GFT Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway
21 July 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
LONG POND, PA — With its unique design, the three-turn, paved 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway will host the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend for the HighPoint.com 400 on Sunday, July 23 at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90), the 21st event of the 26-race regular season.
Originally named Pocono International Raceway, the facility opened as a three-quarter-mile track in 1968. Located in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, Pocono Raceway, as what it is known as today, is operated by the family-owned Mattco Inc., started by Joseph II and Rose Mattioli.
Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971 and the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway was on August 4, 1974. The first Cup Series Pocono event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty driving the family-owned Dodge (115.593 mph).
There have been 89 NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway, one race from 1974 through 1981, and two races per year from 1982–2021. The 2012 season marked the first year the NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012, all of the NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 500 miles in length. The 2020–2021 seasons were the first time the NASCAR Cup Series held doubleheader weekends at Pocono Raceway with the races running at 325 miles and 350 miles in length. This season will be the 90th-time the NASCAR Cup Series has visited Pocono Raceway.
What Turn 4? Pocono Raceway brings its one-of-kind style to NASCAR
Track Length: 2.5 Miles
Race Lengths: 350 Miles (140 Laps)
Banking in Turn 1: 14 degrees
Banking in Turn 2: 8 degrees
Banking in Turn 3: 6 degrees
Frontstretch: 3,740 feet
Backstretch: 3,055 feet
Shortstretch: 1,780 feet
NASCAR Cup Series HighPoint.com 400
The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Date: Sunday, July 23
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,243,361
TV: USA, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (160 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 95), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)
The prior 89 Cup races have produced 46 different pole winners and 40 different race winners.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2011 and 2012) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep, 2009, 2010, 2019, 2020) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Pocono Raceway with six victories each. A total of 10 of the 40 NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Raceway winners (25%) are entered this weekend.
Make sure to check out all of the NASCAR Cup Series on-track activity this weekend from Pocono Raceway, with practice on Saturday, July 22 from 2:35 p.m. ET — 3:20 p.m. ET directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 3:20 p.m. ET. Both events will be televised on the USA Network starting at 3 p.m. ET.
Last season’s Pocono winner Chase Elliott returns looking for first win of 2023
Hendrick Motorsports’ driver and NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott, returns to Pocono Raceway to defend his win from last year and get his first victory of the 2023 season. Elliott is currently outside the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff cutline, -60 points back from Michael McDowell in the 16th and final transfer position on points. With a win this weekend, Elliott, the 2020 series champion, can being his streak of making the postseason to an eighth consecutive season (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ‘16).
Last season’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono had an interesting twist to its conclusion. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (first) and Kyle Busch (second) were the two first drivers to cross the finish line followed by Chase Elliott (third), but both JGR cars failed post-race inspection and their finishes were disqualified handing the victory to Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott.
Chase Elliott has made 13 series career starts at Pocono Raceway posting one win, four top fives and eight top 10s. His average finish at Pocono is 14.231 (10th-best), Plus he ranks in the top in several key pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 12.324, fifth-best; Driver Rating of 93.6, seventh-best; 67 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best; 1,456 Laps in the Top 15 (74.1%), 10th-most; 471 Quality Passes, 10th-most
Playoff Bubble Shuffle: Wallace, McDowell sit just above the postseason cutoff
Making the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is a prestigious accolade that only 46 drivers have accomplished since the postseason’s inception in 2004. This season, 11 drivers have secured their spot in the Playoffs by virtue of wins, leaving five spots still up for grabs at Pocono Raceway this weekend.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is currently 12th in the Playoff outlook, up +137 points of the postseason cutline. Harvick has made 43 series starts at Pocono posting one win, 15 top fives and 22 top 10s. Harvick is looking to join Denny Hamlin in extending the series record of Playoff appearances they share to 17 appearances (Harvick: 2022 ’21, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ‘06).
RFK Racing teammates Brad Keselowski (13th) and Chris Buescher (14th) are just behind Harvick in the Playoff outlook. Keselowski is up +108 points on the Playoff cutline and Buescher is up +97 points. Keselowski has made 25 starts at Pocono posting one win, 11 top fives and 15 top 10s. Buescher has made 13 starts at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ collecting his first career Cup win (2016), one top five and two top 10s. After not making the Playoffs last season, Keselowski is looking to rebound this year and make his 12th career appearance in the postseason (2021 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’12, ’11) and Buescher is looking to return to the Playoffs for the second time in his career (2016).
23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is currently 15th in the Playoff outlook standings, up by a scant two points over the postseason cutline. Wallace is looking to make the Driver Playoffs for the first-time in his career. Wallace has made 10 starts at Pocono putting up one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell holds on to the 16th and final Playoff transfer spot on points by only one-point over Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez heading into this weekend. McDowell has made 30 starts at Pocono Raceway posting two top 10s; he finished sixth in this race last season. McDowell is looking to make the Playoffs for the second-time in his career (2021).
Of the drivers below the Playoff cutline heading into this weekend, nine have formerly made the Playoffs in their careers — Daniel Suarez, AJ Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe. Of that list of nine drivers, only two have previously won at Pocono Raceway — Alex Bowman (2021) and Chase Elliott (2022).
The first driver below the Playoff cutline is Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez, who got his first taste of the postseason last year and wants nothing more than to make it back. Suarez is currently one point behind Michael McDowell is 16th. Suarez has made 11 starts at Pocono posting two top fives and four top 10s.
The hunt for the Regular Season Championship
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. grabbed his third win of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend and opened-up his NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings lead to 17 points over Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron in second. With only six races left in the regular season, both drivers are shooting for the title and the additional 15 Playoff bonus points that come with it.
“The Regular Season Championship is a big deal; 15 points for that,” said Truex following his New Hampshire win. “If we can keep knocking off bonus points, that’s going to be very, very important come Playoff time.”
Truex is one of seven different drivers to occupy the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead this season. He and Byron have swapped the points lead in recent weeks, and with Byron only 17 points back and third place Christopher Bell dropping behind by -62 points, it will be interesting to see who can catch Truex in this final stretch.
Regular Season Championship Clinch Scenarios:
Martin Truex Jr. (or whoever’s first in points) needs to be up by the corresponding number after the race to clinch:
Pocono — 300 or 301 points, depending on tie-break
Richmond — 240 or 241 points, depending on tie-break
Michigan — 180 or 181 points, depending on tie-break
Indianapolis — 120 or 121 points, depending on tie-break
Watkins Glen — 60 or 61 points, depending on tie-break
Daytona — 0 or 1 point, depending on tie-break
NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes
Milestone Watch: Manufacturer Wins — Two manufacturers in the NASCAR national series are the cusp of milestone wins.
If a Ford wins any of the NASCAR national series races this weekend at Pocono Raceway it will be their 1,125th victory across the three series — NASCAR Cup Series (722) NASCAR Xfinity Series (285) and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (117).
If a Toyota wins any of the NASCAR national series races this weekend at Pocono Raceway it will be their 600th victory across the three series — NASCAR Cup Series (176) NASCAR Xfinity Series (196) and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (227).
Chevrolet leads all manufacturers in combined wins in the three NASCAR national series with 1,625 wins — NASCAR Cup Series (845) NASCAR Xfinity Series (510) and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (270).
GFT Week 22 NASCAR Manufactures Box Score:
2023 WINS: Chevrolet = 14 | Toyota = 7 | Ford = 4
Michael McDowell to make 450th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Pocono — Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell, the 2021 DAYTONA 500 winner, will be attempting to make his 450th NASCAR Cup Series career start this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
McDowell, in his 449 previous NASCAR Cup Series career starts has earned a spot in the 2021 Playoffs, won the 2021 DAYTONA 500, and has posted eight top fives and 34 top 10s.