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The Long and Short of It
It’s rare that most NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will agree on something, but many share similar opinions of what it will be like this weekend to race on Pocono’s newly repaved surface.
“I am nervous as can be ... because I have no idea what to expect,” points leader Greg Biffle said, a comment echoed by others.
NASCAR is giving teams two extra days at the track with testing Wednesday and Thursday. Thus, Cup teams will be there five days.
“I’m not real excited about being up there that long,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t think anybody is to be honest with you. That’s the schedule and we’ll go up there and just run around in circles.
“We’ve got two race cars in the trailer, and we’ll try to not tear either one of them up before the race starts. I’m looking forward to the new surface and seeing what the track is like. I know NASCAR is wanting to get enough rubber down so we have a good race. That’s really the reason why we are going for so long, to really avoid any kind of debacle with rubbering the track down. There’s really no other excuse for being there the entire week.”
Denny Hamlin, who has four wins in 12 starts at Pocono, admits his advantage is gone with the repave.
"I'm going to approach Pocono like it’s an entirely different race track that I've never been on because basically it will be,” Hamlin said. “We've gone through a lot of rule changes and surface changes at that track every time that we've gone back and so it's going to be another element that's changed.
“Kind of talking to the guys that have ran there, it's going to be interesting to see what tire that they brought back. Any advantage I thought I might have had at Pocono has obviously disappeared at this point. I go there with a lot of optimism that it's just a brand new track for everyone and it's going to be the first one to figure it out wins."
This is the first of back-to-back weekends at tracks that have been repaved. The series heads to Michigan next week where speeds were up dramatically during a Goodyear tire test last month.
The next two weeks could shuffle the standings as some teams figure out how to run well on the repaved tracks and some don’t.
CHANGING SEATS With NASCAR suspending Kurt Busch for a week, it’s created a driver shuffle. David Reutimann will drive in place of Busch for car owner James Finch’s team this weekend at Pocono.
Dave Blaney will move over and drive the No. 10 car for Tommy Baldwin Racing with Tony Raines driving the No. 36 car for Baldwin’s team.
PRESSURE? WHAT PRESSURE? Joey Logano was asked Tuesday during a teleconference with media if he felt more pressure this year than other years since his contract ends after this season.
“There’s pressure all the time, so whether it’s a contract year or not, you’re always out there to do the same thing,” Logano said. “For me, I’m out there to win every race. That doesn’t change from what it was this year to three years ago. There’s no added pressure to that. Is there something extra on your mind? Yeah, there’s something extra on your mind that you’ve got to figure out before the season’s over.
“At the same time, you go out there and focus on your job. My job is to win races. As long as I do that, all of that will come together pretty easily.”
NEW CHANNEL Dover marked the final Cup broadcast of the season for FOX. TNT will take over beginning this weekend at Pocono and will broadcast the next six Cup races. ESPN/ABC take over at Indianapolis in late July and will broadcast the rest of the Cup season.
Adam Alexander returns as TNT’s lead announcer with Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach again joining him in the booth as analysts. Alexander also will take over pre-race show duties.
Larry McReynolds will join Alexander and Petty on the pre-race show. TNT’s pit road reporters will be Ralph Sheheen, Marty Snider, Matt Youcum and Chris Neville.
Also back is TNT’s RaceBuddy on NASCAR.com. It will provide eight different camera views and two mosaic screens. NASCAR.com also will offer a post-race show with the TNT announcers.
Once again, TNT’s Wide Open coverage of the July Daytona race returns. It will provide race coverage without national commercial breaks.
A new element this season is a segment titled “NASCAR Generations’’ that will be a part of the pre-race show. Alexander will host the segment and be joined by Jimmie Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Petty and McReynolds. They’ll discuss the different eras of the sport.
“I think when you look at NASCAR coverage, it’s difficult to find something new because of the length of the season,” Alexander said. “I think we’ve hit on something this year that hasn’t been done that will be very enlightening for fans who have latched on to the sport in recent years, dating back to fans who have followed it for 50 years.”
PRELUDE TO THE DREAM Tony Stewart’s annual dirt late model charity race at Eldora Speedway is Wednesday night. Among the Cup drivers scheduled to race with Stewart are Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, defending event winner Clint Bowyer, Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch. The field also includes Austin and Ty Dillon, Danica Patrick, IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan along with World of Outlaw drivers Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz and NHRA drivers Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon.
The event will be shown on HBO Pay-Per-View and cost of $24.95. The commercial-free broadcast begins at 8 p.m. EST. Instructions on how to order the event can be found here. Net proceeds from the charity event will benefit Feed The Children.
by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter: @DustinLong