1) Jimmie Johnson (Yahoo! A Driver) – Jimmie Johnson has a very good car this weekend. In Happy Hour he was one of only four drivers who completed 10 consecutive laps. I’m taking that as a sign that he’s feeling good about his car because if he wasn’t there’s no way he would’ve done that. Out of the drivers who completed 10 consecutive laps Johnson had the best average speed (172.826). On the combined practice average speed chart Johnson ranked 4th (third when you exclude Josh Wise). If he didn’t run 10 consecutive laps I bet he could’ve been #1. Pocono has been a good track for Johnson. He has three consecutive 4th place finishes and if he didn’t have two speeding penalties in June I think he would’ve won. Indy is a similar track and last week Johnson kissed the bricks.
2) Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Yahoo! B Driver) – At the end of Happy Hour Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted the fastest lap in the session. Steve Letarte his crew chief was happy with his lap times so I’m happy. I don’t think Junior was 100% comfortable with the feel of the car but you can’t be perfect every week. Earlier this year when the series visited Pocono Earnhardt easily had one of the fastest cars. He just had the wrong pit strategy. During the race I think he passed everybody with the exception of Jimmie Johnson. Indy is a similar track and last week Earnhardt Jr. finished 4th.
3) Kyle Busch (Yahoo! A Driver) – Kyle Busch was very happy about his car on Friday. In the first practice he worked on race setups and had the second fastest 5 lap average. He liked the balance of his car so much that he focused solely on qualifying in the second practice session. Between both practice sessions he had the second fastest average practice speed. Kyle Busch said that between the June race and now the track has slowed down and it’s helped him. In June Kyle Busch had an engine failure at Pocono and didn’t even make it half way. If he didn’t have an engine failure it’s likely he would’ve finished in the top ten. His teammates finished 1st and 5th. Kyle Busch has been very successful here recently. In the last five Pocono races he’s finished in the top 3 three times. Indy is a similar track and last week Kyle Busch finished 2nd.
Other Notable Driver News
Joey Logano – Does lightning strike twice? I don’t think it does and Logano won’t repeat. In the last two Pocono races he’s started on the pole. This Sunday he’ll start in 14th. In Happy Hour Logano had to change his transmission. Combine this with Denny Hamlin grinding gears and their might be a problem in the JGR camp this weekend.
Paul Menard – In the first practice session Menard had the 5th fastest 5 lap average speed. In the final minute of practice he totaled his car. At the end of Happy Hour it was reported their backup car was racing similar to their primary car. Menard will start third and won’t have to go to the back of the field.
Kevin Harvick – Pocono has been a struggle for RCR as a whole. In practice Harvick said “he can’t stay on it. It’s a touch to loose”. He also said that they unloaded off but during practice they improved everywhere. With his 21st place starting position and mid pack practice speed I don’t see any reason to roll the dice with him.
Martin Truex Jr. – Truex wasn’t happy with his car. He said it was landing in turn #1 and had no drive. He also said that the car was giving up to fast. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement in my book. I think Truex will likely finish mid pack.