2007 NASCAR Pocono 500
For the second week in a row a NASCAR driver claimed his first career win on the Nextel Cup circuit last week. Martin Truex Jr. took the lead late in last week?s Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Raceway a week after Casey Mears made his first stop at victory lane at Lowe?s Motorspeedway. For another first-timer to win the Pocono 500 this weekend, they?ll have to successfully navigate the always-interesting Pocono triangle, while competing with the Nextel Cup circuit speed demons on the extra-long straightaway.
Last year Denny Hamlin swept Pocono with a victory in the Pocono 500 and a win in the Pennsylvania 500 a few weeks later. Hamlin has come close numerous times this year, but is still looking for his first win this season and the Pocono triangle could be the stage he needs to do it.
Point?s leader Jeff Gordon still has a very comfortable lead over second-place Jimmie Johnson by 152 points. Gordon has three career wins at Pocono, but the last one came way back in 1998. Johnson pulled of a Hamlin-like sweep of his own at Pocono when he won both races that were held there in 2004. Johnson?s car has performed so well this year that he seems to be challenging for the race car lead every week. If he gets the lead at Pocono he may be hard to catch due to the very long straightaway.
Aside from Gordon the only other three-time winner at Pocono expected to race this weekend is Dale Jarrett. It would be practically a miracle if Jarrett ended up leading the pack across the finish line at Pocono again this week, considering his best finish of the season so far is 22nd in the Daytona 500.
Before Hamlin dominated Pocono in 2006, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards won there in 2005 but both drivers haven?t had much luck this season and are still looking for their first victory. Also looking for a little luck is Tony Stewart. The former Nextel Cup champion has been dogged by bad luck and bad cars repeatedly this season and it?s likely cost him a couple wins. Stewart tamed the Pocono triangle back in 2003 and a win there this weekend would vault him back into the Race for the Chase.
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