WBKR NASCAR Preview: Pennsylvania 400 by Blake Smith and Moon Mullins

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its 2nd trip of the season to the “Tricky Triangle” at Pocono in Long Pond, Pennsylvania for this weekend’s Pennsylvania 400. Joey Logano visited victory lane back in June after a late race battle with veteran, Mark Martin. This will also mark the 2nd trip since it was repaved during the off season.

Drivers and teams have had a busy week following Sunday’s race at the Brickyard. 28 drivers and teams visited the Michigan Speedway for a tire test on Monday. Top speeds at the end of the straight-aways topped 210 MPH with average speeds of 195 MPH. Tony Stewart took a break from the track and put developmental driver, Danica Patrick in his #14 Chevrolet in Monday’s test session. Danica continued her week of bad luck at the Brickyard when she made contact with the wall in the 2nd turn, early in the test session.

NASCAR announced this week that all manufacturers’ cars have been accepted for the 2013 test session. All manufacturers will be represented next week at a test at Martinsville Speedway, except for Dodge who will skip next week’s test session.  Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick will take to the track for Chevrolet, Carl Edwards will represent Ford and Martin Truex Jr. will be at Martinsville for the Toyota camp. Additional test sessions are scheduled for later in the season.

Penske Racing announced on Wednesday that they have released AJ Allmendinger from the team. Roger Penske advised the release of Allmendinger is consistent with how the team would treat any other Penske team member under similar circumstances. Sam Hornish, Jr. will be in the car for the foreseeable future. Negotiations between Penske and Shell are on going to fill the seat for the 2013 season. Allmendinger is entering a rehab program.

For the first time since 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finds himself atop the Sprint Cup Series point standings. Earnhardt holds a 14 point lead over Daytona 500 winner, Matt Kenseth. Earnhardt, who finished 8th in the June race at Pocono hopes to add to the 14 point deficit between himself and 2nd place.

In the past, the 2nd Pocono race of the season was held prior to the Brickyard 400. Teams would use the fast 2.5 mile triangle as a test session to prepare for the weekend’s next race. In the last couple of years, NASCAR has switched the two races putting the Brickyard one week ahead of the Pocono race. Teams will use information they learned at the earlier Pocono race and last weekend’s race to prepare for this weekend’s event.

Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch will both be bringing the same chassis they used during last weekend’s Brickyard 400. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be bringing the same chassis he used in the June race at Pocono.

Crew Chiefs will be burning up the calculators for this weekend’s race as fuel mileage usually plays a role in the outcome of races at Pocono. Unlike recent races, there were 7 cautions during the Pocono 400. Numbers as of late indicate the number of cautions may be fewer in the 2nd race.

A driver who has a win at Pocono and was competitive during last week’s race is Brad Keselowski. He and his crew chief, Paul Wolfe seem to have the flat tracks figured out. Look for the blue deuce in victory lane on Sunday.

Happy birthday to #24, Jeff Gordon who turns 41 this weekend.

Tune into Sunday’s coverage of the Pennsylvania 400 beginning at 11AM on WBKR and WBKR.com!

-- Blake Smith