Cole's Corner

“What’s Trending?” at Pocono Raceway

By Cole Cusumano

NASCAR is moving north from the glitz of Nashville to the beauty and serenity of the Pocono Pines. With the regular season winding down, it’s quintessential the sport makes its traditional summer stop to the track aptly nicknamed the ‘tricky triangle.’

There will be a heavy emphasis on points, as four NASCAR National Series races will be completed in a span of two days. Additionally, with the premier level competing in back-to-back days, it brings the potential for exposure to developmental series and drivers.

The sport’s best will put on a show at Pocono Raceway in front of a sold out crowd of campers and what everyone hopes will be packed grandstands of over 76,000 at full capacity. After being plagued by COVID-19 like much of the world in 2020, it will be interesting to see what the Long Pond track had in mind for its unique doubleheader weekend.

NASCAR Cup Series

Pocono Raceway made history of sorts when the title sponsor, Pocono Organics CBD 325, was announced. Becoming the first race sponsored by a byproduct of medicinal marijuana, the product itself had to undergo tests by NASCAR and clear guidelines set in 2019 for the company to serve as the headliner of the event.

The Cup Series will compete on Saturday and Sunday, making this a crucial weekend for drivers hovering around 16th in the standings. Drivers like Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot and they know the opportunities will be plentiful in Pocono. There will only be seven regular season races remaining once teams leave this weekend.

“We just know how important [Pocono] is,” DiBenedetto told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “It’s a big swing in two days and you really have to hope you have a good car. Go out and execute. That’s all we need to do.”

Could this be the weekend Hendrick Motorsports and Kyle Larson come back down to Earth after landing in victory lane every week since May 9? The last time HMS won in Pocono was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2014. In fact, the last time a Chevrolet triumphed at the ‘tricky triangle’ was Busch in 2016.

Larson and HMS may have a leg up on the competition this week, as he’ll be starting from the pole alongside William Byron in the first race.

Trending on Twitter: Brad Keselowski reminisces of the good ol’ days and gives his hot take on the COT.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Through 15 races, there’s still no clear-cut frontrunner for the championship. It’s been a mix of youth, experience and star-power that’s made for the most unpredictable title battle in years.

“There’s a lot of guys who step up to the plate and there’s a new group of guys that you have to beat,” Brandon Jones told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “There’s a decent amount of cars that are fast on a weekly basis and I feel like we’re one of them at this point. It’s a tough group and guys and there’s a few that very rarely make a mistake and if they do, you need to be there to capitalize on them.”

Ty Gibbs has stolen the show thus far in the Xfinity Series, but we could be getting a closer look at NASCAR’s future with another touted generational talent making his debut. Sam Mayer will be taking over driving duties in the No. 8 for JR Motorsports, following Josh Berry’s impressive run.

Harrison Burton will start from the pole in search of his first win in 2021.

Trending on Twitter: Noah Gragson reveals his pre-race attire, courtesy of a bet with Alex Labbe.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Even with the Cup Series running two races this weekend, there could be more on the line for the Truck Series. Once everything is all said and done in Pennsylvania, there will only be two events left in the regular season for the developmental series.

Rising talent, Carson Hocevar of Niece Motorsports, is clinging on to the final playoff spot over Chandler Smith of Kyle Busch Motorsports. At this point in time, it’s anyone’s shot at a postseason run, but it’s clear who everyone will be chasing.

John Hunter Nemechek is undoubtedly the frontrunner for the title, but who can emerge as his worthiest challenger? It appeared early on it may be Ben Rhodes, but now we’re seeing a bit of an emergence from GMS Racing. 

Ryan Preece is trying to win two-straight, after becoming the fifth driver in series history to win in his debut. Opportunities are also starting to mount for Berry, who gave up his ride to Mayer in the Xfinity Series. He’ll be driving the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R Silverado this weekend.

Todd Gilliland will start from the pole and attempt to secure multiple victories for the first time in a single-season, with Zane Smith in search of his first win in 2021 to his outside.

Trending on Twitter: Nemechek plays the role of grammar police for his teammate at KBM.

NASCAR’s doubleheader weekend begins on Saturday, June 26 with the Truck Series race at 12 p.m. ET on FS1, followed by the first Cup Series race at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The Xfinity Series gets Sunday honors on June 27 at 12 p.m. ET before the premier series completes their second race at 3:30 p.m. ET, both events on NBCSN.

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