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Live Audio Coverage of the NASCAR Cup Series: M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway, USA Network – Sports Talk Florida

By: Zach Sturniolo NASCAR.com

The Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania present the perfect backdrop this weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series.

LISTEN TO THE RACE LIVE BY CLICKING HERE

The “Tricky Triangle” plays host to the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 on Sunday (3 pm ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Get ready for race weekend with all the information you need below:

FIND YOUR PLACES, EVERYBODY

Teams will be allotted 15-minute practice sessions on Saturday (2:35 pm ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with the 36 entries divided into Groups A and B.

That precedes single-car, single-lap qualifying (3:20 pm ET, USA Network), which will set the starting lineup for Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. The fastest five drivers from each group will advance to the final round of qualifying, where those 10 drivers will compete for the pole. The fastest lap earns the Busch Light Pole Award.

RELATED: Qualifying order | weekend schedule | How to watch on TV

POCONO HISTORY

— Pocono Raceway became the unintended passion of Drs. Joseph “Doc” and Rose Mattioli. The Mattiolis were each successful doctors in Philadelphia, he was a dentist, she was a podiatrist. Both were extremely hard working. In 1960, Joe had to operate alone on two patients and later had the shakes. I have made a snap decision. “I said, ‘The hell with it and from that day on, I didn’t do anything I didn’t enjoy. I learned how to fly, ski, sail — all things I’d wanted to do. I took a year off, then invested in Camelback Ski Area and other Pocono businesses.’”

— One day, a gentleman Doc met in the airport tried to talk him into investing in a local project. Just to get rid of him, Mattioli gave him his card from him and told him to let me know when he had his next meeting. He called Mattioli six weeks later, and Doc came up and got involved in building a race track. The original investors had optioned 1,025 acres, of a spinach farm, but they didn’t have any money. The Mattiolis guaranteed the mortgage and ended up putting more and more money into the project until eventually they became the majority owners. ‘The track wasn’t my idea. I just got sucked in because I knew it was a good buy on the land. All the money I’d made off my other Pocono businesses went into the race track.”

— After a 0.75-mile oval was originally built in 1968, the first race on the 2.5-mile triangular track was an open-wheel USAC race in 1971, but it was soon followed by nature’s fury: Hurricane Agnes left behind tremendous damage in its path. Soon thereafter, the Pocono Raceway’s very existence was threatened by an economic and energy crisis. Due to the gas shortage and economy in the 1970s, Joe and Rose Mattioli considered selling the track to new owners. Bill France Sr., who took NASCAR to Pocono for the first time in 1974, met with them several times and persuaded them not to sell the track.

— Pocono Raceway is within 90 miles of both Philadelphia and New York and within 200 miles of more than 70 million people.

— Pocono has had a Cup race every year since 1974 and hosted two races a year from 1982-2021.

— The track was repaved for the June 2012 race, the first time since 1995 that the track was resurfaced.

Source: Racing Insights

GOODYEAR TIRES

After an early May tire test, Goodyear returns to Pocono Raceway with two new tire codes for Sunday’s Cup Series race, most notably with a construction change to the right-side tire compared to what teams have been running up to this point with this Next Gen car, according to the company’s press release.

That right-side tire was tested on the track at both Pocono and Charlotte Motor Speedway, resulting in better tire performance, increased grip and added stability.

“This new right-side construction showed promise in early season lab testing as we continued to understand the needs of the Next Gen car,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “We see this gain in performance as significant, as it was a positive on mile-and-a-half tracks, as well as the unique configuration of Pocono, with its three distinct corners.”

RELATED: Almirola dishes on Pocono test, notes it could be ‘wild-card’ race

POCONO STORY LINES

— Chase Elliott gained 58 points on the driver in second in regular season points over the last five races.

— Ross Chastain’s active six-race streak of top-10 finishes is the longest such streak this season.

— Kyle Larson is on an 18-race winless streak, the longest of his career with Hendrick Motorsports. Larson led on the final lap of last year’s first Pocono race but suffered a flat left-front tire, allowing teammate Alex Bowman to score the win.

— Joe Gibbs Racing is at 198 wins and sits only two wins away from becoming the third team in Cup to reach 200 wins; 104 of its 198 wins came from Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

— Fourteen winners through 20 races is tied for the Cup record.

— Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. sit third and fourth in points, respectively, and sit on the playoff bubble with six regular-season races remaining.

Source: Racing Insights

MORE: As playoff spots come off the board, big names will be left out

TRICKING THE ODDSMAKERS?

Chase Elliott has never won a Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway. In fact, his only Pocono triumph came nine years ago in a 2013 ARCA race in which he fended off late charges from Erik Jones.

Nonetheless, Elliott maintains the hot hand on the heels of four straight top-two finishes, making him BetMGM’s favorite heading into the weekend at 7-1 odds.

Don’t let his lack of recent success at the “Tricky Triangle” trick you. I have finished outside the top 10 in both of last year’s events and hasn’t led at the 2.5-mile track since 2019, but Elliott was also historically not good at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Then I scored a runner-up finish a week ago. The No. 9 may still be a factor this weekend.

Speaking of Jones, though, perhaps he’s a true dark horse entering the Pocono Mountains at 100-1 odds. Jones’ five top-five finishes at Pocono are his best at any track on the circuit, and his six top 10s tie Darlington Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway as his best in that category. He struggled last year, stringing together two finishes outside the top 20, but his six top-10 finishes this season already tie his 2021 total. The No. 43 Chevrolet could be one to watch Sunday.

RELATED: Complete list of Sunday’s odds

FANTASY LIVE

Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 3, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.

The 2022 Fantasy Live points leaders are Chase Elliott (728), Ross Chastain (656) and Ryan Blaney (648).

How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!

ALSO ON NASCAR.COM

Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.

NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.

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