David Smith crunches the numbers for the Party in the Poconos 400
Dover International Speedway, a high-banked one-mile concrete oval, and Pocono Raceway, a 2.5-mile asphalt triangle with three wildly different corners, are two tracks that shouldnât warrant much comparison.
Tony Stewart, who slumped through the first third of this yearâs NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and broke out with a victory last week at Dover, hopes that the contrary is true. The manner in how he won last Sunday emulates a lot of his past success at Pocono, including his two most recent outings on the âTricky Triangle.â If Stewart can translate what worked at one place into working at another, all of a sudden his flash-in-the-pan win last weekend (it wasnât undeserved, but heâd be hard-pressed to duplicate the feat) becomes the ignition of a summer hot streak.
How big of a shock was last weekâs win? How did he do it? And do his numbers suggest a second consecutive victory?
41st Prior to his win at Dover, Stewart ranked 41st out of 47 drivers in Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) at the mile track.
In the five races leading up to the weekend, Stewart didnât earn a finish at Dover better than 20th. Suffice to say, his win was a bit of a shock. Considering he averaged a 15th-place running position for the afternoon, the victory wasnât one that seemed a foregone conclusion for those at home watching the race. One of the reasons that he pulled off the victory was because he dialed back the clock and found an element of his repertoire that made a younger Tony a Stock Car superstar.
54.05% Stewartâs single-race pass efficiency at Dover was 54.05 percent, above his season-long efficiency of 48.44 percent.
The three-time champâs minus-passing for the year (âminusâ is anything below 50 percent) has hindered his plodding approach at success in most races this season. Passing is a large part of what makes Stewart a future Hall of Famer, and what allowed him to surge from 12th to first in the final 40 laps to secure his first win at Dover since 2000.
Stewart fans might take comfort in the fact that one of his best racetracks is next on the schedule.
5.500 Stewart ranks third in Cup Series PEER at Pocono with a 5.500 rating. He is the only driver that secured top-5 finishes in both races there last year.
2012 was the first season that saw Poconoâs new pavement put to use. Historically, Stewart doesnât fare well on new surfaces or new tire combinations. Pocono was different. Similar to his run last week at Dover, Stewart improved on his average running position by 10 spots in the spring race (from 13th to third) and eight spots in the summer race (from 14th to fifth). Can he capitalize on superb passing and a plodding approach once again? If last year was any indication, it is possible. He earned a 59.38 percent pass efficiency on 256 encounters across both races there last season.
44.9% Jimmie Johnson led 44.9 percent of last summerâs race at Pocono, but ultimately finished 14th.
If it wasnât for a hurried rain-imminent finish that prompted Johnson and Greg Biffle to collide and take them out of the running for the win, itâs likely that the No. 48 team would have kept cruising.
In spite of that result, Johnson ranks fourth in Pocono-specific PEER with a 5.000 rating. A driver that probably should have two top-5 finishes on the new surface could right his perceived wrong from Dover â he was penalized for jumping the final restart â this weekend.