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Jun 07, 2014 - 04:07 PM
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2014 Pocono 400 Notebook: Less Curb, More Appeal In Turn 2 At Pocono
Posted by: ASkyler on Jun 07, 2014 - 04:04 PM
Feature Articles
2014 Pocono 400 Notebook: Less Curb, More Appeal In Turn 2 At Pocono


By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service

Polesitter Denny Hamlin can see why some drivers might be enticed to cut corners when attacking the reconfigured Tunnel Turn at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.

But the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner at Pocono suggests everyone exercise caution rather than bravado when it comes to the infamous Turn 2 in the Pocono 400.

In an effort to improve safety and increase speed, the track has removed curbing and paved over a grassy area to create a 15-foot apron at the top of the track known as the Tricky Triangle. However, the ability to cut the corner or make a pass on the widened racing surface could be more illusion than reality.

"It’s a cool idea, but the new asphalt is like two inches higher than the old asphalt," noted Hamlin. "It’s not a smooth transition, so it will rip your splitter ... literally, you’re going to just tear your whole front end right off the car if you try to cut that corner.

"I’ve got probably a handful of guys that I have an idea would try to do that and it’s not going to be good for them when they try to do it. But somebody’s going to get forced down there at some point and I’ll be interested in seeing the outcome of that."

 

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The alteration is similar in some ways to the modifications made several years ago at the entry of Turn 3 at Phoenix International Raceway.

"But you can’t use it like Phoenix because at Phoenix you’re running 120 mph," Hamlin said. "Here you’re running 190 [mph] going into that corner. If the new asphalt is two inches higher, physics ain’t going to let that happen. So, it’s a cool thought but it’s not going to be useable."

Despite the risks of tearing up a splitter, the rewards could be great for a driver who might attempt the move late in a race, perhaps on a restart for a green-white-checkered finish at Pocono.

"I’m sure someone is going to try it," said Brad Keselowski, who qualified third for Sunday’s race. "Clean air is so important, and when we all go down into Turn 2 and we are stacked up, I’m sure someone will try to use it to find clean air. We’ll all be watching to see how they get through or if they make it. It should be interesting."

Hamlin isn’t convinced.

"I think all the Cup drivers are smarter than that," he said. "It’s not a smooth transition. It’s a huge jump when you hit it. The only reason somebody’s going to go down there is if they get forced down there. And if they get forced, they’re probably going to be turning hard left into the garage as soon as they get to the front straightaway."

Whether or not the reconfigured turn will provide any advantage in competition, the elimination of the curb and widening of the apron has certainly provided a bit more margin for error.

"With the Tunnel Turn now, there is less of a penalty for getting in there and misjudging the apex - which is nice because I do that a lot," Carl Edwards said. "I was the master at hitting that curb and really messing up my lap. I notice now that if I cross over that line, it is just a little more forgiving."

"That curb," Keselowski said, "was kind of a race-killer. If you hit it, it would damage the front splitter … and it could really end your day and not necessarily be your fault. At least, now, you have somewhere to go. I thought [removing that curb] was a good thing, a great change."

ROUSH FENWAY IN FLUX

Edwards hinted that the May departure of longtime engineer Chip Bolin might be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to changes at Roush Fenway Racing.

Although Edwards is third in points, he, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have combined for only six top-five finishes for RFR this season.

"There have been a bunch of moves internally. There definitely will be [more] changes at Roush Fenway Racing," Edwards said. "Chip Bolin moving on is a huge change and shows the magnitude of where we’re at. We know we have to be faster and there are big changes trying to address that.

"At the end of the day, now is the time when you have to think about if we are going in the right direction or wrong direction performance-wise. That is what everyone has on their minds. How do you be the best you can be so that you peak at Homestead?"

Edwards and Biffle remain unsigned for next season. Roush Fenway has already announced that Trevor Bayne will have a full-time Cup ride and there are rumors that Edwards could be interested in jumping to Toyota team Joe Gibbs Racing. But Edwards isn’t talking like a driver ready to abandon his Ford family any time soon.

"I don’t think anybody makes better cars than Ford does," Edwards said. "I think they really care about their products and definitely care about racing. It is part of their DNA. I’m really proud to drive for Ford."

HARVICK SHOWS SPEED

Kevin Harvick has never won a Cup race at Pocono, where in 26 starts he’s managed to lead only five laps. But his Stewart-Haas Chevrolet has been fast this weekend.

Harvick was the leader in Coors Pole Qualifying until late laps by Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Keselowski forced him to settle for fourth on Friday. Saturday, Harvick posted the fastest time in morning practice (177.291 mph), recorded the best average for 10 consecutive laps (175.462) and led the field again in final practice (175.606).

Keselowski and Brian Vickers were the only other drivers to top 177 mph in the morning session. Kurt Busch was second in the afternoon, followed by Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 20th.

Series points leader Matt Kenseth, still looking for his first victory of the season, finally found some speed. Twenty-sixth in qualifying, Kenseth was 27th in the morning practice but improved to eighth-fastest in final practice.

Also, Aric Almirola blew an engine in the final practice session. He will start at the rear of the field Sunday after originally qualifying 22nd.

BIRD'S EYE VIEWS

Pocono Raceway announced it is partnering with the Google Business View Program (a division of Google Maps) and Aerial Media Productions of Kinston, N.C., to provide unprecedented video utilizing an unmanned aerial vehicle.

"Anytime an organization has the chance to be the first in their respective field to partner with a giant such as Google, it’s a spectacular day," said Pocono Raceway President Brandon Igdalsky. "We cannot wait to show [fans] the amazing photos and video once the package is put together."


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