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Hendrick Teams Ready for Tricky Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. (July 21, 2006) – They way Kyle Busch tells it, Pocono Raceway has something for everybody.

“It’s a big track and it’s a test of power,” the 21-year-old says of the 2.5-mile tri-oval in eastern Pennsylvania. “I think it’s challenging because it’s like three tracks in one—a road course, a short track and a superspeedway.”

Busch, who finished fourth in his June 2005 Pocono debut, knows Hendrick Motorsports has an excellent record at Pocono.  He also has momentum following his win Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

“In the past three races, we have finished second, third and first,” said Busch, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet.  “That says a lot about this team. I’ve been trying to fly under the radar, filter out distractions and focus on just racing, which has helped.

“This team is on a roll and I think we’re definitely capable of maintaining a top-10 position. I feel like we’ve had a good car every week, but haven’t been able to always finish things out. Last weekend we did, and now we’re going to bring it every week.”

Four-time NEXTEL Cup champion Jeff Gordon has driven his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet to three wins at Pocono, while Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy, has never finished worse than 15th in nine career Pocono starts and swept both races in 2004.

Brian Vickers and the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet team have earned three top-five finishes in five career starts there, leading plenty of laps along the way.

Of course, like anything else in sports, it’s very difficult to explain the whys and hows of something as unpredictable as a 200-lap race with limitless variables.

“I don’t know,” Vickers says, trying to explain his Pocono success. “I wish we could figure [it] out because we’d apply it to every other track we go to. Some drivers and teams seem to run well at certain places.

“Since the first time I went to Pocono, I’ve enjoyed it. Couple that with the fact that the No. 25 team has historically run well there and that may provide some explanation as to [our] success.”

Vickers may be at a loss, but his teammate Johnson at least offers a theory.

“It’s a track where when you’re hooked up and have got it right, you have huge rewards,” he says.  “There’s a huge difference in speed between you and other guys.

“There are three different turns and long straightaways, so if you’re slow—a tenth off the pace through the corner—and you add that all the way up down the straightaway, it turns into three or four tenths just on one straightaway and down the front stretch.

“Add up that all the way around the track, you can be seven- or eight-tenths off the pace, which would normally be two-tenths off the pace on a small track. So when your stuff is right, it really makes a difference.”

Terry Labonte, a two-time Pocono winner, will make his final start at the track this weekend in the No. 44 Kellogg’s Chevy.

“I tell you what, it’s a very unique track—different from anywhere else we run,” Labonte said. “If you have a car that’s running well, it’s a really fun track. Hendrick Motorsports as a whole usually runs well there.

“It’s really a compromise. You have to run good though Turn 1 and you have to get across the Tunnel Turn well. Then you’ve got to get through Turn 3 good to carry that momentum down the frontstretch. It’s very much a combination of things. You have to really get through all three corners well.

“I’ve had cars there that were really good though a couple of the turns and not very good in the other, but you really have to be good in all of them. It’s tricky to get a car to handle well in all of them because the corners are so different.”

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