Blaney on a roll heading into Pocono weekend
Ryan Blaney is on a roll - and it couldn’t come at a better time.
The Team Penske driver heads into Pocono’s doubleheader weekend on the heels of his fourth-career victory in a photo-finish Monday at Talladega Superspeedway, and second straight win at the track.
He is now the eighth different driver to win consecutive races at Talladega in the NASCAR Cup Series, joining Pete Hamilton (1970 sweep), Buddy Baker (1975 sweep, 1976), Darrell Waltrip (1982 sweep), Dale Earnhardt (1990, 1993-94, 1999 sweep), Sterling Marlin (1995-96), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2001-2003) and Jeff Gordon (2007 sweep).
It’s the type of positive momentum he hopes will help him tame the Tricky Triangle once again.
“The whole year really, but the past month-and-a-half has been really good for us,” said Blaney following his win in Talladega. “We’ve had some really good runs. We’ve had really fast cars, had a chance to win I feel like every race the last month-and-a-half.“
With his win last week, Blaney hopped two spots in the driver standings to third, just two points behind his teammate Joey Logano in second, and 25 back from the series standings lead.
Blaney has made eight series starts at Pocono, putting up four top 10s and grabbing his first series career win back in 2017. In the two Pocono races last season, he finished 12th in June and 10th in July.
Before his win at Talladega, Blaney has finished third (Homestead), second (Martinsville) and fourth (Atlanta) in the last three races.
He has seven top-five finishes this season through 13 races, just four off his season total in 36 events in 2019. He also has seven top-10 finishes after compiling 18 a year ago.
Blaney will start second for Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute. (3:30 p.m. on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
All three of Team Penske’s drivers have wins this season, they now have guaranteed spots in the Playoffs - Joey Logano (two wins: Las Vegas, Phoenix), Brad Keselowski (two wins: Bristol, Charlotte) and Blaney (Talladega) - making this doubleheader weekend at Pocono a great opportunity to pad their stats, as all three have previously won at the 2.5-mile raceway.
Logano, who is starting sixth Saturday, is second in the driver standings, 23 points behind Kevin Harvick (starting ninth) in the standings lead. Logano has made 22 series starts at Pocono posting one win (2012), four top fives and eight top 10s. In the two Pocono races last season, he finished seventh in June and 13th in July.
Keselowski is fifth in the driver standings following Talladega, 49 points behind Harvick in the standings lead.
Keselowski, starting eighth, has made 20 starts at Pocono posting one win (2011), 10 top fives and 12 top 10s. In the two Pocono races last season, he finished runner-up in June and eighth in July.
DOUBLE DIP ... While the condensed schedule following the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in back-to back races at the same track over a course of several days, this weekend at Pocono Raceway will mark the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Modern Era (1972-present) the series will run a pair of races at one track in consecutive days.
Up first will be the Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute today at 3:30 p.m. on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, followed by Sunday’s Pocono 350 at 4 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The last time the NASCAR Cup Series raced on back-to-back days was on Aug. 27-28, 1971, but the events took place at two different tracks - the first of the two races was at Columbia Speedway in Columbia, South Carolina, on Aug. 27 and the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty. The second race was at Hickory Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina, and won by Tiny Lund.
The Pocono Organics 325 (Saturday’s race) will be 130 laps (325 miles), and the first stage will be 25 laps, the second stage will be 52 laps and the final stage will be 53 laps.
Kyle Busch won this race last season, becoming the eighth different driver to post consecutive wins at the track (July 2018-June 2019); joining Bobby Allison (1982 sweep and June 1983), Bill Elliott (1985 sweep), Tim Richmond (1986 sweep and June 1987), Bobby Labonte (1999 sweep), Jimmie Johnson (2004 sweep), Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep and 2009-2010) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014 sweep).
Following post-race inspection of the first Cup race at Pocono, the starting lineups for the Pocono 350 (Sunday’s race) will be released.
The lineup will be set by inverting the top 20 finishers in the first race, and the drivers that finished 21st-40th will start in the position they finished the first event.
The Pocono 350 will be 140 laps (350 miles), the first stage will end on lap 30, the second will end on lap 85 and the final stage will end on lap 140.
Aric Almirola will start from the pole position. The lineup for the race was determined by a random draw on Thursday. Ryan Blaney, last week’s winner at Talladega, will join Almirola on the front row.
Denny Hamlin, who will start third, won the second (July) Pocono race last season, his fifth series career Pocono victory.
... Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway was on Aug. 4, 1974, and the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty (Dodge, 115.593 mph).
In total, Pocono Raceway has hosted 84 NASCAR Cup Series races, producing 46 different pole winners and 36 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader are tied for the series-most poles at Pocono with five each. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon leads the series in wins at the 2.5-mile raceway with six.
Of the 36 previous series Pocono winners, 11 are entered this weekend, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin with five victories; including winning the series’ most recent visit to Pocono last July. If Hamlin wins this weekend, he can tie or surpass Gordon for the series-most wins at Pocono Raceway with six trophies.
READY TO ROLL
... The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono Green 225 recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Last weekend’s race at Talladega was won by Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley in the No. 11 Chevrolet, with his teammate Ross Chastain in the No. 10 Chevrolet winning the weekend’s Dash 4 Cash installment.
Pocono has hosted only four NASCAR Xfinity Series races, the inaugural race was in 2016 and won by Kyle Larson for Chip Ganassi Racing. Erik Jones won the first pole award for the series at Pocono.
The four races have produced four different winners and three different pole winners. Cole Custer won two of the four pole awards, and is the only driver to have won the race from the pole (2019).
Sunday’s race will be 225 miles (90 laps). The first stage will end on Lap 20, second stage on Lap 40 and the final stage will conclude on Lap 90.
... The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series is back in action for the Pocono 150 to benefit Farm Aid today at 12:30 p.m. (on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
This weekend’s race will mark the sixth of the season for the Gander Trucks.
Grant Enfinger is the only full-time Gander Trucks driver to have won a race so far, along with NASCAR Cup Series regulars Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.
The inaugural Gander Trucks race at Pocono was on July 31, 2010 and Elliott Sadler took home the victory. Ross Chastain won last year’s race, which had the fewest leaders with only two and the most laps led by a winner (Chastain) with 54.
Four of the races were won from the pole, but none of the 10 races run were won from a starting position outside of the top six.
Chevrolet has five wins at Pocono, while Ford has one and Toyota has four.
There have been 10 Gander Trucks races at Pocono, with eight different pole winners and nine different race winners.