NCS prepares for a doubleheader weekend at Pocono Raceway

NASCAR

After the big success of last year’s doubleheader at Pocono Raceway, the NASCAR Cup Series is back for more as the series prepares for the Pocono Organics CBD 325 on Saturday, June 26 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio followed by Sunday’s (June 28) Explore The Pocono Mountains 350 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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 August 4, 1974, and the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty (Dodge, 115.593 mph).

The 2012 season marked the first year the NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012, all NASCAR Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway. In total, there have been 86 NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway, one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since. Last year marked the first season the NASCAR Cup Series held a doubleheader weekend at Pocono Raceway.

Pocono Raceway’s 86 NASCAR Cup Series races have produced 46 different poles winners and 38 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and veteran Ken Schrader lead the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Pocono Raceway with five poles each.

The starting lineup for the first of the two Cup races this weekend was determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson will start on the pole and his teammate William Byron will join him on the front row. Entry list and starting lineups for the second race of the weekend will be distributed following post-race inspection of the first race.

Starting Lineup Procedure For Race #2 at Pocono

Starting positions 1st -20th: The top 20 finishing vehicles from the 6/26/21 Pocono Raceway Event will have their final finishing positions inverted, regardless of laps completed, to be assigned their 6/27/21 starting position. The first-place vehicle from 6/26/21 will start 20th, the 2nd place vehicle will start 19th, and so on.

Starting Positions 21st – 40th: Vehicles finishing 21st –40th in the 6/26/21 Pocono Raceway Event will be assigned starting positions 21st – 40th in the same order as the final finishing results from 6/26/21 regardless of laps completed. The 21st place vehicle from 6/26/21 will start 21st, 22nd place vehicle will start 22nd, and so on.

Of Pocono Raceway’s 38 different NASCAR Cup Series winners, 10 are active this weekend. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2011 and 2012) and Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep, 2009, 2010, 2019, 2020) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Pocono with six victories each. 

In last season’s Pocono doubleheader, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick grabbed the win in Race #1 and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin won the Race #2. 

Fab Four: Kyle Larson looks for fourth straight Cup win

Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson is surfing a three race consecutive wins streak into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader at Pocono Raceway looking to become just the ninth different driver in the Modern Era (1972-Present) to win four or more races consecutively and the 13th different driver to accomplish the feat all-time.

RankDriverNo.FromTo
1Richard Petty1008/12/196710/01/1967
2Richard Petty607/14/197108/08/1971
3Bobby Allison505/30/197106/23/1971
4Billy Wade407/10/196407/19/1964
5David Pearson404/03/196604/11/1966
6David Pearson405/05/196805/18/1968
7Cale Yarborough409/12/197610/03/1976
8Darrell Waltrip409/27/198111/01/1981
9Dale Earnhardt403/29/198704/26/1987
10Harry Gant409/01/199109/22/1991
11Bill Elliott403/01/199203/29/1992
12Mark Martin408/08/199309/05/1993
13Jeff Gordon407/26/199808/16/1998
14Jimmie Johnson410/21/200711/11/2007

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty holds the all-time record for the most consecutive races won in the NASCAR Cup Series at 10 straight in 1967. Currently, only NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (10 consecutive wins in 1967 and six in 1971) and Bobby Allison (five consecutive wins in 1971) are the only two drivers all-time to win five or more consecutive races in the series. If Larson were to sweep the doubleheader this weekend at Pocono, he would become just the third driver in series history to win five consecutive races.

Larson has made 12 series starts at Pocono Raceway posting three top fives and six top 10s; including a best finish of runner-up in 2018. He did not compete in the doubleheader at Pocono last season but won at the 2.5-mile track in 2016 in the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series event.

Masters of the Tricky Triangle

If anyone is going to put an end to Kyle Larson’s wins streak this weekend its most likely going to be one of the 10 former NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Raceway winners entered this weekend, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin with six career Pocono victories.

Pocono Active WinnersWinsSeasons
Denny Hamlin62020, 2019, 2010, 2009, 2006 sweep
Kyle Busch32019, 2018, 2017
Kurt Busch32016, 2007, 2005
Martin Truex Jr22018, 2015
Kevin Harvick12020
Ryan Blaney12017
Chris Buescher12016
Joey Logano12012
Brad Keselowski12011
Ryan Newman12003

Four drivers entered this weekend have multiple wins at the Tricky Triangle – Denny Hamlin (six wins), Kyle Busch (three), Kurt Busch (three) and Martin Truex Jr. (two). 

Recently, Joe Gibbs Racing has been the organization to beat at Pocono Raceway winning six of the last seven races at the 2.5-mile track, the one exception was Kevin Harvick’s win last season (Race 1 of 2) for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Series standings leader Denny Hamlin is still looking for his first victory of the season, currently riding a winless streak that dates back 22 races to Talladega last October. Though Hamlin has been winless this season, he has posted nine top fives and 12 top 10s. Pocono Raceway is statically Hamlin’s best track on the Cup schedule. In 30 starts, the Chesterfield, Virginia native has posted six wins (tied for series-most with Jeff Gordon), 13 top fives and 20 top 10s. He also has the third-best average finish among active drivers at the track with a 11.2.

Hamlin’s JGR teammate, Kyle Busch is tied with his brother Kurt Busch for the second-most wins by an active driver at Pocono with three victories each. Kyle Busch will be one to watch this weekend, he has built some momentum lately posting five top 10s in the last seven races; including a win at Kansas and two third-place finishes (Darlington and Charlotte). Busch has made 32 starts at Pocono Raceway posting three wins (2017, 2018, 2019), nine top fives and 16 top 10s. Last season’s doubleheader was a mixed bag for Busch. In the first race he posted a fifth-place finish but was caught in an incident in the second race and finished 38th.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. has two NASCAR Cup Series wins at Pocono Raceway and is looking get his third or maybe even fourth in this weekend’s doubleheader. Truex’s 2021 season was off to feverish pace at the beginning of the year winning three races (Phoenix, Martinsville, Darlington) in the first 12 events, but has since hit a skid, posting just one top-five finish in the last five races. With that said, Pocono could be the perfect track to right the No. 19 team’s ship. Truex has made 30 series starts at the Tricky Triangle posting two wins (2015, 2018), six top fives and 13 top 10s. In last season’s doubleheader at Pocono Truex posted back-to-back top 10s.     

Playoff Bubble: Buescher’s points cushion took a hit

After being involved in an incident at Nashville Superspeedway last weekend, Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher (16th in the driver standings) watched his points cushion over the Playoff cutline dwindle by 36 points to just 24 above Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto in 17th – the first spot outside postseason eligibility.

Just nine races remain in the regular season and two are this weekend exacerbating the fact that the opportunities for drivers to race their way into the Playoffs are running thin. In total 17 different drivers entered this weekend have at least one NASCAR national series win. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch is the only driver to have won in all three series (Cup three wins, Xfinity one win and Camping World Truck two wins).

Of the drivers without wins this season trying to lock themselves into the postseason, nine have previously won at Pocono Raceway, led by Denny Hamlin with six Cup victories and followed by Kurt Busch (three Cup wins), Kevin Harvick (one Cup win and one Xfinity win), Ryan Newman (one Cup win), Chris Buescher (one Cup win), Cole Custer (one Xfinity win), Chase Briscoe (one Xfinity win), Austin Dillon (one Truck win) and Ross Chastain (one Truck win). 

Though he hasn’t won at Pocono Raceway yet, Matt DiBenedetto put up the fifth-best average finish (9.5) in the two-race doubleheader last season. Quite the difference from Buescher’s 23.0 average finish in the doubleheader last season. With just 24 points separating DiBenedetto (17th) and Buescher (16th) along the Playoff cutline solid finishes will be imperative over the next several weeks.

Six Pack: Hendrick Motorsports going for sixth consecutive win of the season

Pocono Raceway has set the stage for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series’ doubleheader and the red-hot Hendrick Motorsports rolls into town looking to tie their NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) consecutive wins record of six consecutive victories by the organization set back in 2007.

Hendrick Motorsport’s drivers have won the last five series events on the 2021 schedule – Alex Bowman (Dover), Chase Elliott (COTA) and Kyle Larson (Charlotte, Sonoma, Nashville) – making the 2021 season the fourth-time in the organization’s history to win five or more consecutive races in the series – twice in 2007 and once in 2014.

Six organizations in the Modern Era (1972-Presnt) have won four or more consecutive victories in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Hendrick Motorsports with 7 different streaks of four or more wins. In total, in the Modern Era, streaks of four or more wins by a single organization has occurred 16 times. Hendrick Motorsports is the only organization in the Modern Era to win five or more Cup races consecutively. 

OrganizationsStreaks of 4 or More Consecutive WinsSeasons
Hendrick Motorsports72021, 2014, 2007 three times, 1998, 1996
Joe Gibbs Racing32016, 2015 two times
Junior Johnson & Assoc.31992, 1981, 1976
Richard Childress Racing11987
Jackson Brothers Motorsports11991
Roush Fenway Racing11993

Hendrick Motorsport’s set the Modern Era record for the most consecutive NASCAR Cup Series wins with six straight victories in 2007. Now, Hendrick Motorsports has the opportunity to not only tie but surpass their series record in this weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono.

DateTrackOrganizationRace Winners
Sunday, October 7, 2007TalladegaHendrick MotorsportsJeff Gordon
Saturday, October 13, 2007CharlotteHendrick MotorsportsJeff Gordon
Sunday, October 21, 2007MartinsvilleHendrick MotorsportsJimmie Johnson
Sunday, October 28, 2007AtlantaHendrick MotorsportsJimmie Johnson
Sunday, November 4, 2007TexasHendrick MotorsportsJimmie Johnson
Sunday, November 11, 2007PhoenixHendrick MotorsportsJimmie Johnson

Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Pocono Raceway with 17 victories – Jeff Gordon (six), Tim Richmond (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Kasey Kahne (one), Geoff Bodine (one) and Terry Labonte (one). Hendrick Motorsport’s most recent win at Pocono was in 2014 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

SHR’s Aric Almirola is looking for a rebound – After a dismal start to his season with five DNFs caused by incidents, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola is looking to rebound this weekend at Pocono and build on his glimmer of success last weekend at Nashville. 

Almirola had his best race of the season last weekend at Nashville Superspeedway qualifying on the pole and finishing fourth – his first top five of the year.

Now Almirola is looking to keep the positive momentum going in this weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono Raceway. Last season, Almirola was stellar in the doubleheader posting the third-best average finish (4.0) in the two races behind Kevin Harvick (1.5) and Denny Hamlin (1.5). In total, Almirola has made 17 career starts at the Tricky Triangle posting two top fives and four top 10s.

Jeff Gordon named Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports – Jeff Gordon, the four-time NASCAR champion, television broadcaster and NASCAR Hall of Fame member, has been named vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, which will make him the second-ranking team official to chairman and majority owner Rick Hendrick. As vice chairman and co-owner, Gordon will maintain a daily presence at Hendrick Motorsports with a focus on the organization’s competition and marketing groups. The Vallejo, California, native will report to Hendrick and work alongside president Marshall Carlson and general manager Jeff Andrews. In addition, he will join Hendrick on NASCAR’s team owner council and assume Hendrick Motorsports’ seat on the sanctioning body’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee. Gordon, 49, will formally assume the strategic executive management role on Jan. 1, 2022.

“I cannot put into words what Hendrick Motorsports means to me,” Gordon said. “In many ways, it’s my home and the people here are my family. I’ve never lost my passion for the organization, for our sport, and for the sheer challenge of racing and winning at the highest level. Being part of the competition is where I’m happiest and feel I can make the biggest contribution to the continued, long-term success of the team. Rick and I have a shared vision, which is based on the values he’s instilled, the culture he’s built and our desire to be the very best in all categories, on and off the track.”

In October 1999, Gordon became an equity owner of Hendrick Motorsports. He remains Hendrick’s only partner in the 13-time NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning organization, for which Gordon won 93 races and four titles as a driver from 1992 until his retirement from full-time racing in 2015.

Gordon joined FOX Sports as an analyst in 2016 and he will continue to work as a FOX broadcaster through the end of the 2021 calendar year.