The 2023 Pocono practice and qualifying report expected to focus entirely on Joe Gibbs Racing drivers — but two Hendrick Motorsports drivers (and Kevin Harvick) would like a word.
Best Practice Lap Times
The first graph in the report is the best practice lap times by driver. They’re listed in order from left to right.
While everyone predicted JGR drivers would do well, it was 23XI’s Tyler Reddick that logged the fastest lap. JGR’s highest representative, Martin Truex Jr., was fifth on the fast-lap scoreboard.
The first eight drivers (through Chase Elliott) stand apart from the rest. They’re separated by 0.27 seconds. The first six drivers are separated by 0.148 seconds.
Then there’s a middle group of drivers from Ty Gibbs to Austin Cindric. These 12 drivers are separated by 0.196 seconds.
Group three runs from Austin Dillon to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.. Then there’s the rapid rise in times of the last group. From Chase Briscoe to Ty Dillon is a difference of 0.425 seconds. The lap time difference from first to worst is 1.35 seconds, or 25% of the best lap time established in practice.
Different teams have different agendas during practice. Ty Gibbs ran the most laps: 19. Austin Dillon ran 17. Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Denny Hamlin all ran 16 practice laps around the 2.5-mile triangle.
But not everyone ran consecutive laps. With one set of tires for practice, individual times varied according to how hard drivers pushed the tires and how much they cooled between laps. We did, however, get at least three drivers who ran 15 consecutive laps.
The graph below shows the best practice lap for each driver in red.
This graph is important because, if you’d studied it last week, you wouldn’t have been surprised one bit by Michael McDowell’s performance at New Hampshire despite his great practice numbers.
A couple highlights:
- Reddick posted the best single lap time, but his five-lap average is higher than that of Byron or Truex
- Reddick has Gibbs beat by almost four-tenths of a second in terms of best single lap; however, there’s only 0.13 seconds difference between their five-lap average times and 0.01 seconds difference after ten consecutive laps. Since the average length of a green-flag run at Pocono is in the range of 12-25 laps, that difference is likely to be significant.
- Ryan Preece shows very little rise in lap time over a green-flag run. Although his single-lap time is way down on the chart, his 10-lap average is about the same as Chris Buescher’s.
Remember that lap time fall-off isn’t an absolute number. It’s not like Goodyear builds a tire that has 0.5 seconds over 10 laps. Different drivers use up the tires differently by how they brake and accelerate. A driver who is really fast at the start of a run might not have any tire left after 20 laps.
The graph below shows the first and second-round qualifying times for Pocono. Chevrolets are shown in red, Fords in blue and Toyotas in green.
Chase Elliott and Todd Gilliland spun during qualifying and did not post times. They will start 35th and 36th.
Logano was the fifth-highest Group A qualifying driver with a time of 53.403 seconds. Gibbs (53.150) and Corey LaJoie (53.197) both bested Logano’s time in Group B, but didn’t move on to the second round of qualifying.
Only two Chevrolets made the final ten, but they took first and third places on the starting grid. William Byron, who has tallied the most wins by any driver this year, won the pole with a time of 52.746 seconds.
Five of the six Toyotas made it into the final 10. All six Toyotas will start from the first 11 positions for the race. Truex was 0.122 seconds slower than Byron, putting him in second.
Kevin Harvick, who was 13th fastest in single-lap times in practice, was the best Ford qualifier and will start P4.
Starting position has not been terribly critical at Pocono recently. In the last three years:
- 28% of the drivers who started in the top 5 also finished in the top five
- 38% of the drivers who started in the top 10 also finished in the top 10
In the last five years:
- 35.5% of the drivers who started in the top 5 also finished in the top five
- 44.4% of the drivers who started in the top 10 also finished in the top 10
That’s your 2023 Pocono practice and qualifying report. You can see my Pocono scouting report at NBC Sports.