Mark Martin is returning to Roush Fenway Racing, not as a driver, but as a driver development coach. With Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Sprint Cup, and Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher, and Ryan Reed in the Nationwide Series, Roush has a number of young drivers who could benefit from not only Martin’s experience, but his drive to be the best.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will lose crew chief Steve Letarte to television next season, but it appears Hendrick Racing has found a good replacement in Greg Ives. Ives is currently the crew chief for Nationwide Series point leader Chase Elliott. The Hendrick set up is for the 48 and 88 teams to work out of one shop. Ives not only has good rapport with Earnhardt, but has worked in the past win Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus. There are rough times in any transition, but with most of the 88 team remaining, Earnhardt should be a strong competitor in 2015 too.
This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Pocono Raceway for the second and final time in 2014-thank goodness. Honestly, the GoBowling.com 400 is not a must watch race to me, except since I blog about the Sprint Cup series I need to watch it anyway.
A few of the story lines for this weekend:
How will Denny Hamlin react to this week’s penalty and racing without his crew chief Darian Grubb? Hamlin says he will use it as motivation, but I wonder. Hamlin does do well at Pocono and I am sure he wants to prove that new found speed in his Fed-Ex Toyota had nothing to do with cheating.
Both Jimmy Johnson and Brad Keselowski had sub-par weekends at Indianapolis. Will they have better outcomes in Pocono? Nevada sports bookies seem to think so as the two have been made co-favorites at 11-2 odds to win. Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick are listed at 7-1 odds, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 8-1.
Kasey Kahne faded after leading late in last week’s Brickyard 400. Will the driver of the #5 car overcome his disappointment and race for a win in Pennsylvania? Kahne certainly needs a victory, and he did win this race in 2013.
Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, and Clint Bowyer all need wins, but sans a victory they need good finishes. In the last five races at Pocono, Stewart has finished as high as 3rd, but never lower than 13th. Newman has finished as high as 4th, but no lower than 12th and Bowyer has a 6th place finish to his credit, but hasn’t finished lower than 15th. I see those three drivers-and Kahne-as long shots on Sunday.
As a Jeff Gordon fan I would love to see the 24 in Victory Lane for the second week in a row, but I don’t think it will happen. I see Gordon as a top five or at least a top ten finisher. I have to agree with the bookies as to the favorites in this race. I just don’t see Johnson or Keselowki having poor efforts back to back. It would not be surprising at all to see them finish 1-2, and I will give the nod to Keselowski.
To me the best NASCAR race of the week will be in Iowa, not Pennsylvania. The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be at Iowa Speedway in Newton this weekend for the Lilly Diabetes 250. I think the 3/4th speedway is one of the raciest in NASCAR and Keselowski will fly in to do battle with Nationwide stars Chase Elliott, Regan Smith, Elliott Sandler, Brian Scott, Trevor Bayne, and Ty Dillon. ESPN has the race which starts at 8:00 p.m. Central Time on Saturday.
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