Story By: POCONO RACEWAY – LONG POND, PA – With four races across three days including all three of NASCAR’s National Series, storylines abound ranging from the final appearance by a former Cup Series champion who owns the most Pocono Raceway starts among active drivers to an actor playing the role of contender in the ARCA Menards Series.
The event-packed schedule opens Friday with qualifying for both the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (2:05 p.m. ET) and NASCAR Xfinity Series (4:05 p.m.), and closes with the ARCA Menards Series Sunset Hill Shooting Range 150 race in the early evening (6 p.m.). Saturday’s on-track activity features a race doubleheader – the NCTS CRC Brakleen 150 (Noon, TV: FS1, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM) and NXS Explore the Pocono Mountains 225 (5:30 p.m., TV: USA, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM) – sandwiched around NASCAR Cup Series qualifying (3:20 p.m., TV: USA).
The race weekend, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of NASCAR competing at “The Tricky Triangle,” culminates Sunday with the HighPoint.com 400 Cup Series race beginning at 2:30 p.m. (TV: USA, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM).
Here’s a look at the “Tricky 5” storylines for the weekend:
Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick has logged 17,880 miles at Pocono Raceway during his career, which is enough to make three-plus round-trip drives from Long Pond, Pa., to his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. He will make his 44th and final start in Sunday’s HighPoint.com 400 as the 2014 series champion and 60-race winner will be retiring at season’s end after 23 years in the Cup Series.
Harvick (No. 4 Busch Light Ford) ranks first among active drivers at “The Tricky Triangle” for career starts (43), top-five finishes (15), top-10 finishes (22) and laps completed (7,152). The total miles he has completed at Pocono Raceway ranks fourth among all tracks he has competed on in his Cup career.
On the raceway’s all-time list, he ranks third for top-10 finishes and is tied for fourth for top-five performances. Mark Martin is the track recordholder for top 10s (34) and co-shares the top-five mark with Jeff Gordon (20).
Harvick has 11 top-10 performances in his last 13 Pocono appearances, including eight among the top five. That stretch is highlighted by his lone win in 2020.
He heads to Pocono Raceway ninth in the Cup Series point standings, 99 back of leader Martin Truex Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing, and coming off a fourth-place finish in Monday’s rain-delayed race at New Hampshire. The performance was his fifth top-five finish on the season and eighth among the top 10. His season-best effort came at Darlington in May, where he finished runner-up.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch will be performing double duty this weekend in pursuit of a special milestone for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
In addition to driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in Sunday’s HighPoint.com 400, Busch will be piloting KBM’s No. 51 Zariz Transportation Chevrolet Silverado in Saturday’s CRC Brakleen 150 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race.
Busch will be looking to secure a milestone for his organization that debuted in 2010, which sits one shy of the achievement of recording 100 NCTS career victories.
There’s a high probability that it could come at “The Tricky Triangle” as KBM has dominated the 2.5-mile tri-oval. Kyle Busch Motorsports enters this weekend with a three-race winning streak at the track and having won seven of the last eight.
Busch, the series all-time leader in victories with 63, owns two of those Pocono triumphs (2015, ’18) in that run of success.
Chase Purdy, who drives fulltime for KBM in the No. 4 entry, also will be looking to secure the milestone for the organization as well. Still seeking his first career NCTS win, Purdy posted a career-best, runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in April and has seven top-10 finishes in 14 starts this season.
Frankie Muniz, the former “Malcom in the Middle” television star, is known for his comedic nature but it has been serious business when it comes to his racing career.
The 37-year-old actor is an ARCA Menards Series rookie-of-the-year candidate, but arrives with plenty of past racing experience, including Champ Car’s Atlantic Championship (2007-09), Formula BMW USA Championship (’06) and late model competition in California.
He has forged his way into one of the leading roles for the 2023 season, ranking second in the championship during his rookie campaign. Muniz trails championship leader and four-time race winner Jesse Love of Venturini Motorsports by 49 points (418-369) heading into Friday’s Sunset Hill Shooting Range 150.
Driving the No. 30 Ford for Rette Jones Racing, Muniz has posted seven top-10 finishes, with a best of sixth on four occasions, through nine races. He has been solid in both qualifying and race performances, averaging a 9.0 starting position and 8.6 finishing position.
“The racing is so fun in this series. Honestly, it’s so tight,” Muniz said post-race after finishing sixth recently at Mid-Ohio. “I’ve learned so much; it’s so different from what I used to race. Just so happy to have the Muniz racing colors on here. My son has a little car at home, and I wanted him to be able to drive the same car that daddy has because, honestly, this is a dream come true. I’m having a blast and I love it. I really do.”
Defending HighPoint.com 400 winner Chase Elliott (No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) of Hendrick Motorsports continues to rebound strongly of late after missing six races as a result of a snowboarding accident in early March.
Elliott is still chasing his first win of the season, but has recorded top-five finishes in five of his last eight starts. Elliott, who finished 12th Monday at New Hampshire, has seven top-10 finishes, including five in the top five, in 13 starts overall. He is 23rd in the Cup Series points standings.
He has enjoyed success at “The Tricky Triangle” with eight top-10 finishes, including half of those among the top five, in 13 career starts. Last year’s win was his first at Pocono.
Elliott also is scheduled for double duty as he will compete in Saturday’s Explore the Pocono Mountains 225 Xfinity Series race in the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet.
It will be his first Xfinity Series start in nearly two years. His last appearance came in August of 2021 for JR Motorsports in the Indianapolis Grand Prix, where he finished fourth on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
In 82 Xfinity Series career starts, Elliott has recorded five victories, 34 top-five finishes, 66 top 10s and two poles. He also won the series title in 2014 with JR Motorsports.
Pennsylvania natives Allen Holman, Andrew Bridgeforth and Journey Brown all enjoyed college football careers in their home state and are the latest to see their professional playing field shift from turf to asphalt.
The trio adapted their athletic abilities that were showcased on football fields at Penn State University, Shippensburg University and Slippery Rock University to become pit crew members in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Holman (Harrisburg) and Bridgeforth (Nazareth) are teammates on the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet for driver Alex Bowman of Hendrick Motorsports. Bridgeforth has been with the organization since 2018, but this year is his first full season as the rear tire changer. He was called up to the pit crew during the 2022 Cup Series Playoffs and earned himself a fulltime position this season. Holman took a very similar path, also being moved up ahead of the ’22 Playoffs and this year is his first full season as jackman.
Holman, 29, starred at Bishop McDevitt High School and then Shippensburg as a linebacker. He was a three-year starter and captain at Shippensburg, where he earned the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year award, honorable-mention All-American honors that same season and first-team all-conference and all-region honors in 2015-16.
Bridgeforth, 28, was a standout at Nazareth Area High School and Slippery Rock as a wide receiver. As a four-year member of The Rock who graduated in 2017, he appeared in 31 games and had 51 catches for 671 yards and five touchdowns. He helped The Rock to the 2013 PSAC West title and a trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs.
The most prominent and newest to the group is Brown, one of the most prolific running backs in Pennsylvania high school history who went on to success at Penn State.
He starred at Meadville Area Senior High School, where he rushed for 7,027 yards and 106 touchdowns in his career. In 2015 as a junior against Dubois, he rushed for a state-record 722 yards along with 10 touchdowns that was just 32 yards shy of the national mark. Brown also was a state champion sprinter, which included breaking the state record in the 100 meters that was previously held by Olympian Leroy Burrell.
That success led him to Penn State, where he had a breakout season in 2019 as a redshirt sophomore. Brown, at 5-11 and 216 pounds, rushed for 890 yards on 129 carries (6.9 average) with 12 touchdowns in 13 regular-season games, including 10 starts. The rushing yardage ranked fifth in the Big Ten and his TD total was third. The last game he would play came later that season in the Cotton Bowl, where he led Penn State over Memphis with a school bowl-record 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
After a heart issue derailed his promising college career and NFL ambitions, the 24-year-old Brown is now learning how to apply his athletic prowess to his new career as an over-the-wall pit crew member for Trackhouse Racing. In his first season, he continues to train and has yet to get his first “start” over the wall but is inching closer and it could come this season.
The group joins Penn State football alumni and pit lane veterans, Brandon Johnson (Harrisburg) and Matt Lehman (Newport). Johnson, a former running back, is the jackman for Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet of Kyle Larson. Lehman, a former tight end, is the fueler for Spire Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet of Corey LaJoie and also serves as the back-up in the same capacity for Larson.