The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway on July 24 for a single race instead of a double. Drivers will chase a win and one of the two remaining spots in the playoff picture while dealing with the potential for weather-related issues.
According to AccuWeather, there should be no worries on Friday, July 22. There is only a 9% chance of rain. The next two days, however, have higher percentages. The July 23 forecast calls for a 25% chance of precipitation throughout the day, which will include both the Camping World Truck Series (12 p.m. ET, FOX) and the Xfinity Series (5 p.m. ET, USA Network).
The biggest concern will be Sunday, July 24. The forecast calls for a 46% chance of precipitation (28% thunderstorms) during the day. These figures add up to a 67% chance of precipitation and a 40% chance of thunderstorms. This could lead to changes in strategy for teams given that the race has a start time of 3 p.m. ET (USA Network).
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The weather has created problems in previous races
The M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 will not mark the first time that the weather has worried teams, drivers and fans. There have been several issues in the past that have rocked the races.
The 2016 season is a good example. The Pennsylvania 400 featured a rain delay that forced NASCAR to move the race to the next day. The drivers were able to get into their respective cars and battle for field position, but they did not complete the full race.
Heavy fog ended the event after 138 laps, resulting in Chris Buescher’s first career win. The surprising result marked the second time in 2016 that weather had an effect on a race at Pocono Raceway.
The Pennsylvania track has several other examples of weather-related issues. The 2020 Cup Series doubleheader was just the latest example. Rain delays have actually become so common that members of the media expressed their shock in 2021 after NASCAR completed the doubleheader without any issues.
The weather will only add to the pressure
Teams will face additional pressure as they head to Pocono Raceway, especially after Christopher Bell took one of the three remaining playoff spots. There are only two places left on the initial grid, but 18 drivers are fighting for them.
There are six races left in the regular season and it looks like at least one former champion will miss the playoffs. Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are all winless. They join a stacked list of past race winners that also includes Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola and Erik Jones.
Cup Series drivers will have to battle the added pressure of missing the playoffs, but they will also have to deal with possible weather delays. If teams see cells approaching on radar, they could completely change their strategies for pit stops.
Those in need of a win might choose to stay away and bet on old tires. They could also try to make an aggressive move to get ahead of the pack instead of racing in formation, much like Bubba Wallace did at Talladega Superspeedway in 2021 before winning his first career race.
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