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NASCAR

Denny Hamlin is Back to His Favorite Triangle

Denny Hamlin didn’t fare too well at Dover International Raceway last week.  An 18th place finish moved him down one place in the NASCAR standings to fourth, 22 points back from first.  That was then and this is now.  This week’s race is the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR at Pocono Raceway.

The Pocono Raceway is another of those tracks on the NASCAR schedule that is not like any other.  No cookie cutter track here.  In fact it is not like any track.  It only has three turns.  It is a big track like Daytona and Talladega.  It is 2.5 miles in length.  There is 14 degrees of banking in turn 1, 8 degrees in turn 2 and 6 degrees in turn 3.  This track at times acts just like a road course and at other times it is kind of like Indianapolis missing a turn.  The race this year has been shortened from 500 miles to 400 miles or 160 laps.  Since it drives like a road course expect crew chiefs to plan their fuel runs and stick to that strategy unless of course something happens to the car and they need some new strategy.

They call Pocono Raceway the Tricky Triangle because it is a difficult track for drivers but somehow Denny Hamlin took too it right away.  He not only got his first Sprint Cup Win here but that same year he swept both races.   He also won again in 2009 and 2010.  Denny leads all drivers at this track with a driver rating of a dominating 118.6 and has an average finish of 9.7.  See below for the complete driver ratings.

Denny Hamlin does have some company to watch out for.  Jimmie Johnson is the next highest rated driver with a rating of 107.  Jimmie also has an average finish of 9.0. More importantly Jimmie Johnson has been hot the last six weeks.

Denny Hamlin has a two wins this season and is all but guaranteed to be in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.  He can really help his chances in the Chase if he can add to his wins, stay in the top ten and carry the bonus points of those wins into the Chase.  Currently there is a three way tie in the Chase with two wins by, in the order of points, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.  A third win by any of those drivers would seed them first in the Chase.  Yes, now is the time for the top six drivers to be thinking about that.

Other items to note is the track was most recently paved so the track qualifying record held by Kasey Kahne, (172.533 mph, 52.164 seconds, 06-11-04) might be in jeopardy.   47 of 68 Pocono races have been won from a top-10 start, which makes qualifying even more important.  Jeff Gordon won this race last year and leads all drivers with five wins.  This is also the first race with NASCAR’s partnership with Twitter.  During the race you can go to twitter.com/#NASCAR and get the best Tweets using the #NASCAR hashtag from selected NASCAR drivers, NASCAR families, teams, commentators, celebrities and other racing fans and personalities.

If you can’t get to Pocono this is the first race that will be on TNT at 1:00 pm ET.

As of this date I am not one of the chosen people to be featured in NASCAR’s new Twitter initiative, it doesn’t matter you can avoid the middle man by following me @brian_jr1.

Brian Berg Jr. is the Lead NASCAR writer for RantSports.com

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.   On Facebook at NASCAR News and Commentary

Top 12 Driver Rating at Pocono
Denny Hamlin………………………. 118.6
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 107.0
Kurt Busch………………………….. 105.8
Jeff Gordon………………………… 100.8
Tony Stewart…………………………. 99.5
Carl Edwards………………………… 98.4
Ryan Newman……………………….. 94.8
Mark Martin…………………………… 93.2
Kevin Harvick………………………… 91.4
Kasey Kahne………………………… 89.5
Jeff Burton…………………………… 89.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 87.6
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (seven total) at Pocono.