NASCAR & Auto Racing

Race Day: Missed practice sessions raise concerns

3 THINGS TO WATCH

1. Rain washed out Saturday's practice sessions, so teams that worked on qualifying setups Friday face uncertainty about their cars. Teams raced here a few weeks ago, so it's not the end of the world. But it's still a concern.

2. Since Jimmie Johnson lost a late-race duel with Kyle Busch at Chicagoland, he won the pole and the race at Indianapolis and the pole here. The No.48 Chevrolet led 59 laps at Pocono in June. That's a lot of momentum for the two-time defending champion.

3.Kyle Busch finished dead last in the first race at Pocono, and he wasn't in a terribly good mood here Friday when he struggled in practice and then qualified 27th. Not having Saturday's practices to work on his car probably didn't help that mood, either.

OBSERVER PICKS

David Poole: I don't know if it's actually a rule or not, but I know you're never supposed to question a winning streak. The No.48 team has a history of piling up long stretches of success, and it looks to me like one of those has begun. Winner: Jimmie Johnson.

Jim Utter: I know it's his 100th Cup start and the site of his first series victory, but there is a far more important reason to pick Denny Hamlin for this race – he's just good at Pocono. Winner: Denny Hamlin

OBSERVATIONS | David Poole

Scott Riggs is in a strange spot. There's basically zero chance he's going to be driving for Stewart Haas Racing next year, but the early 2009 success of that team depends a lot on how he does in the No.66 car the rest of this year. Riggs moved the car up to 35th in owner points last week, and if he can stay in the top 35 then whoever Stewart hires for the No.4 car (most likely Ryan Newman) will be guaranteed a spot in next year's first five races. Stewart can get the team's other car in with former champion's provisionals, assuming NASCAR doesn't change that rule. Riggs, who is currently 14 points ahead of Michael McDowell in the race for 35th, has his own reasons to run well, of course. He's looking for a job.

It's nice to believe that people who run well are going to get noticed in racing, but reality isn't always that rosy. David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil have done better than could have been reasonably expected in the Yates Racing Fords this year, and while the team has picked up some piecemeal sponsorships there isn't an apparent line of big-dollar prospects out the door looking to sign up for next year. Gilliland starts third today, and it'd be nice to see him finish well. But times are tough, and even if he somehow managed a win today, that doesn't mean somebody would show up Monday with a $20million sponsorship check. That's a fantasy these days.

JUST THE FACTS

What: Sunoco/American Red Cross Pennsylvania 500

Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.

Track type: 2.5-mile triangular track; 14 degrees of banking in Turn1, 8 degrees in Turn2 and 6 degrees in Turn3.

Race distance: 500 miles (200 laps)

When: 2 p.m.

Weather: Partly cloudy, 70 degrees

TV: ESPN

Radio: Motor Racing Network

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