Matty’s Picks Vol. 12 – Pocono – August 7, 2011

Back to Long Pond, PA we go for the second time this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

[media-credit name=”poconoraceway.com” align=”alignright” width=”271″][/media-credit]I’m going to learn from my mistakes this week, and pick two drivers that I have not picked in my column before. Back in just my 6th edition of Matty’s Picks, I chose two drivers, both with storied histories at the Tricky Triangle. Denny Hamlin, my winner pick had finished in the Top 10 in 8 out of his 10 races at Pocono (after the race in June it was 9 out of 11 races – 19th place finish).

My Dark Horse pick faired a bit better in the 5-Hour Energy 500 this season, netting me one of my 4 Top 10 finishes. Juan Montoya has been my Dark Horse pick twice this year, once coming last week at the Brickyard, and the other at Pocono in June. In the race in June, Montoya gambled on two-tire stops a total of three times throughout the afternoon, a strategy that would net him a 7th place finish and me a Top 10 Dark Horse pick.

Brickyard Recap

As stated earlier Juan Montoya was my Dark Horse last week for the Brickyard 400. He was never really in contention to win the race last week, but lingered around the Top 5 for a good portion of the 200 laps last Sunday. It was tough for anyone to predict how the fuel-mileage frenzy would unfold last Sunday, and when the checkered flag flew over the #27 of Paul Menard, Montoya was nowhere to be found.

Montoya said after the race “It was good. We had the fastest car but when we could see the front it seemed like I could get a little more out of the car and I was pushing really hard.” The #42 team would lose out on the almost road-course-like pit strategy and would come home 28th.

As for my winner pick last week, after starting 3rd on the grid Jimmie Johnson also hovered around the Top 5 for the majority of the laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

About his qualifying lap last Friday at IMS, “It was a good lap for us and I certainly hope that it hopes up and keeps us in the top five. If we can have a good spot on pit road, it makes for such a different race. And there are some very generous areas to work on pit road here, so I’m hoping to get one of those spots.

And it was one of those “generous” spots he would end up with for the race, but just like everyone else, Johnson was not able to stay out of trouble. The 48’s contact with Brian Vickers squashed all my hopes for a win out of the Lowe’s Chevrolet last weekend bringing home a 19th place finish.

Yes, last week at the Brickyard was the first time I did not have a driver finish in the Top 10 or better since Michigan back in Mid-June.

Pocono Picks

Winner Pick

I’ve decided to spread the wealth this week and pick a driver that has not been mentioned this year in Matty’s Picks. He is very deserving of a Winner Pick this week for his efforts at PIR in June. He started on the pole for the 5-Hour Energy 500, and currently sits second on the speed charts after the first practice session of the day.

Kurt Busch is no stranger to Victory Lane at the Tricky Triangle, earning his first win at the track in July 2005 and then winning again in August 2007. Kurt Busch also has and astounding 5 – second place finishes at Pocono as well, his most recent coming in June. Kurt Busch has been running well this season, with one win, 4 Top 5’s, and 11 Top 10’s. He will look to rebound after dropping 3 spots in the points following the Brickyard 400 with a strong finish on Sunday in the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.

Dark Horse Pick

My Dark Horse this week currently sits in 13 place in points. He is extremely hungry to make a statement with a win and solidify his spot in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He also, is no stranger to Victory Lane at Pocono, a track where he has less than impressive finishing statistics.

Greg Biffle averages a finish of 16.4 at Pocono International Raceway, but will use the momentum he has from his 7th place finish last week at Indy to lay down a qualifying lap good enough to start towards the front and remain there throughout the race. He has managed to finish in the Top 5 at Pocono only 6 times in 17 starts, and will look to gain upon his 27th place finish in June.

Stay tuned next week as I preview my 19th trip to Watkins Glen International. I am extremely excited to head to my home track next week, tremendously eager to get camp set up with friends and family and enjoy another fantastic weekend of road racing at WGI!

Until Next Week…You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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