Without a doubt, the biggest news in the NASCAR world last weekend was Jeff Gordon coming out of retirement to fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS at Indy. And he performed admirably, finishing 13th.
The second biggest news item of the weekend, however, was Gordon’s appearance as the Celebrity Guest Picker in last week’s edition of Lionel Racing’s In This Corner. Although he didn’t pick up the seventh point for the celebrity guests, his picks performed well.
The three drivers he chose to win the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard were Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch. Although he submitted his picks before it was confirmed that he would drive, we asked him if he was interested in changing his selections after the announcement that he would suit up was made. He declined and stood by his three picks.
With a total finishing position of 31, Gordon’s choices would have taken home the point most weeks. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case last weekend. Logano and Truex finished seventh and eighth, respectively. Logano was one of only three drivers to lead a lap in the race — taking the point for six trips around the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Busch finished 16th, which isn’t necessarily a bad finish, but it was the lowest of all nine drivers selected by Gordon, John Farrell and Alex Pohlman.
John scored his ninth win of the season with a combined finishing position of 15 among his three drivers. Of course, it helps when two of your selections finish first and third like Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson did. Tony Stewart was John’s third pick and he finished just outside the top 10 in 11th.
The younger Busch ran away from the rest of the field and led 149 of the event’s 170 laps, including the last 109 circuits. He crossed the finish line 2.126 seconds out front of his teammate Matt Kenseth.
Alex’s three drivers also did admirably, but it just wasn’t enough to top John’s trio. In her stable of drivers for the Indy race, Alex had Gordon, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick. As stated previously, Gordon finished 13th, while Larson and Harvick finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
The official In This Corner standings have John in first with nine points followed by the celebrity guest pickers with six points and Alex with five.
This weekend, the traveling caravan known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Long Pond, Pa., and Pocono Raceway. The green flag for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 drops at 1:30 p.m. EST, and can be seen on NBCSN and heard on MRN/SiriusXM.
If this is your first time reading “In This Corner,” we’ll explain how it works. The 2016 season marks the second year our “expert” prognosticators, Alex Pohlman and John Farrell, will choose who they they think will win the upcoming race. (They’re experts only in their heads.)
Each week last season, Alex and John picked one driver they thought would win that weekend’s race. Alex based her picks on guts, while John made his picks relying on stats. It was an epic showdown of guts vs. stats. The weekly winner was determined by who chose the driver who finished better in the race.
Fore every weekly win, they received a point. In the end, Alex beat John 14-10. (The competition began with the May Dover race.)
This year, In This Corner is similar, but with some new twists added to make it more challenging and entertaining. Joining Alex and John each week will be a different guest prognosticator. In addition, instead of selecting one driver, each oracle will pick the three they think have the best shot at ending up in Victory Lane.
Whoever selects the three drivers with the lowest combined finishing position will receive the point for that weekend. For example, if Alex picks the race winner and the 20th- and 30th-place finishers, but John picks the 10th-, 15th- and 20th-place winners, John would receive the point (depending on who the celebrity guest picker selects) because his drivers’ accumulated finishing position total (45) is lower that Alex’s (51).
The celebrity guest forecaster can choose whichever three drivers he or she wants regardless of who Alex or John select. However, Alex and John can only have one pick in common.
We will keep a running tally between all three. At the end of the season, the prognosticator with the most points will be crowned the victor.
If you’ve watched the Victory Lane celebrations after NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, you’ve probably seen this week’s Celebrity Guest Picker — Julianna White. Julianna joined the Miss Sprint Cup lineup in 2014. Born and raised in Haddon Township, N.J., Julianna grew up with her older sister Danielle and parents, Claire and Dave. Believe it or not, Julianna also has 31 aunts and uncles and 38 cousins!
She graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2011 with a degree in Communication Studies, where she was a field reporter for the school’s news station, LionsNow, an active member of Zeta Tau Alpha and involved in the theatre program. In 2011, Julianna held the title of Miss New Jersey USA and represented the state at the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas. Before joining the Miss Sprint Cup program, she worked in the Philadelphia area at QVC, one of the nation’s top home shopping networks, as one of their in-house models. In her free time, Julianna is an avid reader, runner, soccer player and also loves listening to Bruce Springsteeen!
1. Martin Truex Jr.: Martin had some bad luck during his last visit to the Tricky Triangle, but we can’t forget his dominating performance in 2015 where he captured his big win of the season.
2. Chase Elliott: I’ve been looking forward to this rookie’s 1st NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win and think it’ll happen soon with how consistent he has been running. At the June Pocono race, he led 51 laps and finished 4th, so this could absolutely be the track where he makes it to Victory Lane.
3. Brad Keselowski: Brad and his Penske teammate, Joey Logano, are forces to be reckoned with at this track. For me, the edge goes to Keselowski who is tied with Kyle Busch for the most wins of any driver so far this season!
1. Kyle Larson: Coming off a strong run at Indy, Kyle is still on a mission for his first win and Pocono might just be the place.
2. Joey Logano: Joey has been consistent this season and I think this weekend at Pocono will be no different.
3. Ryan Blaney: Ryan is in the hunt for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors and has been chasing his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory and this weekend at Pocono Raceway may be just the ticket.
1. Denny Hamlin: Denny and Pocono go together like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese and … I think you get the point.
2. Jeff Gordon: Of all the drivers entered in Sunday’s Pocono race, Jeff is the only one with a better record there than Denny.
3. Kurt Busch: Season sweeps are somewhat common at Pocono, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Kurt sweeps the Tricky Triangle this year and picks up his fourth win at the track.
GUESTS — 6; ALEX — 5; JOHN — 9