What to Watch: 2022 Pocono Raceway

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M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway
(⏰ 3 p.m. ET | 📺 USA Network, NBC Sports App | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, the 21st regular-season event of the 2022 campaign.

 

Race-day info 📝

Where: Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Approximate start time: 3 p.m. ET | Full weekend schedule
TV/Radio: USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
The purse: $6,828,051
Forecast: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. ET. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91 degrees, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracker
Race distance: 160 laps | 400 miles
Stages: 30 | 95 | 160
Pit-road speed: 55 mph
Caution car speed: 70 mph
Pocono 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: Where drivers will start

Pit stalls:
Where drivers will pit
UPDATE: Kurt Busch out of Sunday’s race
Cars to the rear:
Nos. 1, 24, 31, 43, 51 for unapproved adjustments; 45 for backup car.

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

Each of the last five winners at Pocono Raceway has led fewer than 50 laps, dating back to Kyle Busch’s 79-lap performance in 2019. This falls right in line with what we have seen so far in the inaugural Next Gen season. Rarely in races has a dominant driver gone on to win the checkered flag. In fact, 13 of the 20 races have seen a pass for the lead in the final 10 laps. Pocono races have most often been about strategy and timing to navigate the 2.5-mile track with precision. Tire strategy, fuel management and timing will be important for the expected long green-flag runs. | Analysis: Late-pass trend could continue at Pocono | Read more

Who’s hot? Who’s not? 

For a driver who has proven his talent at almost every track, Pocono struggles have plagued 2020 Cup champion Chase Elliott. Since posting a 10.9 average finish in his first seven starts at the track, the No. 9 team has limped their way to a 21.2 average in the last five — very uncharacteristic for a team that has proven consistency. Elliott finished 12th and 27th in last season’s doubleheader, leaving question marks about how he will perform this time around. Luckily, he is on fire heading into Sunday, bringing with him four straight top-two finishes and a pair of wins. Based on the No. 9 team’s speed and dominant form, expect Elliott to buck the recent trend and continue marching towards the regular-season title. | Cup Series standings

Is Sunday where Kyle Busch re-ignites his form in pursuit of a third championship? Over the last five races, Busch has zero top 10s and four finishes of 20th or worse — very uncharacteristic for the two-time champ. But his Pocono run-of-form tells another story. Busch has mastered the “Tricky Triangle,” picking up four wins and only one finish outside the top 10 in his last 11 trips to the uniquely-shaped track. This included a runner up and impressive comeback win last season. Though he has a win, Busch and the No. 18 team have taken a back seat to some of the other title contenders — and rightfully so based on recent results. But as the season begins to wind down and his contract status remains unclear, Pocono is the perfect time for him to reassert his dominance.

Driving under the radar

Since his historic win at Sonoma Raceway, Daniel Suárez has surprisingly been flying back under the radar. But looking at the numbers, he is in one of his most impressive stretches of 2021. Since his win, Suárez has only one finish outside the top nine. His speed and consistency have been right up there with the best of them … well, maybe not Elliott’s incredible top-two streak, but you get the point. Not many drivers this season have put together as solid of a run as Suárez is putting together right now, but his biggest challenge continues at Pocono where he has five-straight finishes of 13th or worse.

Saturday sessions

Pre-qualifying inspection was not kind to a handful of drivers in the field, with five teams losing a crew member and pit-stall selection this weekend. In practice, it was all Trackhouse Racing, with Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez finishing in the top three. Chevrolet took seven out of the 10 spots on the lone practice leaderboard. Denny Hamlin took charge in the most meaningful session of the day — qualifying. The No. 11 car sprinted out to the fastest lap time in both rounds of qualifying, earning the Busch Light Pole Award for Sunday’s race. Reigning Pocono winner Kyle Busch slotted in second before Chase Elliott, continuing his incredible form, Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five. Qualifying went pretty smoothly, save for Kurt Busch’s hard wreck on his lap. They will move to a backup car. | Full qualifying and practice recap | UPDATE: Kurt Busch out of Sunday’s race; Ty Gibbs to fill in

A view of a Pocono sign through the trees.
A view of a Pocono sign through the trees.

Race-day staples ✅

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Paint Scheme Preview: Pristine schemes for Pocono | Pick a favorite
• NASCAR betting: Odds for Sunday’s race at Pocono | Underdogs, value bets
• Fantasy Fastlane: Unknowns heading into Pocono | Top plays, sleepers
• Bubble Watch: Where drivers closest to the cutline stand | Read more

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• L-1 penalties: Petty GMS Motorsports penalized at Pocono | Full story 
• Windy City:
Chicago street race on tap for 2023 season | Read more | Scenes from iRacing 
• Analysis: Late-pass trend could continue at Pocono | Read more
• Penalty report: Fine issued to No. 2 Team Penske crew for loose wheel | Read more
• Retirement?:
Kurt Busch hits at possibly finishing career after 2023 | Read more
• Extension:
Chase Elliott, NAPA secure long-term deal | Read more
• Another contract:
Toyota issues update on Kyle Busch situation | Read more
• Best driver:
Kyle Larson wins ESPY Award | Full story
• Summer Family Fun:
Kid-friendly meals to make at the track | Read more
• Mark Martin:
Driver talks about old feud with Earnhardt | Watch video
• eNASCAR:
College iRacing Series back with four-race slate | Read more
• Truck Series:
Bodine slated to make 800th national series start | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• The Action Network: How to bet Kevin Harvick vs. Christopher Bell | Expert insight
• PickUp props:
Make your Pocono picks, enter to win prizes | More details
• Fantasy insight:
Avoid a Chastain start at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ | Full video
• Play it LIVE: Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
• Going all the way:
2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Time to get tricky ⚠️

Get to know all the NASCAR Cup Series history at the “Tricky Triangle.”

• In the lead: Top 10 lap leaders at Pocono | See the list
• Do you remember?: Memorable moments at Pocono | Pick a favorite
• Last race at Pocono: Kyle Busch overcomes transmission issue, wins at Pocono | Full recap
• Race Rewind: Busch battles rollercoaster day to earn victory | Watch highlights

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

The longest top-10 finish streak by a driver this year is six races by Ross Chastain, who has an active six-race top-10 streak.
Chase Elliott won three of the last 10 races and finished top two in each of the last four.
Five drivers without a win in 2022 have won at Pocono in the past.
Four crew chiefs got their first Cup win in 2022: Randall Burnett, Travis Mack, Sam McAulay and Phil Surgen.
The pass for the win came in the final 10 laps in 13 of the 20 races in 2022.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“When I started, that was just what you did at Pocono. You downshifted and it was just part of the process of Pocono. But that kind of went away as the teams kind of decided it was too expensive. So we went to spec transmissions and couldn‘t shift, and then it went back to, ‘OK, you can shift,‘ and now we‘re going to shift in every corner. So, it‘s definitely just kind of a piece of the puzzle that‘s come with this new car, and at Pocono, I think we‘re going to shift in every corner.” — Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

“I think the track just fits my driving style and it‘s a place I picked up on right from the first time there in my rookie season. It‘s a great race track, very challenging and it‘s tough to get your car balanced for all three turns. Obviously, I have been very fortunate to work with some great teams and crew chiefs throughout my career as well. That gives me a lot of confidence every time I go to Pocono. This week especially, it‘s unlike anywhere we have been so far this season, but I feel like our team and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota have been working very hard and making gains throughout the year. I‘m looking forward to getting on track Saturday and seeing where we stack up because I feel like it‘s a place that we can take advantage of and hopefully pick up some more playoff points.” — Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“None of this is possible without NAPA. I‘m so thankful for their commitment to our team and their passion for what we do every weekend. I‘ve been lucky to meet a lot of great folks from across the country who work for NAPA. All of us are really proud to represent a company that takes care of its employees and its customers and is driven to be successful in every aspect. I‘m looking forward to what‘s to come and celebrating more wins together.” — Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, on his extension with NAPA (Hendrick Motorsports.com)