Traversing The Tricky Triangle Next Up on The Road To Richmond

"Race To The Chase" Reaches The Halfway Point with Second Stop at Pocono

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin has won the last two races at Pocono.


The “Road To Richmond” will traverse the Tricky Triangle Sunday with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ second stop of the season at Pocono Raceway. The 500-miler at Pocono will mark the halfway point of the “Race To The Chase,” which culminates on Saturday night, September 11 at Richmond International Raceway with “One Last Race To Make The Chase.”

Known as the Tricky Triangle because of its unusual triangle shape featuring three turns of different radius and three different lengths of straight-aways, Pocono Raceway is a demanding track, testing a driver’s endurance and skill and the car’s horsepower. Chesterfield, Virginia native Denny Hamlin is always a favorite at Pocono with four career wins, including two in row, and knows how difficult the test will be again Sunday.

“Pocono is also tricky because it’s easy to overlook how complex the track is and how fast you are moving,” says Hamlin, who is tied for the series lead with five wins this season. “You can’t take anything for granted at Pocono. If you lose focus, it will make life tough for you.”

Hamlin, who is comfortably within the top-12 in points at third, has six top-five finishes, seven top 10s and two pole awards in nine starts to go along with his four victories at Pocono. With a series-best Driver Rating of 119.1 and an average finishing position of 8.6, Hamlin has a great shot to take the checkered flag on Sunday and continue to make a case for the top seed in The Chase.

A couple drivers will battle Hamlin for Pocono supremacy, including four-time winner Jeff Gordon and two-time winner Kurt Busch. Both drivers are also comfortably inside the top 12 and looking to gain the valuable bonus points that would come along with a victory. Gordon has four career wins at Pocono 16 top fives, 24 top 10s and the sixth-best Driver Rating (96.1). Busch scored perfect Driver Ratings (150.0) in both of his victories at Pocono and is second only to Hamlin with an overall Driver Rating of 103.7 at the track.

For Hamlin, Gordon and Busch, the focus will be tackling the Tricky Triangle and getting to Victory Lane, but for several drivers the focus will remain on The Chase bubble without losing sight of the challenges on the track at Pocono.

For the second straight week, Clint Bowyer sits in the vulnerable 12th spot in the standings but enjoys a more comfortable 62-point cushion after a strong fourth-place finish at Indianapolis. Entering the Brickyard, Bowyer was clinging to a 15-point edge over then 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Mark Martin moved up to the 13th this week, however, after Earnhardt Jr. was collected in a late-race accident and finished 27th at Indy. Martin was 11th at Indy and led 10 laps for five critical bonus points and is knocking on The Chase door, while Earnhardt Jr. finds himself 93 points behind Bowyer.

Ryan Newman remains within striking distance 147 points behind Bowyer in 15th, and following his historic win at the Brickyard Jamie McMurray is back in Chase contention 151 points behind Bowyer for the final Chase spot.

Here is a look at drivers on the Chase bubble and their stats at the Brickyard:

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer, who holds a 62-point lead for the final Chase berth, has nine starts at Pocono with one top five, five top 10s and an average finish of 16.6 … His best finish at Pocono was third in this race last season … Started second and finished ninth in June.

Mark Martin: Martin leads all drivers with 19 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes but has never won at Pocono … Martin has finished second six times, mostly recently in 2004 … He has three career pole awards and average finish of 11.1 … Martin has the fourth-best Driver Rating at Pocono with a 95.8.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt Jr. has struggled at Pocono with an average finish of 17.7, which includes only five top fives and six top 10s … His best race at Pocono was in August 2007, when he won the pole award and finished second.

Ryan Newman: Newman won from the pole at Pocono in August 2003 and has six top-five and seven top-10 finishes … Newman’s Driver Rating of 94.5 ranks eighth among active drivers … His average finish at Pocono is 13.4.

Jamie McMurray: McMurray has had flashes of success at Pocono, including the pole award in 2005, but he’s posted only three career top-10 finishes and has an average finish of 21.7 … McMurray finished 36th due to an accident in June.

When NASCAR returns to Richmond for the doubleheader weekend September 10-11, drivers will have one last shot to be one of the top 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Anything can happen on the “Road to Richmond.” Get your tickets now to see the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers battle “under the lights” in “One Last Race to Make the Chase.” Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased by calling 866-455-RACE (7223) or by clicking here. Additionally, tickets are also available for Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.  Friday tickets start at $30 and include WRIC-TV8 Pole Qualifying and practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, as well as Fas Mart Pole Qualifying and practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Family seating, presented by Virginia 529, is also available.  Designated Family Sections will feature a special price on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tickets for kids 12 and under.  Kids 12 and under will be admitted at half price in the Family Sections presented by Virginia 529 when accompanied by a paying adult. In addition to the special kids pricing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and continuing to prohibit alcohol in Family Sections presented by Virginia 529, smoking is also prohibited in those sections.

*** Driver Rating Formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.
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