Pocono doubles up with 2 weekend races

By Pete Pistone  () 

More NASCAR history is about to be made this weekend at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway. For the first time, the NASCAR Cup Series will compete in back-to-back events with two points-paying races Saturday and Sunday at the 2.5-mile track.

 

The NASCAR schedule has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and since returning to action in mid-May, the sanctioning body has been putting on races at a furious pace. The Pocono twin bill was on the original 2020 calendar as an experiment and was one of the most anticipated weekends of the season. But as has been the case since the sport’s return, no spectators will be allowed this weekend at Pocono.

 

The weekend format will include a 325-mile race Saturday with a 350-miler capping it off Sunday. Saturday’s race will use the random draw method of determining the starting lineup that has been in place without qualifying since NASCAR got back on track. Sunday’s grid will feature an inversion of lead lap cars based on finishing positions in the opening race of the weekend.

 

The weekend’s constant is Pocono’s unique layout. Pocono is not an oval or a road course but rather a three-turn triangle. Each corner that frames the massive 2.5-mile speedway presents a different challenge.

 

The corners are modeled after historic speedways — Turn 1 on Trenton Speedway, Turn 2 on Indianapolis and Turn 3 on the Milwaukee Mile. The corners are connected by three of the longest straightaways on the schedule. The combination produces a layout drivers consider a hybrid of a traditional oval and a road course

 

Here’s a look at the favorites this weekend:

 

BRAD KESELOWSKI

The only blemish on Keselowski’s recent Pocono resume was when he finished 38th in 2018 after an accident. Besides that, the Team Penske driver has been stellar, with six top-five finishes in the last eight races, including three runner-up performances. Keselowski has one win and 12 top-10 Pocono finishes in 20 starts at the track.

 

KYLE BUSCH

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has made three trips to Victory Lane in the last five Pocono races. Busch carries a string of seven straight top-10 runs into the weekend. He has a series-best 397 laps led over the last 10 Pocono races.

 

DENNY HAMLIN

A five-time Pocono winner, Hamlin swept both races at the track as a rookie in 2006. He added wins in 2009 and 2010 before taking the checkered flag again last summer. The JGR Toyota driver has amassed 18 career top-10 Pocono finishes.

 

RYAN BLANEY

The Team Penske driver heads to Pocono after scoring his first win of the season last week at Talladega. Blaney’s first career Cup victory came at Pocono in 2017 when he was driving for the Wood Brothers. He has an 11.5 average finish in eight career Pocono starts.

 

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