Denny Hamlin: PJ1 compound a ‘necessity’ for single-grooved Pocono Raceway
By John Haverlin
August 1, 2017
LONG POND, Pa.—Denny Hamlin has won at Pocono Raceway four times in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, including a sweep at the track as a rookie in 2006.
However, he hasn’t visited Victory Lane there since June of 2010. The 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” was repaved in 2012 and his best finish since then is fourth, which he posted in 2014 and at its most recent event, the Overton’s 400.
“A few things changed [since the repave],” Hamlin said to The Racing Experts. “The cars changed, the shifting changed. The surface is pretty much the biggest thing. The techniques are basically the same, but not identical. ... I had a great setup and great car back then and just hit on a setup that was better than everyone else’s.”
Hamlin led 18 laps on Sunday after starting fourth. He and race leader Martin Truex Jr. pitted with three laps remaining in stage two so they could restart on the front row for the beginning of the final stage.
In recent weeks, the “sticky substance” laid on outside grooves of the track named PJ1 TrackBite has been a hot topic in the sport. It has been well-received because it has transformed single-lane venues such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway into multi-groove tracks, giving more passing opportunities to drivers.
“I think it’s a necessity, honestly,” Hamlin said about potentially using it at Pocono. “This is a one-lane race track. We’ve had great races in that sense that they've been close, but really, you need cautions to fall and have exciting restarts for it to be great and exciting racing.
“Exciting racing doesn't really exist at this race track except for one lap after a restart.
Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and race winner, concurred with the No. 11 driver. He said drivers “need options” and wider racing grooves give them the ability to make more passes.
“I think this place could utilize something different,” he said. “I tried moving around ... I mean, we were one of the fastest cars here. The car would wash out from underneath me and I would lose two or three seconds a lap maybe by coming out of the groove. I was just glued to the yellow line all the way around the race track.”
The PJ1 is a newer technology in NASCAR. In addition to New Hampshire and Bristol, is has been used on one track larger than a mile; Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch said the race at New Hampshire was “a blast,” which indicated it will probably be used again there as well as other places in the future.
“I talked to the track president [Ben May] and he said it's definitely on the table when we come back,” Hamlin said. “I would love to see it probably in the second and third lane. You could see some exciting restarts and fun racing once they do that.”
TrackBite is not a new phenomenon in the racing world. It is often used on drag racing strips so cars can accelerate rapidly with maximum traction. It has a history in NASCAR too, but it was banned in 2010 in an effort to reduce the high use of chemicals at events.
But now seven years later, NASCAR has a different and more favorable opinion of the sticky, black resin. IMAGES Dante Ricci/The Racing Experts