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NASCAR Roundtable: Will there be another first-time winner at Pocono?

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NASCAR Roundtable: Will there be another first-time winner at Pocono?
May 31, 2018, 10:02 PM

Two of the last three NASCAR Cup races at Pocono have been won by first-time winners. Will that trend continue this year?

Race winner Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Winner Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford, Bob Osborne, crew chief
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Interstate Batteries
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Nationwide and Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA AUTO PARTS Patriotic
Race winner Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M&M's Red White & Blue
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's celebrates his win
Race winner Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M&M's Red White & Blue
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's celebrates his win
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Fusion PPG
Race winner Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Fusion PPG
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Fusion PPG
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford and Kyle Benjamin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford lead the field
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Benjamin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Brendan Gaughan, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports Chevrolet

Two of the past three race winners at Pocono Raceway have been first-time winners. Who do you think we could see celebrating their first Cup win this Sunday?

Jim: I would not be surprised to see Daniel Suarez come away with his first Cup series victory this weekend. He has been running much more consistently of late and Joe Gibbs Racing certainly is just as good an organization this season as Stewart-Haas Racing. Suarez finished 15th and seventh in his two Pocono races last year. That experience should do him well in his sophomore season.

Nick: Daniel Suarez is a good pick. He finished 15th and seventh there last year and he's a driver that is just going to get better. He's also had a fairly solid 2018, but my pick would be Chase Elliott. I still think he should have won that race in 2016 after leading 51 laps and he scored two top-tens there last year. The No. 9 will be one to watch.

Tim: I know I sound like a broken record, but I still feel Chase Elliott will get his first win sooner rather than later, however, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones can also challenge for their first Cup Series win as well. Jones has been very fast and if he can just get the gremlins out of his way he could very well be the first in this group to celebrate his first win.

Kevin Harvick (5) and Kyle Busch (4) have combined to win nine of the first 13 races this season. As they are clearly the top two favorites this year to contend for the title, who do you think is third in line this season so far?

Jim: At the moment I would probably go with Martin Truex Jr. While he is not winning stages and leading laps like he was at this point last season, his Furniture Row Racing racing team seems on the verge of returning to form. They don't seem very far behind Kyle Busch and he has four wins already. Close behind would be Kyle Larson. He has shown the ability to lead laps and contend for wins, although he hasn't gotten one yet.

Nick: Martin Truex Jr. would be the obvious choice with Joey Logano not too far behind. And if the No. 42 team can string together some results, they'll be in the conversation as well. A more interesting question in my opinion would be who is the 'top dog' right now -- Harvick or Busch? For me, I still think the Fords and Harvick in particular have the edge. Yes, Busch dominated at Charlotte, but Harvick exited that race early after a left front tire issue. He could have been a factor for the race win.

Tim: I would have to say that Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano are neck and neck to finish third based on their performances so far this season. Truex is the defending series champion and has been strong at multiple races while Logano also has a win and has seemed to rebound this season and being consistently fast.

Ryan Blaney scored his first Cup win one year ago at Pocono Raceway. Do you think he could make it two wins in a row in the spring race at the 'Tricky Triangle'?

Jim: I would definitely think it's a possibility. Blaney has already led more laps this season then he did all of last year, including his win at Pocono. He has been putting himself in position to win fairly consistently and I would think the experience of winning at Pocono would make him that much more comfortable on his return. Not to mention, he has wrecked out and had engine failure in his last two races and I'm sure is anxious to turn things around.

Nick: I don't think he will. The No. 12 team has had strong runs this year, but I don't believe they are in a position to get a win this weekend. Maybe when we get back for the second race of the year at Pocono, they'll be more of a contender.

Tim: Blaney has been fast at numerous tracks this season and he has the resources behind him to contend for a win this weekend. I think is comfort level at Pocono will only help him be more comfortable and allow him to be around for the end of the race and challenge for his second win of the season. He’s had some mechanical issues and as long as that doesn’t appear again this weekend, he should be one of the favorites for the win.

Cup Series regulars Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski have won the only two Xfinity Series races held at Pocono. Do you think an Xfinity Series regular could win this Saturday and if so, who do you think is the favorite?

Jim: With Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott entered in the race, it would be hard for an Xfinity regular to win but one thing in their favor will be the use of the new aero package, which debuted last year at Indianapolis. That race produced a record number of leaders and lead changes and saw William Byron - then a series regular - win over several Cup drivers. The package, which features front air ducts and restrictor-plates, should help level the playing field. I think it's time Elliott Sadler finally finds his way back into Victory Lane - he's already the series points leader.

Nick: Well, upon checking the entry list and seeing Kyle Busch in the race, I want to say no. However, this aero package is a curve ball that won't allow Busch or any other Cup driver to check out and set sail. It should be an interesting race, but I'd still place my money on the Cup drivers prevailing.

Tim: I think Elliott Sadler or his JR Motorsport teammate Justin Allgaier could very easily take the win this Saturday. As Jim Utter mentioned above, with Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott competing in the race, the Xfinity regulars will have their hands full getting past the Cup Series regulars to score the win, but I think it will happen.

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing