The NASCAR Cup Series heads for the mountains this weekend for a race at Pocono Raceway.
Located in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, the “Tricky Triangle” will test drivers’ patience as they take on one of the most unique tracks in NASCAR. With just three turns instead of four, the 2.5-mile tri-oval features straightaways of differing lengths, including the longest front stretch of any North American track at 3,740 feet.
No active driver has had more success at Pocono than Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, whose six wins are tied with Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon for the most all time. Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s former JGR teammate and now driving for Richard Childress Racing, is not far behind with four Pocono wins.
Hamlin and Busch, however, were disqualified following last year’s race at Pocono after initially finishing first and second, respectively, when their cars failed post-race inspection – elevating Chase Elliott from third to race winner.
Hamlin and Kyle Larson bumped and battled over the final laps before the three-time Daytona 500 winner pulled away on the final restart and won with the caution flag out, leading a sold-out crowd — Pocono’s largest since 2010 — to shower Hamlin with boos.
“I love it,” Hamlin said. “They can boo my rock out of here in a few years.”
Pocono paints rocks outside the garage to honor of some of NASCAR’s greats, such as Jimmie Johnson and Richard Petty.
Martin Truex Jr., who won last week at New Hampshire, was second and Tyler Reddick third. Kevin Harvick and Ty Gibbs rounded out the top five. Larson faded to 21st and blasted Hamlin for making contact late in the race that sent the No. 5 Chevrolet up the track and cost him a shot at racing for the win.
“I’ve never had to apologize to him about anything, anything, I’ve ever done on the racetrack,” Larson said. “I can count four or five times where he had to reach out to me. At some point, you’ve got to start racing people a certain way to get the respect back.”
Denny Hamlin, who is tied for most career Cup Series wins at Pocono with six, is the +500 favorite in the 2023 HighPoint.com 400 odds from Caesars Sportsbook. Martin Truex Jr. is +550, three-time race winner Kyle Busch is +600 and Kyle Larson is +700 among 2023 NASCAR at Pocono contenders. The Pocono 400 2023 is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. You’ll want to check out the NASCAR at Pocono predictions from Micah Roberts, the legendary Vegas bookmaker who pioneered wagering on racing, before locking in any 2023 HighPoint.com 400 picks.
Roberts was the first to offer expanded NASCAR betting and now hands out NASCAR winners to his followers on SportsLine. Roberts is the nation’s premier NASCAR betting expert, and his top pick, Truex, won the Crayon 301 last weekend at +650. He also predicted Ross Chastain’s victory at +1000 in the Ally 400 last month, correctly called Larson’s win at +650 in the NASCAR All-Star Race in May and nailed the Echo Park Automotive Grand Prix winner in March by hitting Tyler Reddick’s triumph at +1000.
In addition, the expert correctly predicted Chase Elliott to win the YellaWood 500 at +1200 last October and the Jockey Made in America 250 in 2021, nailed the 2021 Coca-Cola 600 winner by hitting Larson’s victory at +550 and was on point by targeting Elliott as the winner of the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at +160 the previous week. Anyone who has followed his picks has cashed ticket after ticket.
“Busch has a 15th-place average finish in 35 starts at Pocono,” Roberts told SportsLine. “This will be his first while driving for RCR. Another curveball: Roberts is high on Christopher Bell, even though he’s a longshot at +1100 in the latest HighPoint.com 400 odds. Despite an ongoing three-race stretch during which he has been 18th or worse each week, the 28-year-old native of Oklahoma is tied for third this season with 10 top-10 finishes. Bell has enjoyed success at Pocono over his NASCAR career, recording four top-fives in nine starts across the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.
“It’s not because of his 2017 Truck Series win at Pocono or his finishing fourth in two of his five Cup Series starts there,” Roberts told SportsLine. “It’s more about having JGR equipment.”
May, who has been president since 2017, said he wasn’t sure how the next phase of improvements for the 2 1/2-mile tri-oval track nestled in the mountains would shake out. He said plans would likely come to light once the new TV deal is signed.
“We’re a small fish in this big pond of NASCAR and we just take a ton of pride in delivering,” May said.
The track is still owned and run by the family of founder . His grandson, Nick Igdalsky, is the Pocono CEO.
“I’m just happy that we came out of here with a stands packed, infield packed, campground absolutely full,” Hamlin said. “This has just been a fabulous weekend at Pocono. I think Nick and his team have done a phenomenal job continuing to invest in this facility. Hopefully, we continue to come back here every single year.”
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