Previewing the 5 Hour Energy 500
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Long Pond, Pa.
Specs: 2.5-mile tri-oval; Banking/Turn 1: 14°; Banking/ Turn 1: 8°; Banking/ Turn 3: 6°
2010 Winners: Denny Hamlin (June), Greg Biffle (Aug.)
2011 Race Length: 500 miles/200 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 172.533 mph (Kasey Kahne, 2004)
Race Record: 144.982 mph (Rusty Wallace, 1996)
From the Spotter's Stand
Denny Hamlin’s fourth career win at Pocono was the least exciting news from the 2.5-mile tri-oval in June. A nine-car wreck on the next-to-last lap at Long Pond resulted in a green-white-checker finish and a post-race shouting match between Hamlin’s teammate, Joey Logano, and then-points leader Kevin Harvick, who Logano claimed did not wear the firesuit in the family.
There were emotions of a different kind in August, when Greg Biffle dedicated his first win in 64 races to his ailing owner, Jack Roush, who was resting at the Mayo Clinic after being injured in a plane crash. After a rain delay, Biffle beat pole-sitter Tony Stewart to the line by 3.598 seconds to win one for the Cat in the Hat.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Low-end horsepower is needed exiting the three corners, and top-end muscle is needed on the long straights. Making the car turn in just one corner is difficult enough, and making it comfortable in all three turns of varying length is next to impossible. You always hear people talk about a ‘driver’s track.’ This one is a mechanic’s track, or maybe an engineer’s track. The reason people compare Pocono to a road course is because the road courses are the only other places where all the turns are radically different. It’s getting harder because the pavement’s deteriorating and the bumps are getting worse.”
Looking at Checkers: Throw out two stinkers (’08, ’09) and Denny Hamlin has been nearly unbeatable.
Pretty Solid Pick: Smoke has 10 top 10s in his last 11 starts on the coathanger (we’re trying, at all costs, to use the term “tricky triangle”).
Good Sleeper Pick: Since Juan Pablo Montoya figured the place out, he’s been pretty good.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Marcos Ambrose, who’s been 30th or worse since a sixth in his first time out.
Insider Tip: Fuel mileage and rain often factor. A crafty crew chief is a plus.
Classic Moments at Pocono
After missing the first four months of the 1987 season due to a then-undisclosed illness, Tim Richmond wins in his second race back (his first was the All-Star event at Charlotte), the Miller High Life 500 at Pocono.
Richmond’s No. 25 Folger’s Chevy passes Dale Earnhardt on lap 153 of 200 and leads the final 47 after sitting on the point for a total of 82 circuits throughout the day. Richmond beats Bill Elliott to the line by one second. In Victory Lane, an emotional Richmond admits that he never saw the checkered flag through the tears in his eyes.
Richmond wins the following week at Riverside but runs only six races thereafter. He retires after the 1987 season and passes away on Aug. 13, 1989, from complications due to AIDS.