Matty’s Picks 2012 – Vol. 19 Pocono Raceway – Pennsylvania 400 – August 5, 2012

Well, what can I say other than it’s been a month since you’ve heard from me. Since my last edition of Matty’s picks, AJ Allmendinger has been suspended indefinitely, Kasey Kahne has slid into the number one ‘wild card’ spot, Jimmie Johnson won his fourth Brickyard 400, and Dale Jr has taken the points lead. I didn’t miss much did I?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a guy who started the season with two major feats to tackle, one being his four-year winless streak, the other, a Sprint Cup Championship. With the first of the two monkeys in Jr’s closet being taken care of in June, there’s just one left to conquer. Earnhardt hadn’t occupied the No. 1 points position since September of 2004, until his 4th place finish last week at the Brickyard vaulted him into garage stall number two. Dale Jr. has had a consistent season thus far, and keeping his streak of solid finishes alive is the goal for the No. 88 team in these coming five weeks.

Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team flexed their muscles last week in Indianapolis in Johnson’s fourth win at the yard of bricks, but also joined the short list of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers with three wins in this 2012 season. Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski are the other two drivers visiting Victory Lane, three times this season. Since his fourth place finish at Pocono back in June’s Pocono 400, Johnson has one victory, four top-fives, and six top-tens, truly morphing into championship form. The summer time is when Jimmie tends to flex his muscles, and the heat of the summer is where we’re at.

The ‘wild card’ race is shaping up to be as big of a craps shoot as ever, and these last five races before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins have become must-wins for drivers sitting 11th through 20th in the points standings. Kasey Kahne sits in the top ‘wild card’ spot with his two wins, and Kyle Busch sits in the second of the two ‘wild card’ spots, after a tie-breaker with Ryan Newman and Joey Logano, who visited Victory Lane after our first trip to the Tricky Triangle back in June. Time is ticking for 2012 non-winners Carl Edwards who played a major role in last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, currently 12th in points, and Jeff Gordon, currently 15th in points, a five time winner at Pocono. Drivers with their hopes riding on snagging a win in these last five races will surely be dicing it out this weekend in the Keystone State.

Following two samples testing positive for banned substances, indefinite suspension from NASCAR, and near silence from the public eye, AJ Allmendinger found himself officially unemployed on Wednesday. Penske Racing announced on Wednesday that Allmendinger would no longer be a part of their organization following his failing of a random NASCAR drug test before last month’s race at Daytona, and a face-to-face meeting with team owner Roger Penske. Allmendinger must complete NASCAR’s ‘Road to Recovery’ program before there is any chance of being reinstated, giving no timeline for the possibility of return to the sport.

Pocono Picks

Now that I’ve recapped the last month of NASCAR Sprint cup action in just over 500 words, I can get going on my picks for this week’s Pennsylvania 400. Much to my surprise, June’s Pocono 400 was not nearly as uneventful as I had projected. With the new racing surface facilitating a glimpse of passing opportunities , the pit road timing line fiasco, and the race being shortened from the traditional 500-mile mark to 400, I found the Pocono 400 moderately tolerable to watch. Though the weather in Long Pond, Pa is not looking great for tomorrow’s Pennsylvania 400, I am hopeful the race will go on as scheduled and these summer story lines live up to their hype.

Winner Pick

Its got to be Denny Hamlin this week in Pocono…

He’s one of the most decorated drivers to come out of Pocono Raceway with four wins, eight top-fives, and nine top-tens, after just thirteen starts at the Tricky Triangle. Pocono has been one of Hamlin’s best tracks since his rookie sweep of the two races in Eastern Pennsylvania back in the 2006 season, and his practice speeds from yesterday were certainly good enough to throw him to the top of the list of favorites for the win tomorrow afternoon. Fast forwarding to his most recent six starts at Pocono, Hamlin has an average finish of 17.50, a stat Hamlin is eager to boost with a solid finish this weekend. He’s a flat track specialist, and looks to join Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski as drivers with three wins on the season.

Dark Horse Pick

Mark Martin is a guy little talked about around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage after taking his shortened schedule this season. He is not to be overlooked this weekend in Long Pond as he leads active drivers in both top-fives (20) and top-tens (34) in an unprecedented 51 starts at Pocono. Looking back to June’s Pocono 400, Martin lost the lead to eventual race-winner, Joey Logano, late in the race and earned his seventh runner-up finish in his storied NASCAR history. His average finish at Pocono in the last three years is 12.67, after failing to crack the top ten in both races at the Tricky Triangle last season. Martin is motivated to improve on his second place finish back in June, but has some work on his hands hovering around tenth place during both practice sessions yesterday at Pocono.

That’s all for this week, and be sure to stay tuned next week for my 20th or so consecutive trip to the road course located in the Finger Lakes of Central New York for live updates all weekend. I look forward to sharing another great race at Watkins Glen International with the great group of folks that make the trip each year to the 2.45-mile tyrant.

Until the wheels turn right…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


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