knife auction for Chris Kyle, “American Sniper”, at: