KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Anyone who paid attention in math class knows that a triangle has three sides. Most NASCAR fans know that most racetracks have four corners. So it’s a little unusual for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track to mirror the aforementioned triangle as opposed to the aforementioned four-cornered track configuration.
But that’s exactly what happens this weekend when the teams and drivers converge upon Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, otherwise known as the “Tricky Triangle.” Designed in 1965 by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward, it features three different corners, each modeled after a different track, and one of the longest straightaways on the circuit.
Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is modeled after the legendary Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at eight degrees, is a nod to the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at six degrees, is modeled after the corners at The Milwaukee Mile.
Kurt Busch is one driver who not only has plenty of experience at the 2.5-mile triangle, he’s experienced plenty of success along the way. The driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) heads into the race weekend a two-time Pocono winner, along with a pole, 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s, to augment his impressive stats in 27 career starts at the 2.5-mile triangle. Busch has led laps in 17 of those races, including a record-setting 175 circuits spent atop the leaderboard en route to his win in August 2007. He also finished third in this event a year ago.
Additionally, Busch’s solid performance statistics extend beyond tradition and into some pretty stout loop data numbers as he ranks in the top-five in a several categories, including laps led, fastest laps run, speed in traffic, green-flag speed and average running position. Add it all up and it equates to a third-place driver rating, placing Busch behind only six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who’s second, and perennial Pocono favorite Denny Hamlin, who’s first.
The Haas Automation team will look to improve upon last year’s third-place finish by getting Busch his third Pocono victory and their second of the 2015 season. While Busch and the No. 41 team are virtually guaranteed a spot in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs thanks to their win earlier this season at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, additional victories would move Busch ahead of the six other single-race winners of the 2015 season. The 16 drivers who qualify for the Chase will have their points total reset to 2,000 and will be seeded based on bonus points – three per win – earned prior to the start of the Chase.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about racing at Pocono.
“I think it’s a fun track as far as how unique it is with the three corners being different. And the fact that your setup really can’t be dialed in for all three corners, you have to give and take. Some years it seems like turn one is tough. Some years turn three ends up being a tough corner, but I always focus on the tunnel turn. I always try to get through turn two as quickly as I can because it seems like the years I’ve won, that’s where I’ve had the best car.”
You’ve won twice at Pocono. Which was the better experience?
“The win in 2007 with Penske Racing – that was the fastest car that I’ve ever driven. That car would turn, stick, drive down the straightaway – that car did everything. It didn’t have a single flaw. I knew how good that car was on the first lap of the race. I remember telling myself, ‘Don’t screw this up.’ I ran the rest of the race more nervous than I had in years prior. I’ve never dominated a race like that. We led 175 of 200 laps. That was by far the best car I have ever driven. It was a great race to show the balance of that team and the strength of where we were at that point. I think the 25 laps that we didn’t lead were from a bad pit stop at one point. My first win at Pocono in 2005 was pretty great, too. It’s fun to win at a racetrack that is so unique because of how different that track is compared to all the other oval tracks. Pocono is a little bit like Darlington in that all the corners are different, so you have to manage them the best that you can and not be perfect in one corner versus another.”
How do you think the 2015 rule package will play into this weekend’s race?
“I always think when there’s horsepower that’s been taken away that you have to now focus on the corner that leads onto the longest straightaway. But we’ll see how it plays out. I think the restarts are really going to be more chaotic this year because everybody has got the choked down power and the way we can fan out five-, six-wide going into turn one. It’s going to be pretty exciting on the restarts.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine