The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its way back to our area this afternoon for the 5-Hour Energy 500 today at 1pm at Pocono Raceway. Growing up around Philly in a family of big NASCAR fans, even though Pocono was longer drive than Dover, my dad would always pack up the truck and haul us there for the race every year. So I've always seen it as the second "local" race in the area.
Even after spinning and damaging his top car in practice, Kurt Busch won the pole with his backup car. Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Reagan Smith round out the top qualifiers. This is the second straight week where Busch spun in practice and yet still won the pole. He blamed the accident on the new shifting procedures at Pocono.
"It's a matter of knowing where the edge is -- but not stepping over it," Busch said. "[Friday], honestly, I missed my shift point, and it got me into trouble. Just trying new things -- changing the rear gear, changing the transmission, just being in a different zone of elements and changes.
NASCAR has mandated changes to transmission and rear-end gear ratios for Sunday's race. It will likely mean more shifting for drivers on the already grueling 2.5-mile track. Denny Hamlin says the new shifting mandate won't change the race too much, but will put stress on the cars.
"It's another element that gets changed," said Hamlin. "I think that we're really only shifting in one corner -- in Turn 1. But it's tough for me to say. You're still going to have the guys that typically run good here. Looking at the practice speeds, it looked like the typical guys were pretty good.So I don't think it will change a whole lot, but I do think it's going to be tough on the reliability of these race cars for 500 miles. Shifting takes its toll on engines, for sure. Somebody will break one."
News and Notes From Pocono
Kurt Busch is the 8th different pole winner in the last eight races which held qualifying at Pocono.
Jeff Gordon has started in the top 10 at Pocono for six straight races
Pocono has a 25 acre solar farm that will provide all the power for today's race.
"It’s been unbelievable," Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky said. "It’s so cool to see it up and running and reap the benefits. Every drop of power we’re using here is being generated right across the street."