The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back at it again this weekend for the annual June stop to the Pocono Raceway. Sunday’s Pocono 400 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the 14th stop of the 2019 season as we’re now on the backward side of the regular season.
Here are five storylines for this weekend’s race.
This spring race has been produced some surprise winners lately. In 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first Cup win in two years. Same for the next year in 2015 with Martin Truex Jr. In 2016, Kurt Busch ended his 35 race winless streak in the June Pocono race. In 2017, Ryan Blaney earned his first career win in the series.
Last year, it was Truex again.
Will 2019 be a slump buster?
Hendrick Motorsports Is Back
Brad Keselowski is right, Hendrick Motorsports may have the most speed in the field. Last weekend in Charlotte was the first time since 2016 that all four Hendrick cars finished in the top 10 in the same race. Now, they hope to keep the momentum going at a track that they’ve had some great success.
In the last race at Pocono last August, HMS finished 3-6-7-17. Last weekend in Charlotte they finished 4-7-8-9.
Chase Elliott has five top 10 finishes in six Pocono tries and has four straight top five finishes on the season.
Alex Bowman finished third in the August race last year to go along with four straight top seven finishes on the year including three of which being runner-ups.
William Byron finished sixth in last year’s August race and has two top 10 finishes in his last three starts on the year.
Jimmie Johnson has two straight top 10 finishes on the year but just one top 10 in his last six years at Pocono. Maybe he’s back this weekend.
Truex Has To Be The Favorite
For the third time in five races, Truex Jr. reached victory lane last Sunday night in Charlotte. After winning the spring race at Pocono last year, how is he not the favorite this weekend?
Truex, has three top six finishes in his last four Pocono starts. Where he may not win though is he has a bad trend going. He wins, the finishes badly.
He’s gone from first (Richmond) to 20th (Talladega). Then to first (Dover) to 19th (Kansas). He won at Charlotte last week. Is an 18th place finish coming Sunday? In his last Pocono start, he finished 15th last August.
Can Hamlin End Recent Slide?
Denny Hamlin started 2019 off hot. He had 10 straight top 10 finishes to start the year off with including two wins. But, over his last four starts, he’s finished 36th, 21st, 16th and 17th respectively.
In Pocono, he has four wins but has scored just one top five finish since 2014. Maybe this isn’t the track to end his drought.
Can Harvick, Keselowski Slow JGR?
Kyle Busch finished third and first respectively at Pocono in 2018. He has three straight top three finishes on the 2.5-mile track in fact. On the season, he has three wins already. He’s going to be a threat to win on Sunday.
His teammate Martin Truex Jr.’s stats above show he is too. Even Erik Jones has three top eight finishes in four Pocono tries. With JGR scoring eight wins in 13 races in 2019, can they be stopped?
If so, look for Brad Keselowski or Kevin Harvick to do so. Keselowski, won at Pocono in 2011 and has six top five finishes in his last seven tries. He also has eight top six finishes in his last 11 overall Pocono starts as well.
Harvick, has four runner-up finishes in his last nine Pocono starts. All came with SHR as he had no top three finishes in his previous stop with RCR. Over his last five starts, Harvick has finished fourth, second, second, fourth and fourth respectively. With how many fourth place runs he’s had in 2019, he’s heading to a top four again on Sunday.