June 06, 2008
Experts' Picks: Pocono 500
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: Why pick against Busch? He's won nearly a third of all the races he's entered this season -- 10 out of 35 in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Craftsman Truck circuits -- and he reached Victory Lane last week at Dover. Never underestimate the power of momentum in motorsports.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Edwards and Busch simply are operating at a higher level right now than everyone else in the sport. Edwards finished second last week at Dover, and he's already starting to fret about the points lead that Busch will have at the start of the Chase thanks to the wins that Busch has wracked up. Expect Edwards to be ultra-aggressive in the closing laps on Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Little E has been knocking on Victory Lane's door for most of the season, but don't expect it to happen on Sunday. Pocono is one of his least favorite tracks on the schedule -- he's admitted to getting bored here -- and his career average finish at the track is only 17.3.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: He's never won at Pocono, but that hasn't stopped him yet this year-he's won all four of his races on tracks where he'd never tasted victory before. Jeff Gordon won this race last year when he was dominating the circuit-I expect the same from Busch this weekend.
Keep an eye on: Denny Hamlin -- He won twice at Pocono as a rookie in 2006, and logged two more top-10 finishes there last year. His average finish in four races at the triangle is 2.9.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- Momentum may be slipping away from the No. 9 team, and Pocono -- where Kahne has just two top-10 finishes in eight starts -- wouldn't seem to be the place for him to get healthy. It's odd layout and long homestretch are a far cry from the intermediate ovals on which he thrives.
  My Pick: Brian Vickers
Why he'll win: For Team Red Bull, it's finally time for a breakthrough in their second year in the series. Vickers has been knocking on the door these past few weeks, and he's got the track record at Pocono to make a statement: he's got three top-5 finishes in his last six starts on the 2.5-mile triangle.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- The Sprint Cup point leader is giving you two extra reasons to watch him this week. He's trying to become the first driver in history to do the vaunted "tripleheader" -- winning in each of NASCAR's top three series in three different places. Pocono will be the most difficult -- Busch has never finished higher than 4th there -- but with the season this kid has had, don't count him out.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Don't let last year's second place finish fool you; Pocono has never been Junior's Cup of tea. When you take away that run last July, Junior's struggled to an average finish of 28th in his previous six starts at the track.
  My Pick: Kurt Busch
Why he'll win: If anything is going to turn around his moribund season, it will be a trip to middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. There's no reason why the Vegas-via-Chicago lad seems to enjoy this place so much, but his numbers are phenomenal there, with Roush and Penske. He won for the second time at the 2.5 mile triangle last year and has been a runner-up four other times.
Keep an eye on: Jeff Gordon -- He needed a little assist from some rain clouds to win his fourth Pocono race last spring, but he's always around, except in the spring of 2006 when his brakes failed and he plowed into Turn 1 at about Mach 9.
Don't expect much from: Kyle Busch -- No way the Cup wins (four) and points leader knocks out a victory in his final 500 miles of a weekend in which he'll also contest Nationwide and truck races. Right? No way. That's 4,000 air miles between Ft. Worth, Nashville and Pocono -- 1,050.5 miles of racing. No way. ... Right?
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: Right now, it's Kyle Busch's world and we're just allowed to watch. He's not "the next big thing," he is "the big thing." He heads to another track where he has never won at but that doesn't seem to faze Shrub, as he will figure out the "Tricky Triangle" and win at Pocono Raceway on Sunday. It will be the culmination of a unique tripleheader where Busch will compete in three different NASCAR divisions in three different states on three different days. He will also race in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway and Sunday's Cup race at Pocono.
Keep an eye on: Jeff Gordon -- The four-time Cup champion appears to be getting hotter along with the June temperatures. He has four wins, 15 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes in 30 career starts at Pocono but recently complained about how outdated the race track is. But he is still worth watching on Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Again, the fan's favorite doesn't appear to be getting closer to ending his winless streak after starting off the season so well at Hendrick Motorsports. He has never won at Pocono Raceway but has four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 16 career starts.
  My Pick: Denny Hamlin
Why he'll win: HHamlin knows how to attack Pocono, perhaps the most unusual track in Sprint Cup with its three distinct turns. He won both races at the 2.5-mile track in his rookie season of 2006. Hamlin led 49 laps and was a contender for a third straight in this race last year when rain stopped it after 106 laps. He finished sixth and came back to take third in the August race. Hamlin's average finish in four starts is 2.750 and he's led 283 laps.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- He has been almost unbeatable in the past five races (three wins, a second and a third) on all kinds of tracks and he'll carry that momentum and confidence into Pocono. He's never been particularly good at Pocono with a best finish of fourth, one other top-10, two laps led and a 16.1 average finish in six starts, but you can toss those results out the window with the way he's going this season. But jet lag could be a problem in a 500-mile race.
Don't expect much from: Kevin Harvick -- Pocono has been difficult for Harvick, who hasn't led a lap and has one top-five 14 starts. He hasn't been terrible, either, with an average finish of 16.3, but he's a Chase-caliber driver and he hasn't been that competitive at Pocono.
  My Pick: Denny Hamlin
Why he'll win: Most young drivers struggle at Pocono, but not Hamlin. He won his first two races at the track, then followed up with a third and a fifth at the track last year. That makes his average finish at the track an amazing 2.8.
Keep an eye on: Mark Martin -- Sure, Martin is a sentimental pick, but he's having a decent season for a part-time driver. Martin has nine finishes in the top three at Pocono, six seconds and three thirds, but he's still looking for that first victory. Surely 42 starts at the track have to give a driver some sort of edge.
Don't expect much from: Labonte Bros. -- The Labonte brothers will race at teammates this week and both have multiple victories at the track. Terry, however, has essentially retired from racing and Bobby finished 19th and 30th at Pocono last year.

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