What to Watch For: Pocono Raceway
By Gray Caldwell
CONCORD, N.C.— This Sunday brings the Hendrick Motorsports drivers to Pocono Raceway—a track where the organization has seen plenty of success.
In total, Hendrick Motorsports has 16 wins, 61 top-five finishes and 106 top-10s in 201 starts at the 2.5-mile triangle.
Before you head to the track or tune in—the race is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN—here are some key points to keep an eye on.
THIS WEEK'S PAINT SCHEMES: On Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet SS will feature a new paint scheme—Michael Baker International. Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet SS will sport the familiar Axalta Racing Brilliant Flames paint scheme that found Victory Lane last week at Indianapolis and earlier this season at Kansas. Jimmie Johnson will once again pilot the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet SS and Kasey Kahne will take to the track in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS.
DRIVE FOR FIVE: Hendrick Motorsports has won four consecutive races at Pocono Raceway, and all four drivers have contributed to the streak. Gordon, Johnson, Kahne and Earnhardt have all visited Victory Lane in the past four events.
EARNHARDT'S SEASON SWEEP: If Earnhardt finds Victory Lane on Sunday—a feat he already accomplished at Pocono earlier this season—it would mark his first track sweep since 2002 at Talladega. The last time a Hendrick Motorsports driver swept both Pocono races was 2004 when Jimmie Johnson did so.
BIRTHDAY PRESENT: Gordon turns 43 years old on Monday. He has a history of taking the checkered flag in first place on his birthday weekend, having done so at both Indianapolis and Pocono.
51 LAPS LED SHY OF 24,000: Speaking of Gordon, he is the all-time leader in laps led at Pocono with 974. Overall, he is sixth all-time with 23,949 laps led in his career. On Sunday, he would need to lead at least 51 laps—a feat he has accomplished seven times at the 2.5-mile triangle—to crack the 24,000 mark.
KAHNE LOOKING TO STAY HOT: Statistically speaking, Kahne is among the hottest drivers in the series. In the last six races, since race No. 15 at Michigan, Kahne has scored four top-10 finishes. His average finish of 10.5 over the stretch ranks fourth in the series. And his driver rating of 101.4 ranks second only to teammate Jeff Gordon (105.0).
JOHNSON AT POCONO: In 25 starts at Pocono Raceway, Johnson has three wins, 10 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. He has an average start of 9.1 and an average finish of 8.7. Johnson has led 738 laps and has three pole positions.