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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Young Talent Poised to Continue Thriving at Pocono

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When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last visited Pocono Raceway in June, Ryan Blaney scored his monumental first career win.

It came after he fended off both Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in the closing laps, asserting his strength while affirming his position as a rising star.

It followed Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon’s first career victories in May and continued to define 2017 as a year of breakout success among young drivers.

The question of who will be next surfaced after Blaney’s triumph and has yet to be answered, but Pocono could change that.

Through 61 career Cup Series starts, Chase Elliott hasn’t yet been able to seal the deal despite coming close in numerous events. 

Rookie Erik Jones is in a similar position as he has looked capable of winning at times but has been unable to put an entire race together. 

The “Tricky Triangle” has been a place where both have excelled from the start of their careers.

Elliott nearly went to Victory Lane in his first Cup Series event at Pocono last season after leading a race high 51 laps and ending the day in fourth.

Jones also had an impressive debut, earning his career best Cup Series finish of third last month. 

Now using the momentum from these performances and the desire to win and secure a playoff spot could provide the edge that each team needs to put themselves in position for a breakthrough victory on Sunday.

Jones is 126 points below the post-season cutoff line and will more than likely need a win to become the third rookie in the last two years to compete for the championship following Elliott and Chris Buescher in 2016.

While Elliott is 55 points to the good in 15th, he’ll be knocked out if two drivers below him in points win. It seemed unlikely before Indianapolis, but after teammate Kasey Kahne’s surprise trip to the winner’s circle, anything could happen in the final six regular season events.

Based on all tracks on the circuit, Pocono seems most unlikely to favor young talent given its unique layout and challenging corners. 

However, both Elliott and Jones have had some of their best performances at the venue, and Blaney’s win proved that experience doesn’t always play a factor in determining the winner.

Pocono is proving to be a place where the youth of the sport thrive, and the 2.5-mile triangular oval could see a third consecutive first-time winner in Sunday’s Overton’s 400.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.