By Jim Donahue
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway this Sunday for the Pennsylvania 400 , and Jimmie Johnson is the +450 favorite on WagerWeb.com.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Johnson is the favorite this week. He dominated last week at Indy and has been to Pocono’s Victory Lane twice and finished fourth there three times in a row. That also happens to be his average finish in seven of his last eight starts (throwing out his wreck at Daytona). JJ has an average finish of 8.8 at Pocono, which is tops among all active drivers.
Denny Hamlin (+650) has been close to perfect on flat tracks like Pocono. Indy was his biggest challenge on this track type and he certainly did not blister the field but, after dominating early, he overcame a mistake in the middle stage of the race to run with the leaders again in the closing laps. He narrowly missed finishing in the top five after getting passed by Jeff Gordon in the final circuits, but would up six. That was his sixth consecutive top-six finish this season on minimally banked courses and he has one victory to his credit on this track type, at Phoenix. Pocono has been good to him in the past with a sweep of Victory Lane in his rookie season of 2006 plus back-to-back wins in the summer of 2009 and spring ’10. Hamlin has an average finish of 9.3, second to Johnson.
Joey Logano (+1600) won the June 10 race at Pocono and could really use another one as he sits fourth in the Chase wild-card standings with six races to go before the Chase begins. Logano was a disappointing 33rd last week at Indy. With Kasey Kahne already having two wins and appears to be well on his way to a wild-card berth, there’s three drivers between 11th and 20th with just one victory—Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Logano.
Brad Keselowski (+1300) won this race a year ago even though he drove with a broken left ankle. Keselowski sustained the injury in a crash while testing at Road Atlanta days before the Pocono race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+1000) has never won this race but leads the points. He has five top-five finishes in his last eight races thanks to a win and four fourth-place finishes.
Carl Edwards won this race back in 2008 but is scuffling right now. His 29th-place finish at the Brickyard was his third finish of 20th or worse in the last five races. And that doesn’t include an 18th-place finish at New Hampshire, the last race before Bob Osborne resigned.
Number of previous races: 69.
First Sprint Cup race: August 4, 1974, won by Richard Petty.
Last Sprint Cup race: June 10, 2012, won by Joey Logano.
Won from pole: 14, last time by Joey Logano in 2012
Won from top-5 starting position: 43 times in 69 races (62%).
Won from top-10 starting position: 49 times (71%).
Won from 21st or worse starting position: 4 times (6%).
Worst starting spot for race winner: 29th, by Carl Edwards in 2005.
Most laps led: 175, by Kurt Busch in 2007.
Fewest laps led by a race winner: 4, by Bobby Labonte in 2001.