Crunching numbers for Pocono

July, 29, 2009

It's funny that Pocono follows Indianapolis on the schedule, given that it's the only track on the Sprint Cup schedule that comes close to resembling the historic Brickyard. Plus, it's fun that we get to use the term "roval" again this week.

Pocono shares those same tight turns and the same high speeds entering those turns as Indianapolis, so passing could be difficult. However, with the individuality of each turn, it's nearly impossible to have an ideal car in all three corners, so the racing will be more exciting. Not including passes during cycling pit stops, there were a handful of passes for the lead earlier this season at Pocono, and there weren't any at Indy that didn't include double-file restarts. I'll give you the Matt Willis guarantee, for whatever it's worth (a lot), that racing will be better this week at Pocono.

A lot of people, me included, say that maybe 500 miles is too much at Pocono. I know I could live with just a 400-mile race. However, unlike some of those other people -- let's call them "haters" -- I love the fact that a track like Pocono is on the schedule.

I want to see more diversity of tracks on the schedule, it seems as though whenever talk of a certain track adding a second race or a new track being introduced to the schedule, it's always one of the "cookie cutter" tracks -- the 1.5-mile D-shaped ovals. Pocono forces drivers and teams to adjust, and the wider the range of tracks on the schedule, the more likely it is that, at the end of the season, the series champion will be the most well-rounded driver in the series.

So, I ask you, my beloved readers. What kind of tracks do you want to see more of on the schedule? Short tracks? Road courses? Restrictor-plate tracks? Something different? Me, I want to see a 400-mile straight-line race. No turns. Honestly, though, I don't think it's feasible, but I'd love to see these guys run on dirt at some point.

Slow Poc

A popular topic of discussion after the Brickyard 400 is "Will Kyle Busch make the Chase?"

Busch's day at Indianapolis ended with him falling to 14th in points, leaving him behind David Reutimann in the crowd of Chase chasers.

Busch probably isn't looking forward to having Pocono come up on the schedule. In nine career races at the Triangle, Busch has just one top-5 finish and two top-10s. He also has led only once, for just two laps, and has averaged a 22nd-place finish there in his career.

Looking at NASCAR's loop data information, provided to me by NASCAR's Sultan of Stat, Mike Forde, Busch ranks 15th or lower in three key categories at Pocono. His driver rating is 78.5 (18th); his average running position is 17.9 (17th); and he has had the fastest lap just 19 times in those nine races, ranking him 15th among all drivers.

One of these things doesn't belong

Don't think for a second that Kyle Busch hasn't been fast this season. He has won a trio of races, although they all came in the first 10 races of the season.

His driver rating is a 99.3, ranking him fourth overall in the Sprint Cup Series.

Highest driver Rating, 2009 Sprint Cup season
Driver -- Driver Rating -- Series Standing
Jimmie Johnson -- 110.8-- second
Tony Stewart -- 106.4 -- first
Jeff Gordon -- 101.2 -- third
Kyle Busch -- 99.3 -- 14th
Kurt Busch -- 98.6 -- fourth

So Kyle Busch has had just as much speed on the track as the top four in points but isn't backing it up with the finishes. At the other end of the spectrum, among drivers who are higher in points than their driver rating would indicate, Ryan Newman is seventh in points but 14th this season in driver rating.

Tops at the Triangle

So, as you get down to the bottom of this week's race preview, you want some drivers who might run strong at Pocono.

But you also don't want the same old picks, no Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart or Mark Martin. First of all, quit your whining. Second of all, don't jump to conclusions. Since 2005, only four drivers have run the fastest lap more than 100 times at Pocono, and those big three aforementioned names are nowhere to be found.

Most fastest laps run at Pocono since 2005
Driver -- Fastest laps
Kurt Busch -- 229
Denny Hamlin -- 210
Carl Edwards -- 135
Kasey Kahne -- 129

Edwards also led all drivers with 41 fastest laps run at Pocono earlier this season. So Pocono might be the best chance yet for us to see a flip after a 2009 Sprint Cup race. Now, we just play wait and see. Enjoy this week's race!

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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