NASCAR: Live from Pocono

A lot wet, a little cold

LONG POND, Pa. -- It's a great lovely day at Pocono Raceway. In fact, it's almost perfect for duck racing. For car racing, not so much.

Rainy and cold Friday at the tricky triangle, but more time for the drivers to tell us what's on their mind heading into Sunday's Party at the Poconos 400 -- catchy title for a Cup race.

The good news is weather conditions are expected to clear up this weekend. Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, 73 degrees and only a 10 percent chance of a shower. Sunday gets warmer with a predicted high of 78 and mostly sunny skies.

-- Terry Blount



Qualifying rained out

Friday was a rainout and qualifying was canceled, placing Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards on the front row for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Pocono.

The starting lineup is set based on owner's points for the 2013 season. Johnson and Edwards are first and second, respectively, in the standings.

The good news is nobody goes home. Only 43 cars showed up at Pocono, so every team has a spot in the field.

The Cup teams will have two practice sessions Saturday, one from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET and the second from 11:40 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.

One of the big losers from the rainout is Joey Logano, who won this race a year ago starting on the pole, but he will start 21st Sunday. The past seven winners of the spring Pocono race started on the front row.

Danica Patrick will start 30th but looked at the bright side.

"I've qualified worse than that a few times," she said.

-- Terry Blount

Edwards not a solid second?

Carl Edwards is second in the season standings, but he said it's a little misleading.

"I've been a lot worse in the points and had a lot more fun," Edwards said. "If the Chase started right now, I think we'd be in a little bit of trouble."

Edwards realizes his No. 99 Ford, along with all the Ford teams, is a notch behind where it needs to be.

"The way we look at it is we're not getting beat by a driver or crew chief, we're getting beat by organizations," Edwards said.

Edwards is specifically speaking of Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. JGR has five victories, Hendrick has three and Edwards is the only winner this season at Roush Fenway Racing, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix three months ago.

"We're not bad and we're not panicking, but we have to figure out that little extra we need," Edwards said. "We need to find that slight adjustment that will pay off. It's a process thing. We just need to turn the ship slightly, and I think we'll be good."

-- Terry Blount




Logano addresses Ford issues

Joey Logano was asked if he agrees with Greg Biffle's assessment that the Fords are a little behind Toyota and Chevrolet this season.

"I guess results don't lie," Logano said. "I do feel everyone is really working hard to try to make improvements as one Ford team. We're trying to figure out what to do to go faster, but that's how it always is, even if you have the fastest cars out here.

"We're not where we want to be and we don't feel we have the wins we should this year, but I don't feel like we're way off."

-- Terry Blount

Standing by his man

Other than Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus (in their 12th Cup season together), no driver and crew chief have been together longer than Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis, who are in their eighth year together.

But Kahne said Francis has given him an opt-out clause a few times.

"At the end of each year, we talk," Kahne said. "And sometimes he'd be like, 'Man, do you want me to still be your crew chief?' It's just easy to say that I don't want anybody different. We've had some things thrown at us over the years, and we've just always stuck together.

"He's given me more opportunities to win than anybody else ever would have. I just have a lot of respect for Kenny. There is no one else I want to work with, and I think he feels the same way. We both feel we have a team surrounding us that is capable of doing a lot this season."

-- Terry Blount

Patrick loves working for Stewart

Danica Patrick was asked what she thought about the rant her boss, Tony Stewart, had at the media last weekend after his win at Dover.

Stewart was upset with speculation that crew chief Steve Addington might be replaced, and Tony had a few choice words in his complaint.

"I love him," Patrick said of Stewart. "I just wish I could do interviews like him. It's so funny. I love to hear it. He's not afraid to say what he really thinks, and he's so much more adorable about it."

Stewart seems like a guy who would run his Stewart-Haas Racing organization under a negative reinforcement-type policy, but Patrick said he's just the opposite.

"You can either motivate people with fear or with love," Patrick said. "Tony definitely does it with love."

-- Terry Blount



Stewart happy to be on good run

If rain keeps the cars off the track Friday, teams that tested earlier this year at Pocono might have a little advantage on Sunday.

One of those is Stewart-Haas Racing, coming off its first victory of the season with Tony Stewart's win at Dover.

"It's big and it definitely gives us some momentum," Stewart said of his surprising Dover victory. "We've got two weeks of momentum under our belts now at two totally different racetracks [including Charlotte, where Stewart finished seventh and SHR teammate Ryan Newman was sixth].

"Momentum is huge in this sport. We still have a lot of work to do, but we won't sit. I guarantee you none of these guys will tell you we're exactly where we want to be right now. It's a good reward for how hard they've been working to get that first win of the year. Now it's trying to be more consistent and stay in the top 10 more and make our program better. It's proof that no matter how bad it's been this year, none of these guys have quit or given up, and I'm really proud of that fact."

Stewart said the recent Pocono test added some valuable information for SHR.

"It's probably lost some grip,'' he said of last year's repave at Pocono. "But that will make for some better racing. You can see rubber getting into the racetrack, and that was with just a few laps around the track. To me, that's very positive. The pace slowing down will make for better racing, for sure. The track surface really held up well over the winter. It didn't shift a lot. It's still smooth as glass."

"The thing about Pocono -- it's definitely unique. It's got its own personality, but now that it's been repaved, all the little nuances and tricks you learned when it was rougher and the tunnel turn was more aggressive -- a lot of those things are gone. For us, we're still learning it, or relearning it."

-- Terry Blount



It pays to start up front

Where you start doesn't matter much at a lot of the Cup tracks, but it's a big deal for the spring race at Pocono. The past seven drivers who started first in this event finished either first or second.

Four of them won -- Denny Hamlin in 2006, Kasey Kahne in 2008, Tony Stewart in 2009 and Joey Logano last year. Stewart started first in 2009 after qualifying was rained out because he led the points standings entering the race.

Each of the last five winners in the spring Pocono race started in the top five.

-- Terry Blount

Putting it all together

Ryan Newman says it's impossible to win at Pocono unless every aspect of your game is up to par, but being fast is all about compromise.

"The combination of driver, crew chief and a good-handling race car are more important at Pocono than anywhere else because of the asymmetry," Newman said. "The three different corners, different banking and different straightaway lengths. If you're shifting or not shifting. There are so many variables.

"There's a lot of communication that has to be done at Pocono. I like the different corners. That's where you can make or lose a lot of time. Pocono is very unique in the sense that there's no perfect setup. You have to give up a little in one corner to be good in the others."

-- Terry Blount

Beware the Tunnel Turn

Even with the new pavement and 100 fewer miles of racing, Kurt Busch said the key to winning at Pocono remains the same.

"Pocono is still all about the Tunnel Turn, carrying speed through that corner," Busch said. "But the track has changed with the level of grip in the asphalt. With the new pavement, the track is a lot faster in all three corners. You definitely now focus more on the aero side of things than on the handling side."

Busch's two wins at Pocono came in August races -- 2005 at Roush Fenway racing and 2007 at Penske racing. He has nine top-5s, 12 top-10s and one pole at Pocono. This is his first Pocono start in the No. 78 Chevy for Furniture Row Racing.

"It's a track that I enjoy," Busch said. "Pocono has been great to me over the years. The way you generate speed there is to tie Turns 1 and 3 together with the most speed so that means you have to get through that Tunnel Turn."

-- Terry Blount

Truex working on that first MWR win

Martin Truex Jr. made the Chase last year and he has a chance to make it again this year (he's tied for 14th in the standings, only 26 points outside of 10th) but he's still looking for that first victory at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Truex's only Cup victory came in 2007 at Dover when he was driving for the former Dale Earnhardt Inc. team, now Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

Truex has raced 72 events with crew chief Chad Johnston, with 33 top-10s in that span. Pocono has been one of their better tracks; they have earned one top-5 and two top-10s in four starts together here.

"I think what makes it work between me and Chad is the fact that he understands how our system works and how to get the most out of it," Truex said. "He knows how to get the right information out of the people and then give the right feedback to make our cars even better. As far as the engineering side goes, he's not afraid to go out on a limb and work on stuff himself to make our cars faster.

"And as far as our relationship, I think we have similar backgrounds growing up in racing with our dads. We have a passion for racing that started at a young age. We aren't afraid to work hard to get what we want. Chad works harder than anyone I have ever seen in the garage as far as crew chiefs go."

-- Terry Blount