The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its first of two stops in the Poconos this week, with the running of the 5-Hour Energy 500.
The 14th race of the 2011 season also marks the return of NASCAR racing to TNT for the network's annual six-race "Summer Series." For the second-straight year, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on SPEED pit reporter Adam Alexander serves as the play-by-play announcer, joined by former drivers Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach as analysts. Dallenbach and pit reporters Matt Yocum and Marty Snider are the only holdovers from the original NBC/TNT package that covered races beginning July 2001 and concluding with the current TV deal, which took effect in 2007. Ralph Sheheen and Chris Neville, a long time SPEED pit reporter for the network's Rolex Sports Car Series coverage, round out the pit reporting side of things.
Coverage of each TNT race opens with their traditional one-hour "Countdown to Green," hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, Larry McReynolds, and Petty.
If you don't regularly watch TNT programming, be sure to check your local listings so you know where to tune in.
The weekend TV schedule for the 5-Hour Energy 500 is as follows (all times Eastern):
Friday, 12:30 on SPEED
Friday, 3:30 on SPEED
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. on SPEED
Sunday, 1 p.m. on TNT, Pre-Race at 12 noon.
Denny Hamlin is the defending champion of the Five-Hour Energy 500. The Virginian has yet to win in 2011 after leading the series with eight wins in 2010, but he has four prior wins at the Pocono Raceway including his first-career points-paying win in June 2006. In that race, he came back from a spin triggered by a blown left rear tire to become the first rookie to win at the "Tricky Triangle."
He also won that July, becoming the first rookie to sweep the season on a track larger than one-mile in length. In August 2009, he took the victory in a rain-delayed event just days after the passing of his beloved grandmother, leading to an emotional victory lane celebration. All told, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has eight top-10 finishes in his 10 Pocono starts.