Jimmie Johnson and team have overcome a dismal start in NASCAR Sprint Cup 2012 season by accumulating three wins among 15 top-10 finishes. Jeff Gordon and team have experienced worse setbacks over the past 20 races, but they have recently climbed from 24th to 15th with eight top-10 finishes.
Both Johnson’s No. 48 team and Gordon’s No. 24 team bring momentum into Pocono. Nevertheless, Gordon is sorely in need of one or two wins from the six races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.
Jimmie Johnson shared his confidence.
“From a performance standpoint, we’re as strong as we’ve ever been,” Johnson said. “We’ve had issues late in a race that cost us track position for a variety of reasons, and that’s the part we need to make sure is buttoned up before the Chase starts and carry that through the Chase. But, from a performance standpoint, these are amazing racecars. We’ve made a lot of progress through the offseason, and then, getting started this year. I feel really good about the Chase. I’m ready for it to start.”
Jeff Gordon wasn’t thrilled with a fifth place finish at Indianapolis, but he knows well that without a win or two, he will not squeak into the Chase playoff line up.
“It’s always nice to finish in the top five but at this point in the season, the way our season has gone with so many missed opportunities that we’ve had,” Gordon said. “I feel like it was a little bit of a missed opportunity today. We needed track position there at the end and we didn’t get it when it counted most and it cost us.”
All NASCAR drivers look to the next race—the Pennsylvania 400 on the 2.5-mile tri-oval track with 14 degree banking at Pocono Raceway August 5. Fans without tickets can catch the fast action at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Details available on www.poconoraceway.com
Drivers in the top 17 positions could have much to gain by a win in Pocono, but the top five—Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin—shared their thoughts on going back to Pocono in early August.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No 88 Chevrolet)
“I had a good, strong run at Pocono in June,” Earnhardt said. “I’m definitely looking forward to going back there. I think the whole field will be a little bit stronger than it was. It will be a bit tougher. But I thought we had some good speed.”
Greg Biffle (No 16 Ford)
It’s always good to go back to a track where you’ve won,” Biffle said. “Pocono is really more like a road course than a traditional oval so shifting is important to make the car perform properly and allow for better racing. It can be a difficult track because all three corners are completely different which makes handling an obstacle.”
Matt Kenseth (No 17 Ford)
“The track surface at Pocono was way better in June with the new surface,” Kenseth said. “I thought they did a great job paving it because one of the big challenges about Pocono used to be how bumpy it was. Usually everyone is against new pavement, including myself, because you think it hurts the racing, but I thought it was better overall. I never did well there in the past, and honestly never really liked the track there before.”
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
“I am excited to go back [to Pocono] because we had a really strong car there in the last race,” Johnson said. “After last week’s win at the Brickyard the entire team is excited to get to Pocono and keep the momentum going.”
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“You have to be very disciplined as you enter turn one,” Hamlin said. “They have marks on the side of the wall and you want to discipline yourself to use those marks so you don’t overdrive the corner. You try to get all the exit speed off of (turn) two as you can -- you shift into fourth (gear) about 200 yards past turn two to try to get that long run right before you get to the tunnel turn. For my approach, I try to arc into the tunnel turn just as wide as I can to make sure I get that long, low line on the exit of the tunnel to make sure I get a good line into turn three. Into turn three, you’re just trying to carry all that speed you can because that front straightaway is so important for passing that you have to get position on a guy off of turn three. You want to carry as much throttle as you can, but down shift right in the center of three, make sure you pull the up shift right before you get to the start-finish line.”
Driver Joey Logano won the June race and is in need of another win to secure a spot in the Chase. Logano described well his thoughts about racing soon in Pocono: "You've got to risk it to get the biscuit."
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.
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