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Early Driver I’m backing for the 400 at Pocono Raceway

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At 2.5 miles long Pocono Raceway is tied with Daytona as the second longest track on the NASCAR schedule. Only Talladega is longer. Beyond length however Pocono has nothing in common with Daytona or Talladega. Pocono is a triangle, with different banking in all three corners. Turn 1 has 14 degrees of banking. Turn 2 features banking of 8 degrees. While Turn 3 has just 6 degrees of banking. In comparison, Talladega and Daytona have over 30 degrees of banking in the turns. The also have steeper banking than any turn at Pocono in their tri-ovals.

Given its length, shape, and banking, there are not any tracks that are particularly similar to Pocono. This means that history at Pocono is our most important factor. We can however still get useful information for predicting this race by looking at high speed intermediates where speed and horsepower are important.

Nashville Superspeedway has also shown particularly strong correlation with Pocono. In 2022 correlation of incident adjusted speed looking from Nashville to Pocono was .807. This made the correlation between Nashville and Pocono among the five most strongly correlated races. Looking from 2022 Pocono to Nashville in 2023 there was also strong correlation. The r squared for 2022 Pocono to 2023 Nashville is .817. The correlation with Nashville may be due to the lower banking at that track. At 14 degrees the banking in Nashville is closer to that of Pocono than the 1.5-mile intermediate tracks which have banking of at least 20 degrees in the turns.

So lets get to the bets…

Bubba Wallace

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

For years Bubba was known as a bit of a superspeedway specialist in the Cup Series. The past two years with 23XI however he developed into a strong intermediate package driver. Last year in particular it was around this point in the season that he made a large leap forward. Bubba has continued his strong performance from the second half of 2022 in the first half of 2023.

Top 10 | +140 (Caesars Sportsbook)

Looking at Pocono specific results, in the two races at Pocono in 2021 he completed around 40% of his laps inside the Top 10. He finished 14th and fifth in those races. He had the 10th and eighth best average running position in those events respectively. In 2022 Bubba finished 10th (8th after the disqualifications of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch). He completed 48.75% of his laps inside the Top 10 to go along with the 10th best average running position.

Turning to other correlated tracks Bubba also has promising numbers. At Auto Club Bubba completed 41% of his laps inside the Top 10 before his engine failed late relating him to a 30th place finish. At Las Vegas and Kansas he completed nearly 90% of his laps inside the Top 10. He recorded finishes of fourth at both tracks. The most concerning event would be his 15th place finish at Nashville, where he completed just 27.3% of his laps inside the Top 10. He had a lot of speed in practice that week though, so while practice is of course not the same as the race I’m not overly concerned.

I placed 1u on this at +140 and am comfortable down to +130 on this bet.

To Win | +4000 (BetFred)

In addition to the strong performances noted above, my bet on Bubba to win factors in how strong he was at Michigan in 2022. Michigan is another large flat track. Although it’s an oval it does still have some correlation with Pocono. Last year at Michigan Bubba won the pole and finished second. He also had the fourth best incident adjusted speed over the course of the race. Given his strength there, his improving performance at Pocono the past two years in a 23XI car, and his overall improvement on intermediate tracks I’m willing to go in on Bubba at the premium price offered at BetFred of +4000. Most books have this around +3000 give or take a bit, so the +4000 at BetFred is a nice offer.

I placed .35u to win 14 on this bet, but I wouldn’t take it under this price until we see some practice times.