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Drivers' opinions of track surface mixed after opening practice RELATED: Stewart says 'driver error' led to wreck " Complete lineup for Pocono 400 LONG POND, Pa. -- NASCAR drivers were greeted Friday by a challenging new wrinkle to an already treacherous turn at Pocono Raceway . A wrinkle, a bump -- or even a motorcycle jump, depending on whom you ask. The 2.5-mile speedway's second corner -- otherwise known as the "tunnel turn" for the location of the track's infield entry lanes -- provided rough terrain during opening Sprint Cup Series practice, spawning mixed reviews from drivers and a promise from track president Brandon Igdalsky to find a remedy before the circuit returns Aug. 2. Barring an unforeseen development, a fix won't happen before this Sunday's Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM), which could produce interesting competition in the 14th of 36 races this season. "I've still got a headache," former Pocono winner Joey Logano said. "Apparently, winter was really harsh here or something. It's unbelievable. I figure (extreme sports and motocross star) Travis Pastrana would be really good here with the jump in the tunnel turn. It's brutal. It's a big, big jump." The triangular facility was last repaved ahead of the 2012 season, relatively recently in terms of track surface age. But Igdalsky said the trouble with asphalt settling in Turn 2 was accelerated by severe cold and snowfall the past two winters, and the fact that far less dirt is packed between the infield tunnel and the track's asphalt. "Those bumps have been there since we did the repave," Igdalsky told reporters Friday afternoon. "The first year, they weren't there. The second year, they were there. Last year, they were a little bigger. It's just been gradual, and the winter this year -- these guys will tell you, living in Pennsylvania, the roads this year just got disintegrated. Everything just got beat up so bad because it was so cold. And it's basically two back-to-back years of awful winters, and they're taking their toll. "A road is not any different than a race track at the end of the day. When the ground gets frozen, it does bad, bad things." Igdalsky said the issue had nothing to do with a new decorative rock wall and waterfall added at the tunnel entrance in an offseason beautification project. But Kurt Busch , Friday's Coors Light Pole Award winner, hinted that the notion might have some merit. "For some reason the top side of the entry way was compromised," Busch said. "There are literally speed bumps the size that you would put in grocery store parking lots up on top of the track. Where did they come from? They had to have come from the underside where they were creating a beautiful fancy entryway. It is what it is. The sooner you get over it the better you are going to be." Because NASCAR returns to Pocono for opening-day practice July 31, the turnaround time for a track renovation project is tight but doable, Igdalsky said. After the visit by the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series, Indy cars race here three weeks later. "We're going to try to get something done before the next race," Igdalsky said. "If it's as bad for these guys, it's going to be worse for the Indy cars. So we've got to look at them, too. Those races being so close, we're not going to have time between those two races to get it done. We have a really busy track schedule. We've got cars out there just about every day, so it's just a matter of finding enough days to do something, get the track cleared, do something and then make it work." The court of garage opinion seemed split on the tunnel turn's transformation. Reigning Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick was among those in favor, tweeting, "Love the character of Turn 2. Makes you really have to change your car up!" Then again, Harvick may have had extra reasons for saying so after finishing opening practice atop the leaderboard. Tony Stewart spun exiting Turn 2, but blamed his crash into the inside wall's water barrels on driver error instead of bumps. Dale Earnhardt Jr . wasn't far behind Harvick in fourth place in opening practice, but his review initially was less favorable. Even then, Earnhardt said he felt Igdalsky and the Pocono track management had a handle on the situation. "I think everything is going to work out," Earnhardt said. "I would be worried had they not been aware of it and not had any interest in fixing it. Brandon does a great job with this place. I've gotten to know him really well over the last couple of years. He listens to the drivers, the series officials and really takes what everybody has to say to heart. He just wants to have a good facility people enjoy coming to whether you are a driver or a fan or what have you. "I'm happy that they are going to tune on it. Whatever they do, anything to improve it. I just think over time another hard winter and it is just going to be a little bit too much." Among those surprised by the abrupt development in the track surface was Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon , who offered hope that the coarse nature of Turn 2 might produce an intriguing 400-miler here Sunday. "It's extremely rough," Gordon said. "It's going to make it an interesting race, for sure. It seems like at speed, you can get through there and get over pretty good. It gets your attention, but if you were inside of a car or something like that, it's really going to get your attention. We'll maybe see what we can do to address that when we leave here if there is something that can be done because it did catch a lot of us by surprise. But I don't know. It might make for a great race and add some unique challenge that we weren't expecting." WATCH: Denny Hamlin spin ends Cup qualifying early FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Veteran driver set for pair of road events in No. 42 Chevrolet Justin Marks is giving up his Lamborghini to return to the wheel of a stock car, heading to the road courses of Mid-Ohio and Road America later this year to compete for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi in the two NASCAR XFINITY Series races. Marks, 34, will be behind the wheel of the team’s No. 42 Chevrolet, the same entry that’s been split between Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson and rookie Brennan Poole this season and is headed up by crew chief Mike Shiplett. While he has at least one official start in all three NASCAR national series, Marks' background is endurance sports cars, "so the road courses were always something that was circled on my calendar," he told NASCAR.com. "I've always felt like they were my best chances at winning." Marks ran the same two events last year for the team when it was branded Turner Scott Motorsports, finishing sixth at Mid-Ohio in the No. 31 Chevrolet and running in the top five late at Road America before running out of fuel. After co-owners Harry Scott and Steve Turner severed their ties at the end of the year, Scott and Sprint Cup Series team owner Chip Ganassi teamed up to continue fielding the XFINITY Series operation. "I tried to put my name in the hat as early as possible … for those road courses," Marks said. "I knew Kyle was going to be doing fewer races this year … and that Brennan was going to be coming on with his program. The gaps in the schedule just worked out perfectly." The Mid-Ohio race is scheduled for Aug. 15, when Larson, who has made four XFINITY Series starts this year, will be at Michigan International Speedway for the Sprint Cup race. The Road America race falls on an off-weekend for the Sprint Cup series. "Last year was the first time I'd been in a stock car on a road course in a little while," said Marks. "It was really the first time racing at that level since I quit racing full-time in NASCAR. So there was a little bit of an unknown going into those races. But we were a top-five car at Road America and I think we were the fastest car once it started raining. "At Mid-Ohio, we were just a solid car, fastest in final practice and in the top five or six all race long. So when I look at how we did, knowing I'm familiar with the team, going back to the exact same tracks and knowing my expectations, now having the added asset of Chip Ganassi Racing , all of their engineering and knowledge and expertise behind it will just make the cars that much better. "I think for both of those races, legitimately, we're going there to win. And I really think we can do it, if I do a good job and we make smart decisions, have a good strategy and nothing crazy happens like running out of fuel or get off (pit) sequence for some reason." As for the Lamborghini, it isn't his grocery getter -- Marks is competing full-time in the Blancpain Super Trofeo Series this season, a 12-race series for Lamborghini GT3 entries that is part of the Tudor United SportsCar program. Stops on the schedule include Laguna Seca (completed), Watkins Glen, Virginia International Raceway, Circuit of the Americas, Road Atlanta and Sebring. He and Scott co-own a five-car K&N Pro Series East organization that fields entries for William Byron, Scott Heckert, Dalton Sargeant, Rico Abreu and J.J. Haley. Ownership of the GoPro Motorsports karting complex in Mooresville, North Carolina, and an import/distribution company that supplies high-performance karting equipment also keep Marks on the go. "The K&N team was something that I sort of started talking to Harry about … if there was ever an opportunity for me to (be involved) that I was interested in it," he said. "Because it's a great series and I love trying to help the young guys, these young up-and-comers, and being involved in their careers." In his only NASCAR efforts thus far this season, Marks attempted to qualify for all three season-opening races at Daytona International Speedway with sponsorship from American Born Moonshine. He made the starting fields for the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series races, but was one of six that failed to earn a starting berth in the Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series race. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Sprint Cup star to work Michigan race, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1 RELATED: TV schedule for June 8-14 " BUY: Patrick gear Q: Danica, you will be making your first appearance in the booth during the NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday, June 13 (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). You are so accustomed to getting ready to drive, any nerves as you prepare to join the broadcast team on FS1? DANICA PATRICK: "I wouldn't really say I'm nervous. I enjoy trying new things, and I'm looking forward to getting in the booth and sharing my perspective with all the fans watching at home." Q: Fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers -- Clint Bowyer , Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Brad Keselowski -- have already joined the broadcast team as guest analysts this year. Any key takeaways from watching those guys? DP: "Those guys have definitely done a great job so far this year, and it's been great to hear their insight each week as I watched the XFINITY races. I think there are definitely a few things I've picked up from watching each of them, and we'll see how well I can put that to use on Saturday." Q: Your teammate, Kevin Harvick , has been in the booth a number of times this year, has he given you any tips? DP: "Kevin and I talked a bit at Dover a couple weeks ago. I went up to the booth while he was there for the XFINITY race just to see what it was like so I know what to expect this weekend. He showed me a few things and gave me a few pointers." Q: You will be joining the booth with another former driver in Michael Waltrip . What can you expect when working with him this weekend? DP: "Michael is always a fun guy to be around so I expect we'll have a good time up in the booth." Q: Is working in television something that may interest you in the future? DP: "One lesson I've learned is to never say never, and it's always good to explore different things to see what you might like doing so we'll see." Q: The NASCAR XFINITY Series is off to a great start, and has been coined "the series where names are made." Are there any young drivers that you are looking forward to watching? DP: "There's definitely a lot of great talent in the XFINITY Series. I watch most of the races, but I wouldn't say there's any one particular driver that I'm focused on watching -- I'm usually more focused on watching how the race as a whole plays out." Q: The race will be run at one of the fastest races on the circuit , Michigan International Speedway . Are there any specific challenges that track presents for NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers? DP: "Michigan is a wide, fast track. There's lots of room to move around and try different lines. I think it's a momentum track, and you have to focus on being smooth. At the end of the day, the car has to handle well. It has to feel good. It has to be a fast car. I think those are the challenges -- getting your car to handle well and being smooth and consistent, lap after lap, at such a fast track." Q: You started your NASCAR career in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (once called the Nationwide Series). How important was your experience in the series before you made the jump to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? DP: "Racing in the XFINITY Series was very important to the development of my NASCAR career. Moving over to stock cars from the IndyCar Series was a huge jump for me, and having that time at the XFINITY level really helped prepare me for the move up to the Sprint Cup Series." Q: Can you give an early assessment of your team's performance throughout this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? DP: "It's been an interesting year so far. We've had a few tough weekends, and we've also had some races that started out rough, but then we were able to turn things around and ended up finishing pretty well. Daniel (Knost, crew chief) and I are both still relatively green in our current roles and we're still continuing to work on our communication and how we work together as a team." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule