The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for a doubleheader weekend on June 26-27, providing several drivers with opportunities to accrue points. Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson will enter the weekend as the obvious favorite to win, but a winless driver will challenge him. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will enter the weekend just behind Larson in the updated odds.
According to NASCAR, Larson has 21-10 odds to win the first race at Pocono, which takes place on Saturday, June 26. Hamlin is just behind him with 7-1 odds. Larson’s teammate Chase Elliott (8-1) and Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch (8-1) also have favorable odds to contend for the win. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. (10-1), Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (10-1), and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron (10-1) all sit in a tie for the fifth-best odds.
Hamlin remains winless in 2021, but he has achieved a considerable amount at Pocono during his Cup Series career. He has 30 starts at the Tricky Triangle with 13 top-five finishes. Hamlin has reached Victory Lane six different times, including wins in 2019 and 2020. The veteran driver has only finished outside of the top 10 twice in the past 10 trips to Pocono.
Hamlin Will Start the Race Near the Front of the Pack
Fresh off a 21st-place outing at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 20, Hamlin will start the first Pocono race on the fifth row. He will line up next to Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola while Larson and Byron lead the field to the green flag.
Hamlin fought for a spot in the top 10 as the race came to a close. However, fuel issues sent him to pit road with only two laps remaining. He stopped while the other drivers continued fighting for points behind eventual winner Kyle Larson. Hamlin was able to return to the track, but far behind many of his fellow drivers.
NASCAR determined the starting lineup using its unique formula created during the 2020 season which relies heavily on the previous race. The fastest lap makes up 15%, the driver’s finishing position is 25%, the team owner’s finishing position is another 25%, and the team owner’s points ranking makes up the final 35%.
For Hamlin, the 21st-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway meant that he would not start in the top five. However, Joe Gibbs Racing’s points ranking kept him inside the top 10. The entire JGR stable has performed well during the 2021 season, combining for three wins and 23 top-five finishes, while Hamlin alone has given Gibbs a series-leading 686 points.
NASCAR Will Make Lineup Changes Between the Two Races
If Hamlin wins the first Pocono race or finishes inside the top five, he will not have the opportunity to lead the field to the green flag. NASCAR will actually shake up the starting lineup between the two races while using two different methods.
According to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, the sanctioning body will take the top 20 from the race on Saturday, June 26, and will invert it for Sunday, June 27. The winner of the Pocono Organics CBD 325 will start 20th in the Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 while the driver that finished 20th will win the Busch Pole. The drivers outside the top 20, however, will still line up according to the formula.
The NASCAR doubleheader weekend kicks off on Saturday, June 26, with a Camping World Truck Series race. FS1 will provide coverage at 12 p.m. ET. The Cup Series drivers will then head to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono Organics CBD 325 at 3 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network). The race weekend continues on Sunday, June 27, with the Xfinity Series race at 12 p.m. ET (NBCSN). The Cup Series drivers will then cap off the schedule with the Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN).
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