LONG POND, Pa. — The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards are all scheduled to race this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
Friday will feature the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 for the ARCA Racing Series. The NASCAR Xfinity Series takes the track on Saturday for the Pocono Green 250. Finally, the weekend headliner is the Pocono 400, which will take place on Sunday for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Weather permitting, all three races will hopefully feature intense, dramatic racing from some of the best in each series.
In the past, the ARCA Racing Series has been used by NASCAR rookies that have never raced “The Tricky Triangle” for practice towards Sunday.
Trevor Bayne comes to mind, as he was victorious in the ARCA Racing Series at Pocono in 2015. Bayne utilized his experience to finish every lap in his first Cup appearance, coming home 24th.
This year, however, no drivers on Sunday will be in the ARCA field. However, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Noah Gragson is driving the No. 54 Switch Camry, while Brennan Poole will be racing in a relief effort for ARCA regular Natalie Decker.
Poole, who competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2017, will be climbing in to finish the race for Decker. Decker had Hernia surgery less than a week ago, and was cleared to drive by doctors. Poole does not currently have a ride in any of the Top 3 NASCAR National Series, but could use this relief effort as an audition.
Gragson will be on pole, and in a competitive ride with DGR-Crosley. Depending on how strategy plays out, and with Gragson’s experience over the last few years, I expect him to play for the win.
My Pick: No. 54 Noah Gragson
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be utilizing a different aero package at Pocono Raceway this year, in hopes to further improve the quality of racing.
From a NASCAR press release:
In the series’ third trip to the “Tricky Triangle” this weekend, fans and media alike will have the opportunity to see some action-packed, close racing as the aero package that incorporates the enlarged splitter and spoiler, specially designed air ducts and restrictor plates will be used in the Pocono Green “250” Recycled by JP Mascaro & Sons on June 2 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
This specific aero package hasn’t been used in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since last season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where it set track records in green flag passes for the lead (29) and lead changes (16).
Just two weeks ago, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series utilized a very similar package at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which resulted in an overall positive experience for fans and race teams, alike.
The package should give fans a much more fulfilling experience at the Tricky Triangle, and although it won’t be too similar to a superspeedway event, it will bunch up the field more than normal.
In the Indy race last season, it was William Byron who won, as he held off Paul Menard, but up until the worst pit stop of all time, it was Justin Allgaier leading the way.
Since that same package will be in use this weekend, I expect Allgaier to be a threat here. He finished second in last year’s Pocono event.
My Pick: No. 7 Justin Allgaier
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP PREVIEW:
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is coming off of it’s longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch put on a clinic, and took home his fourth victory of the season.
Last year, Kyle Busch won the Fall race, his first at “The Tricky Triangle”, but it was Ryan Blaney who played spoiler in the Spring.
Blaney made a dramatic move around Busch, who blocked Blaney’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford below the apron, and then was able to hold off a late charge from “The Closer”, Kevin Harvick.
This year, Harvick has five wins to his name, Busch, as previously mentioned, has four, and Blaney is winless with a new and different team. They all come to Pocono this weekend to prove their worth, and it’s expected at this point that either Harvick or Busch is the favorite to win, depending on the other’s situation on track.
However, I’m going to go outside the box and say that another driver will claim their first victory this weekend. With the speed shown from the No. 88 team in Practice 1, and what seems to be a turning point for the new Camaro ZL1, I think Alex Bowman finds his way to victory lane on Sunday.
My Pick: No. 88 Alex Bowman.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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