KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Since 1974, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams have traveled to Long Pond, Pennsylvania to race at one of the most unique tracks on the circuit – Pocono Raceway, nicknamed the “Tricky Triangle.”
While most of the tracks the teams race at are oval shaped, Pocono features a triangular layout that was designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward and remains unlike any other track in the world with three different corners each modeled after a different track. Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is modeled after the now-closed Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at 8 degrees, is a nod to the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at 6 degrees, is modeled after the corners at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/FOX Sports GO Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), hasn’t had the best of luck at Pocono thus far in her Sprint Cup career. While Patrick scored a 16th-place result there last August, she’s finished outside of the top-30 in four of her six starts at the 2.5-mile track. While that statistic sounds bleak, one needs to dig a little deeper to see she could be poised for a great finish this time around – with a little luck.
In her second race at the track in August 2013, she was running a respectable 18th when she was involved in a multicar accident in the tunnel turn and ended up 35th. She was poised for a solid top-20 finish before the incident.
In June 2014, Patrick was running second on lap 138 of 160, but she cut a left-front tire and hit the turn-three wall to end any chance of a good finish. She was scheduled to make another pit stop before the end of the race for a splash of fuel and, even though a top-10 was probably out of the question, a top-15 was what the team was aiming for when the accident occurred. She ended up 37th in the race, two laps down, after repairs.
Last June, Patrick ran as high as sixth and was scored in the 11th position when the No. 10 Chevrolet made contact with the outside wall on lap 136. The subsequent damage caused the sheet metal to cut down the right-rear tire. As a result, Patrick spun in turn one and the car’s right-rear corner hit the wall. The team was able to continue after significant repairs, but Patrick ended up with a 37th-place finish.
Patrick’s luck seemed to take a turn late last summer as the No. 10 Chevrolet team scored a 16th-place finish in the July race at Pocono, despite running out of fuel in the closing laps.
On Sunday, Patrick and the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/FOX Sports GO Chevrolet team hope luck remains on their side for the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/FOX Sports GO Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Which of the three turns at Pocono is your favorite? Which is most challenging?
“My favorite corner at Pocono is honestly – it’s probably – turn one. You can make up a lot of ground if you’re good through there. It comes into a pretty good compression and you can drive off down into the corner. If the car turns pretty well, you can pick up the throttle really hard. And while I like turn one, the most important corner is probably turn three, leading onto the front straightaway.”
Talk about the tunnel turn at Pocono and what makes it so tough.
“Well, the tunnel turn at Pocono is pretty flat. I think that’s really one of the big things that makes it so challenging. You need to carry a lot of speed and there’s not a lot of lifting that goes on. It’s flat, so I feel like that makes it harder and it really emphasizes issues with the car. And then, when there’s not banking to push the car into the track, then it’s really up to the driver to make sure you set the car right with the throttle, brake, and how you turn into the corner. All of those things make the tunnel turn tricky.”
What are your overall thoughts on Pocono?
“It’s a neat place, definitely a unique track. It’s still a place I don’t have a ton of experience at. It’s just an odd place to set the car up because the corners are so different. If you are really good in turn one, then maybe two and three are a little off. Or if you’re good in three, maybe one and two are different. I will say that the straightaway is enormous. There’s a lot of distance between turns three and one.”
JIMMY ROWLANDS, Shock Specialist on the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/FOX Sports GO Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, not too far from Pocono Raceway. Did you ever visit the track as a child?
“I grew up about 60 to 70 miles from Pocono Raceway and my racing career actually started there. My dad has an auto repair shop and, back in 1992, he got tickets to the Cup race at Pocono from the local auto parts store. He and my mom went and they drove up Saturday night to see the track and get ready for Sunday’s race. While they were there, they saw the Quarter-Midget track outside of the main track. We’d never heard of Quarter Midgets before and that’s how we ended up finding out about them. I started racing there not too long after that. I loved going there. That’s how I first got into racing. I went to a few Cup races there as a kid. I think my first one was in 1993, when I was about 10 years old. I was too young to get into the garage, so we sat in the grandstands.”
TODD HAMM, Engine Tuner on the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/FOX Sports GO Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You grew up in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Did you ever visit Pocono Raceway as a child?
“I grew up about 45 minutes from the track and, as a kid, I was at Pocono for every race. The whole family would go and a lot of our friends would be there, too. There was always a big party in the infield. I still have a lot of friends and family in the area, so it’s always fun to go back to Pocono and get to see everyone."
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine