NASCAR Weekend Preview — Pocono and Texas

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This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series head to Long Pond, Pennsylvania and Fort Worth, Texas respectively to put on a show this weekend.  

Pocono Raceway, or The Tricky Triangle, as it is appropriately nicknamed, and Texas Motor Speedway host the races this weekend on Friday evening (Fox Sports 1, 9:00 pm, Erik Jones starts on the pole) and Sunday afternoon (Fox Sports 1, 1:00 pm, Kurt Busch starts on the pole).  So let’s see what we have on tap for this weekend.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept both races last season at Pocono, so can he keep it up this weekend and go for the three-peat?  The No. 88 car will start 20th.  His Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, will start ninth, fourth and twelfth respectively.  All four of those drivers have at least one win at the Tricky Triangle, but all eyes will be on Junior.

But what about Johnson?  Can he keep his momentum from last weekend’s win at Dover and win at Pocono?  What about Gordon?  Can he get his first win of the season and his seventh (six right now leads all active drivers) at Pocono?  I expect all HMS drivers to be very strong when the green flag flies.  And their Stewart-Haas Racing affiliates, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Busch.

Although Busch won the pole, it has been Harvick that has been dazzling everybody so far this weekend.  He finished first in practice and the first two rounds of qualifying on Friday, but failed to get a faster lap in the third session and will roll off fifth when the green flag drops.

Stewart has shown flashes of the old Smoke, and will this one be the weekend where he finally gets out of that slump?  Or could Patrick win her first ever NASCAR race?  It’s a long shot, but you never know.

Carl Edwards led all the JGR drivers in qualifying, as he earned his first career front row start at Pocono Raceway.  His teammate, Denny Hamlin, spun out during the last session of qualifying and will start eighth.  Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth will roll off 10th and 19th respectively.

Martin Truex Jr. will start third, which begs the weekly question that is being asked nowadays: when will he find victory lane?  Could it be this weekend, or will something happen that causes him and his No. 78 team to not close it out and fail to cash in after leading the most laps in another race?

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will start seventh and 11th for Team Penske and Austin Dillon will roll off fourth, leading the Richard Childress Racing brigade.

As for the NCWTS, Matt Crafton leads the points standings and already has shown that he shows no signs of slowing down in his quest for a three-peat as the champion.  He starts in the top five for the WinStar 400, but Erik Jones starts first.  He has been having some Truex Jr. luck, dominating the past three races but having something go wrong in the closing laps.  Will the 19-year old be able to finally close?

PREDICTION TIME: I’m taking Harvick to win the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway to get his first win at the track and his third of the season.  He is tired of being second this season, and he is always hungry for more.

In the NCWTS race, I’ll take the aforementioned Jones to finally get that win, as he won an Xfinity race already this season at Texas.  Confidence is key, and he has it there.

Enjoy the races this weekend everybody, even the Belmont Stakes.