POCONO RECORD: Will be seeking his fourth straight top-six finish and fifth in the last six races. Overall has one win and 12 top-10 finishes including nine top-five's in 24 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: After testing at Pocono, Newman feels "it has definitely slowed down a little bit even though our cars are a little bit faster, but to me, it's still the same track. They changed turn two a little bit, the curbs are gone. It makes for a better escape route especially with the way our splitters are now. On a restart, it will really help when we get jumbled up. We will have a place to go now instead of running in the back of someone. It remains one of my favorite tracks on the circuit."
LOOKING BACK: Just after moving into the top 10 with just over an l00 laps to go, Newman was forced to go to the garage area because of transmission problems. The crew quickly fixed the problem and Newman returned to the race 14 laps down to the leader. He finished the day in 31st place. "When the race started, we had our work cut out for us," said Newman. "We were so loose it cost us quite a bit of track position. The CAT crew worked extremely hard to get our Chevrolet competitive and Luke (Lambert, crew chief) made all the right calls. I'm so proud of what we were able to accomplish - a top-10 car. It's a shame we had a mechanical problem that cost us a decent finish."
ETC.: Most drivers and crew chiefs feel it is all but impossible to get a car to handle perfect in all three turns at Pocono. Newman does not agree. "It's doable to make the car perfect," said Newman. "It's not easy, but all it takes is good communication between you, the crew chief and the engineers. It's possible to set your car up for all three turns."
4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only four points out of the top 10.
POCONO RECORD: Finished ninth in the June race a year ago for his ninth top-10 finish in 26 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick admits "I haven't had a lot of success there (Pocono), but seeing the success that the team has had there in the past and seeing the success that Hendrick Motorsports has had, I think Pocono is probably one of the places on the schedule that I'm looking forward to going to the most this year. Between the two teams that we have access to information from, I think Pocono should be a lot of fun."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick was leading the race when the event had to be red-flagged to patch up a hole in the track where a piece of concrete had come loose. Shortly after the race was restarted on lap 164, Harvick started dropping back and was forced to pit two laps later with a flat right-front tire. He was never able to get back on the lead lap and finished 17th. "We had another great car," said Harvick. "They said the value stem got knocked out of the right front. It was another of those fluke deals. We had a car that could have challenged for the win."
ETC.: In describing a lap around Pocono, Harvick said, "it's got three very different corners and after the repave those corners are varied even more than in the past just because you carry a lot more speed into turn one than you do the other corners. Pocono has very fast corners with a few different approaches because of the banking differences, but I think the biggest challenge is probably turn three and getting your car to rotate through the center of the corner and still be able to stay in the throttle as long as you need to up off the corner."
55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 11 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots to fall out of the top 10.
POCONO RECORD: Five top-10 finishes including four top-five's in 14 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers tested last week at Pocono. "It was good to get up there and get a team test with Clint (Bowyer) and Jeff (Burton)," said Vickers. "It's been a few years since I have been to Pocono. I have never raced on the new surface. I had to really take a few laps just to feel the track out. The repave is great, really smooth but a few of the tricky bumps are still there. The bumps make you have to work harder as a team to set the car up."
LOOKING BACK: Vickers ran in the top 10 until he suffered engine failure on lap 73 of the 400-lap event. As a result, Vickers finished 43rd and last at Dover. "I don't want to speculate on what it was and what caused it," said Vickers. "Certainly an engine. Everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Toyota work so hard and we're always pushing these engines to the very limit. So, I'm sure they will get to the bottom of it and get it fixed."
ETC.: Vickers doesn't feel the racing has changed for a driver even with the new emphasis on winning in order to make the Chase. "All I have ever wanted to do when I get behind the wheel of a race car is to win," said Vickers. "That's true for every driver out there no matter what the rules are. So, most of the racing I don't think has changed much from the driver's perspective. If there has been a strategy change, it's more from the team perspective. Are crew chiefs willing to take more chances with tire or fuel strategy on the last restart now?
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 15 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
POCONO RECORD: Only two top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "Pocono is a great track as far as uniqueness. We shift there, and a lot of guys have been doing that the last couple of years which adds a different element. It's kind of like a big road course really, you just turn left. The hardest part is trying to get your car out of the air while still maintaining grip in the corners."
LOOKING BACK: Menard finished 10th at Dover for his second straight top-10 finish and third in the last four races. "We definitely had our best Dover car yet," said a beaming Menard. "The Pittsburgh Paints/Menard Chevrolet took 10 to 15 laps to come to me but we could really race after that point. We struggled on restarts because of the time it took for the air pressure to settle in, but we could really move forwards once they did. It was a great race for us and another top-10 finish doesn't hurt."
ETC.: When asked what makes Pocono so "unique," Menard replied, "the three corners. Turn one is real wide and has pretty good banking where you can run side-by-side. Turn two is really fast and sharp which makes it very difficult to run side-by-side. Turn three is in-between; it's real flat but with a sweeping, pretty wide corner. It's definitely a unique track."