5-hour Energy 500By Yahoo! Sports Staff
June 9, 2011
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for Sunday's 5-hour Energy 500. This is the first of two Cup races there this season.
Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner.
Who Will Win?
Tony Stewart: Yes, Tony Stewart may have only one top five this season, but Pocono is where he scored his first win as a car owner. In the last 10 races at the tricky triangle, Stewart has finished outside the top 10 just once. Yes, he's pretty dang good there. It says here that Smoke gets his first win of 2011 and solidifies his standing in the Chase. – Nick Bromberg
• As the laps counted down at Kansas with Smoke in the lead, I couldn't help but think of his fuel-saving win at Pocono. No, he couldn't go the distance in Kansas, but Stewart, like clockwork, is clearly heating up as the summer approaches. Whether Pocono turns into a fuel-mileage race or not – and the bet here is that it will – Stewart will be a contender. – Jay Hart
Denny Hamlin: For a long time, it looked like Hamlin was going to have to win his way into the Chase. But he's racking up some strong finishes and with the favorable Pocono track just ahead, he ought to be a solid top-10 driver by this time next week. In 10 Pocono races, he has four wins and eight top-10s. Book it. – Jay Busbee
Three things to watch for …
1. Will fuel mileage come into play? We might as well throw this out there every week, because the enticement of the wild card means someone will try to win the race based on fuel mileage. That's especially so at a track like Pocono, where a lack of cautions frequently brings fuel mileage into play. Keep an eye on Stewart and, once again, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2: What about the weather? It wouldn't be a weekend at Pocono without rain, and there's plenty in the forecast. There's a 60-percent chance of rain on both Saturday (qualifying) and Sunday (race day), meaning crew chiefs will have one eye on the fuel gauge, the other on the radar.
3: Qualifying will be different: Beginning this weekend, the entire order of qualifying will be determined based on speeds from Friday's first practice session. This is a tweak on a relatively new rule. Before, qualifying order was based on a combination of practice sessions, and the go-or-go-home cars were slotted at the back of the field. Now, the go-or-go-homers will slot in wherever they fit on the speed chart.
• Whose gamble will pay off? I know I sound like a broken record here, but this is what the wild card has done – created a weekly game of "go-for-broke" racing. Two weeks ago it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who gambled and lost. Last week it was Brad Keselowski, whose bet paid off. Who will risk it all at Pocono, and will they win? – Jay Hart
• So who learned from Brad Keselowski's throttle-feathering last weekend? Pocono is one of several fuel-mileage tracks coming up over the next few weeks, and with wins now more important than ever for Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and many others outside the top 10, expect crew chiefs to gamble given the slightest opportunity … and to take copious notes for the second time they come through Pocono in a few weeks. – Jay Busbee
• Yes, we give Pocono a lot of grief, and no, it probably shouldn't have two Cup races (and that's without considering how close they are to each other on the schedule). But last year's Pocono races were pretty entertaining all things considered. The track will be safer, too. The Armco that Elliott Sadler crashed into has been replaced by a SAFER barrier. Yeah, you'll probably doze off during the middle of the race on Sunday, but if last year is any indication, you'll be wide awake at the finish. – Nick Bromberg
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