Published July 22. 2022 11:45AM
NASCAR makes its annual stop to Pocono Raceway this weekend with a three-day event.
The debut of the Cup Series Next Gen car also premieres Saturday at the Tricky Triangle with practice and qualifying, leading up to Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400.
A few things have changed at Pocono for the 2022 season. The track scales back to one NASCAR date on Sunday, and the race is once again 160 laps, 400 miles. Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch were last year’s Cup winners in the June doubleheader with a red-hot and eventual Cup champ Kyle Larson barely missing out on victory lane and tying the modern-day record with four straight wins.
Chase Elliott has been the one to beat this season, already winning a series-high three times and has yet to record a Cup win at the Tricky Triangle. Elliott held off Erik Jones to win the ARCA race there in June 2013, with both drivers making their superspeedway debuts. Elliott led laps at Pocono as a Cup rookie in June 2016 and recorded a top-five finish in the race.
A win for Erik Jones at Pocono can be extra special because the Petty GMS Racing driver has had success at Pocono, but has yet to get to the Richard Petty 200th Victory Circle. Jones finished second to Denny Hamlin in July 2019 and nearly won an ARCA race there in August 2013, but the engine blew up while leading with three laps to go, handing the win to Spire Motorsports Cup driver Corey LaJoie.
On-track activity begins Friday with practice for the ARCA Menards Series at 2:45 pm, followed by a 20-minute qualifying session for ARCA at 3:30 pm After that, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series takes to the track for a 30 -minute practice session at 4:30 pm The trucks also qualify right after practice and that takes place at 5 pm and can be seen live on FOX Sports 1.
Friday at Pocono Raceway concludes with the running of the General Tire Delivers 200 for the ARCA Menards Series, an 80-lap event traditionally held at the Tricky Triangle. NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Brandon Jones is 2-for-2 in his ARCA starts in 2022 and is running for Joe Gibbs Racing in the event. Rev Racing driver Nick Sanchez was fastest in Thursday’s optional pre-race practice for the General Tire Delivers 200. Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Sammy
Green flag for the General Tire Delivers 200 drops at 6:44 pm Friday and can be seen live on FOX Sports 1.
Saturday features a doubleheader with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
XFINITY gets on-track first with practice and qualifying for the Explore the Pocono Mountains 225. The CRC Brakleen 150 Truck race starts at noon on FOX and Cup practice and qualifying follows on the USA Network. The day wraps up with the XFINITY Series race at 5 pm on USA Network.
Two Cup drivers are entered in the Explore the Pocono Mountains 225: Cole Custer in the No. 07 Ford for SS/Green Light Racing and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet.
Custer won the XFINITY Series race at Auto Club Speedway in February with the No. 07 team and also won the Pocono XFINITY race with a last-corner pass of Tyler Reddick in June 2019. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won an ARCA race at Pocono in June 2008 and his last XFINITY start came at Phoenix Raceway in the fall of 2016.
The main event
Sunday’s main event is the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 for the NASCAR Cup Series.
The race returns to the traditional 160-lap event with stage breaks at lap 35 and 90.
Pocono has produced four different Cup winners in the last four races at the track. The 2022 NASCAR Cup season already has 14 different winners with the playoffs looming.
Speaking of playoffs, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season concludes at Pocono Raceway with the running of the CRC Brakleen 150.
Eight drivers have already clinched playoff spots heading into Pocono with two spots remaining to make up the 10-truck playoff field. 2016 June Pocono ARCA winner Grant Finallyger and three-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton currently hold the final spots heading into Saturday’s race.
It’s time for some picks for the race weekend. In ARCA, I’m going to take Brandon Jones from Joe Gibbs Racing because he is 2-for-2 in the ARCA Menards Series this year and that car is bad fast.
For Trucks, I like current series points leader Zane Smith. He led lapses in last year’s race and the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports team has been fast every week.
In the XFINITY race, it’s going to be hard to beat Cole Custer. He won on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway earlier in the season and I expect him to be strong in the Explore the Pocono Mountains 225.
Don’t forget the rest of the XFINITY Series field either. JR Motorsports has collected wins with Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry and Noah Gragson this season. JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer returns to the same place where he made his XFINITY Series debut at last June. Mayer finished third in the 2020 Pocono ARCA race and Mayer has shown speed in the No. 1 Chevrolet throughout the 2022 season.
For the Cup race, I’m going to go with Chase Elliott. I think a win at Pocono is doable for the No. 9 team, especially with the way they’ve been running all season.
Chase Elliott (9) reacts in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sunday, July 10, 2022, in Hampton, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)