<
>

What to watch for: Pocono

Kyle Busch Looks for 1st 2017 Win AND 1st at Pocono

Kyle Busch sits 4th in the traditional points standings, but thanks to being winless this year, sits 13th in the playoffs standings. Although the points he's accumulated should give him no problem making the playoffs, he's still seeking his 1st Cup win of the season, despite leading over 1,000 laps. In NASCAR's modern era (dating back to 1972), only 1 driver has led more than 1,000 laps in a season without winning, Harry Gant in 1981.

Pocono might not be the best place for Busch to break through for that first win of the season. Busch is winless in 25 career Pocono races, despite leading 100 laps there earlier this year in a 9th-place finish. A win would make Pocono the 22nd track where he's won a Cup race, extending his lead among active drivers.

Hendrick 1 Win Away From 250

Kasey Kahne won last week's Brickyard 400 in an upset, likely putting him in the playoffs. It was his first Cup win since the 2014 season, snapping a 102-race winless drought, the longest of his career. It was also the 249th all-time win for Hendrick Motorsports. They'll try to be the 2nd team in series history to reach 250 wins, joining Petty Enterprises. No other team has even reached the 150-win mark.

Kahne may have picked up win number 249, but most of Hendrick's Cup wins have come from either Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson. They've combined for 176 of Hendrick's 249 wins, or 71%. Among the rest of Hendrick's current lineup, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 9 wins for the team, Kasey Kahne 6, and Chase Elliott is still looking for his 1st career Cup win.

Another First-Time Winner at Pocono?

Last month, Ryan Blaney picked up his first career Cup Series win at Pocono, the 3rd of 3 first-time winners in the Cup Series this season. The last time there was more than 3 first-time Cup winners in a season was in 2011, when there a Modern Era-tying 5. Who could be next to join the list of Cup Series winners?

2 first-time winners at a track in a season is rare. It's only happened 4 times in the Modern Era (since 1972), 3 of those happened at restrictor plate tracks, Daytona and Talladega. The last time it happened at a non-restrictor plate track was 1983, when Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott won at the now-defunct road course, Riverside. They combined for 67 career Cup wins.

Another Upset in the Works at Pocono?

With Kahne's win last week, 13 different drivers have won Cup races this season. 1 of those, Joey Logano, won't have his win apply for playoff eligibility thanks to rules violations found after the race. That leaves just 4 spots remaining for non-winners, but with 6 races to go until the playoff field is set, those spots could dwindle.

Kahne's win last week came with him having 100-1 odds to win, tying Austin Dillon (100-1 at Charlotte) as the longest shots to win this season. Last year, the 2nd Pocono race was won by an even longer shot, Chris Buescher at 1,000-1. This week, Michael McDowell goes into Pocono with 1,000-1 odds.

Who's Hot and Who's Not - Pocono Edition

HOT
• Dale Earnhardt Jr.: won 2 of his last 6 starts at Pocono; 1 of 2 tracks (Daytona) where he has multiple wins since start of 2009 season
• Ryan Blaney: got 1st career Cup Series win in last race at Pocono
• Brad Keselowski: 4 straight top-5 finishes at Pocono (longest active streak)
• Kevin Harvick: finished 2nd in 3 of last 6 races at Pocono (0 wins in 33 career Pocono starts)
• Kurt Busch: 7 top-10 finishes in last 9 Pocono races (tied for his most at a track since 2013)

NOT
• Kyle Busch: no top-5 finishes in his last 11 Pocono races (led 100 of 160 laps, finished 9th in spring race)
• Jimmie Johnson: wrecked out of 3 of last 6 Pocono races
• Denny Hamlin: 0 wins, 3 top 5s, best finish of 4th in last 14 Pocono races (4 wins in 1st 9 starts at track)
• Jamie McMurray: 0 top-5 finishes in 29 career Pocono races (1 of 3 active MENCS tracks where he doesn't have a top 5, most starts of any track)

--- ESPN Stats & Info ---