The Backstretch Blog: Gotta love the triangle, I must say

Sometimes I know I date myself with some of my pop culture references, and yet I can help myself. The strange grinning man in the photo is 80's SNL character Ed Grimley and he love the triangle. This week, so do I.

For all the complaining NASCAR fans do about cookie cutter tracks, this has go to be one of the best stretches of the year. Dover last week, Pocono this week, Sonoma in two weeks. We are in the middle of a stretch that includes some of the sports most unique tracks.

This week's stop, Pocono, is one crazy track. It's like a road course and an oval in one. It has just three turns, and as a result just three straightawys.

"It's shaped like a triangle, but all three corners are different,"  said Paul Menard, who comes into the weekend ninth in points. "It has the longest straightaway in NASCAR, which is almost a mile long. The long straights, combined with the short, quick corners make for a huge RPM change, so we are set up to shift and use both third and fourth gears, if needed. It's like a three-cornered, left handed road course, making it a lot of fun to drive."

Fun to watch to. And drivers will tell you the recent repave has also made it more competitive. Not easy, but competitive.

"It's one of the most challenging, and really the hardest race track on our schedule before they paved it because of how bumpy it was and the multi-groove there and every corner was different," said four-time Pocono winner Denny Hamlin.  "Now, it's just become one of those new asphalt, hard tire race tracks where track position is total key and you have to have the fastest car"

Hamlin is certainly one to watch in Pocono, with his four wins and all. Jeff Gordon is also trouble on the tricky triangle. He has five wins. Bobby Labonte has three Pocono wins, but none since 2001. Points leader Jimmie Johnson has won there twice as has Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Carl Edwards. Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano each have a single win in Pennsylvania.

"We’ve won at Pocono; it’s a fun race track and with the shifting it’s a really tough race track it’s almost like a road course," said Edwards. "It’s really tough on the cars and it’s a mentally challenging race track.”