Gordon, Kenseth, Kahne want more

August, 4, 2011
08/04/11
11:42
AM ET

The theme to this weekend's race in Pocono?

Triangles! All sorts of triangles!

No, wait, that's not it.

Let's go with redemption, like the sequel to a movie, with the sheriff riding back into town looking to reclaim his post. And I'm not referring to Sheriff Brian Vickers.

There are several drivers going into this week's Pocono race who are looking for redemption, coming off the Pocono race earlier this season and even last week's Brickyard 400.

Let's flash back to that most recent Pocono race, all the way back eight weeks, to look at drivers whose finishing positions weren't quite what they deserved.

Denny Hamlin is a Pocono master, his four wins there are only one behind Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon for most in track history, and he's run only 11 races there. But earlier this season, he finished 19th, just his third career finish outside the top 10 at Pocono.

But Hamlin led the field in fastest laps run, with 34, and was in the top five in speed early and late in runs, along with overall speed. He was also the fastest car on restarts.

How about our points leader, Carl Edwards? Edwards spent some time in the garage and ended up 37th. But before those profound issues, Edwards ran the fastest lap 12 times. Impressive considering he ran only 59 laps the entire race. He was also the fastest car in traffic.

Let's change pace and reflect on last Sunday at Indianapolis. It seemed pretty clear that Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne had three of the fastest cars in the field.

Gordon and Kenseth's multiple wins apiece will likely be good enough to get them into the Chase, even if they have mini-meltdowns and fall outside the top 10 in points, but Kahne is going to need a victory.

At Indy, Kahne ran the second-most fastest laps and ranked fourth or better in many loop data categories, including third in average green-flag speed.

Now we head to Pocono, which is probably the most similar track on the schedule to Indianapolis. Heck, one of the three turns at the track was designed after Indianapolis.

So, it'll be redemption time at Pocono, either the points leader padding his lead, Hamlin locking up a Chase spot, or Kahne thrusting himself into the Chase picture.

The Eliminator: Pocono Edition

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.

I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1) Every Pocono winner since 1996 who had previously raced there had a top-5 finish at the track (20 drivers eliminated, 26 remaining).

2) Of the last 15 Pocono winners, 13 had a top-12 in the last California race (14 eliminated, 12 remaining).

3) The last six Pocono winners had a top-5 in one of the previous two Sprint Cup races overall (nine eliminated, three remaining).

4) The last six Pocono winners had a top-10 in the last Sonoma race (two eliminated, one remaining)

Your winner: Jimmie Johnson

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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