By Ben White
Pocono Raceway has always been known for hosting a variety of racing sanctions since the track opened in the early 1970s. On July 3, 1971, USAC Champ Cars took to the track with a 500-mile race won by Mark Donohue in a McClaren Offenhauser on the triangular Pennsylvania superspeedway.
Many race fans may not realize that Richard Petty won a 500-mile USAC stock car race at Pocono Raceway in 1973 when NASCAR's Winston Cup series had a couple of open weekends between its July 22nd race in Atlanta and August 12th at Talladega. Other NASCAR regulars included Bobby Allison and independent drivers Dick May, Bruce Jacobi, D.K.Ulrich, Frank Warren and H.B. Bailey. The race also featured several USAC drivers A.J. Foyt, Ramo Stott, Gordon Johncock, and Jim Hurtubise.
Petty returned to win the inaugural Cup Series event there at Pocono Raceway just over a year later on Aug. 8, 1974. He won there again for Petty Enterprises on August 1, 1976.
Since those initial days of Cup Series racing, there have been a total of 88 Cup Series races at the 2.5-mile racing facility. Of those, one number and driver have emerged as the most successful among a Who’s Who of driver that have graced victory lane, such as Bill Elliott, Tim Richmond, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte and Bobby Allison, to name a few.
He is Denny Hamlin, a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing since joining NASCAR’s premier series in 2005. All told, the Chesterfield, VA. native has 44-career Cup Series wins and is tied with Elliott in 14th on the all-time win list.
The No. 11 has gone to victory lane nine times at the famed Pocono track. Hamlin is tied with Jeff Gordon there as the leader in the win column with six wins each, twice in 2006 and once in 2009, 2010, 2019, and 2020. Cale Yarborough went to victory lane with No. 11 in 1979, followed by Darrell Waltrip in 1981 and Geoff Bodine in 1990. Gordon recorded all six of his wins at Pocono in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Hamlin considers Pocono one of his favorite tracks because of its near flats turns and unique configuration and long wide straightaways.
“It’s awesome,” Hamlin said of the facility built atop of a former spinach farm after his 2020 victory. “I think that’s the most wins I’ve got at any track now. It’s hard to believe because we went through such a dry spell kind of the middle of my career. …Any time you have something like that happen, you’re going to have great success. It’s definitely meaningful…I don’t think this will be the last one. Just the way we’re going, the way things are going with us right now, where I feel like I’m at in my career, hopefully we continue to build on it.”
Since the latest Pocono victory, Hamlin added wins at Dover, DE. Kansas City, KS. and Talladega, AL. to his resume of victories.