August 01, 2008
Experts' Picks: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: On Sunday Johnson, a two-time winner at Pocono, will drive the same car that he piloted to a second-place finish at Chicagoland on July 12. Johnson is fourth in the standings, and he's desperate to earn the 10 bonus points that will carry over to the Chase for winning a regular-season race.
Keep an eye on: Denny Hamlin -- Hamlin has been quiet for most of this season, but that could change on Sunday when he makes his 100th career start in Cup racing. Pocono is his best track on the circuit - he's won here twice - so if he's ever going to surge up the standings, it needs to happen on Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Juan Pablo Montoya -- This year has been utterly forgettable for everyone at Ganassi Racing. Montoya is 22nd in points and Pocono is one of his least favorite tracks. In three career starts at Pocono his average finish is 24.7
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: He was nothing short of dominant last weekend at Indy when he was tops in practice, qualified on the pole and turned the Brickyard into his personal parade ground on race day. I think that means that he and crew chief Chad Knaus are more than ready for the season's second half. Kyle Busch had better start looking over his shoulder.
Keep an eye on: Denny Hamlin -- Five top-10 finishes in five starts at Pocono indicate that there is nothing that Hamlin doesn't like about this track. I would also expect him to finish in front of Busch on Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Greg Biffle -- The Biff has just two top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Pocono. He's had two solid races since suffering a mid-season slump that saw him drop from seventh to 11th in the point standings. But I don't think Pocono is the place for him to continue his run.
  My Pick: Denny Hamlin
Why he'll win: After Hamlin's top-five run at Indy, it looks like the No. 11 team righted the ship just in time for its favorite track. Having swept both races at the Tricky Triangle in 2006, Hamlin's never finished out of the Top 10 here in five career starts. A win solidifies his spot in the Chase in a year in which it's extremely competitive for those final few spots in the Top 12.
Keep an eye on: Brian Vickers -- Vickers has always run well up at Pocono, and finished a surprising second here in June. He needs to duplicate that performance in order to keep his longshot Chase hopes alive.
Don't expect much from: Kyle Busch -- The June race at Pocono was one of Kyle's worst performances this season; he started from the rear in a backup car, crashed out and finished 43rd. The 23-year-old's now gone six straight races without a top-five finish at this speedway.
  My Pick: Brian Vickers
Why he'll win: Yes, Brian Vickers, he of one career Cup win, with Hendrick Motorsports, spinning teammate Jimmie Johnson at Talladega in 2006, yadayada. The Red Bull Racing driver was second at Pocono earlier this year, and although they'll bring a different car, Vickers will bring the momentum he's been building in a fine 2008 season.
Keep an eye on: Denny Hamlin -- Victories in his first two starts there validate a little attention and he's been solid in his next three outings: sixth, third and third.
Don't expect much from: Jeff Gordon -- Yes, he has four wins at Pocono, but he's also been victim of some bad luck. Remember when his brakes failed in 2006, sending his car - in a straight line - into the wall in one of the scariest crashes of his career?
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: So now that Gordon is solidly in the running to make one of The Chase berths, it's time for Gordon to get back into victory lane for the first time this season. And, after a ridiculously stupid AllState 400 at the Brickyard where none of the top drivers really got a chance to race because of the terrible tires brought by Goodyear, Gordon felt as bad as anyone for the fans. A victory at Pocono could be a good payback.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- If this year's superstar is able to win at Pocono, he will go from worst to first. He finished 43rd in this race in June, when he was attempting to run three NASCAR series in three states in three days.
Don't expect much from: Kevin Harvick -- He is struggling and stands in jeopardy of not making The Chase. As the races click down to the Sept. 6 cutoff, Harvick has to make something happen soon.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: With his victory at Indianapolis and second place at Chicagoland, Johnson brings big-time momentum to Pocono. The No. 48 has been solid top-10 since early June and has made a breakthrough in performance the past two weeks. The two-time Cup champion wants to add wins and those 10 bonus points in the six-race stretch run to the Chase, and he's got the car to do it. Johnson led 59 laps and was sixth at Pocono in June. He also won both races there in 2004.
Keep an eye on: Denny Hamlin -- Pocono is Hamlin's best track. He was third in June and led 17 laps in the Car of Today. He had a sparkling record of two wins, a third and a sixth in four starts in the old-style car. Hamlin's third last week at Indianapolis - a flat, high-speed track like Pocono - says he's ready for another strong showing there.
Don't expect much from: Elliott Sadler -- He was 34th in June and has no top-fives and two top-10s in 19 starts, none in his last seven, at Pocono. Sadler had his best finish of the season, fourth, last week at Indianapolis and that might indicate a better run this week, but don't count on it. Pocono is tricky and Sadler hasn't been able to solve its unique problems.
  My Pick: Kurt Busch
Why he'll win: Last August, Busch posted an upset win at Pocono. He has two wins and two seconds in the last six Pocono races and has scored more points there over the past five years than any other driver.
Keep an eye on: Denny Hamlin -- Hamlin has been up and down lately, finishing third at the Brickyard after placing 40th in Chicago. However, Hamlin has been nothing but strong in five career starts at Pocono, with two wins and a worst finish of sixth.
Don't expect much from: Kyle Busch -- Busch should already be concentrating on the playoff Chase, so his focus on the last 10 races of the season could hurt him in August. In seven career starts at Pocono, Busch has one top-five and an average finish of 20.

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