Jun 8, 2014, 4:18 PM EDT
In case we needed a reminder that the fastest car doesn’t always win the race, we got one with today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.
Brad Keselowski was the most dominant driver of the Pocono 400 and when he held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a restart with 12 laps to go, it appeared the Team Penske driver would be heading to Victory Lane.
But a piece of trash got stuck to the grille of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford, causing it to overheat while Earnhardt maintained pressure from behind.
With five laps left, he tried using the airflow around the lapped car of Danica Patrick to knock off the debris. But the loss in momentum allowed Earnhardt to pass him for the lead in Turn 2.
That proved to be the difference as Keselowski was unable to catch up in the closing laps and Earnhardt went on to his first career victory at the Tricky Triangle.
After the Hendrick Motorsports driver became the fourth competitor with multiple wins this Sprint Cup season, he admitted that speed-wise, Keselowski had him covered but was still happy with the outcome.
“That’s unfortunate for him,” Earnhardt told TNT. “He had me beat. I couldn’t get to him. It’s just real hard to pass here, but I’ve lost some in some strange ways. So it feels good to win one like that.
“…Brad definitely had a better car, and I’m definitely owning up to that. But we won the race and we’re definitely going to enjoy it. It goes into the books and helps us toward the Chase.
“We were there all day running great and had a fast car, but just didn’t really get track position until the end, and you gotta be there [at the end].”
Keselowski said he had no choice but to try something to get the trash off his car.
“I tried to make a move and get behind the 10 [Danica] and use the air to pull the debris off,” he said. “When she went in the corner, she got loose and I chased her up there and lost too much momentum.
“I should have just passed her but I had to do something. I knew the car wasn’t going to make it [with the trash on].”
It was a tough way to end things for Keselowski, who excelled in clean air and led the first 56 laps of the race. He ultimately led four times for a race-high 95 laps before settling for the runner-up spot.
By contrast, Earnhardt, while competitive, only led 11 laps. But out of those 11, he led the one that counted – the final one.
And thanks to his second win of the year, Earnhardt only needs now to stay in the Top 30 of the Sprint Cup championship standings (and attempt to qualify for every race) to officially clinch his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Earnhardt now sits third in the standings behind new points leader/teammate Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. Barring an epic disaster, staying in the Top 30 should be an easy task for the remainder of the regular season.
Kurt Busch appeared to get his season back on track with a third-place result that came after he overshot his pit box during a stop under a Lap 118 caution.
That was part of a bad race sequence for Stewart-Haas Racing which saw Kevin Harvick suffer a flat tire on Lap 115 while running second (he finished 14th), followed by Busch’s overshot, and then a speeding penalty for Tony Stewart in the pits (he finished 13th).
Gordon’s eighth place result has allowed him to re-take the points lead after previous leader Kenseth finished 25th; Kenseth soldiered on following contact with Jamie McMurray around Lap 40 that left him with serious front-end damage.
Heading into Michigan International Speedway next weekend, Gordon leads the winless Kenseth by 16 points, with Earnhardt 22 points behind.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – POCONO 400
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 11 laps
2. Brad Keselowski, led 95 laps
3. Kurt Busch, led 5 laps
4. Denny Hamlin, led 4 laps
5. Kyle Larson, led 7 laps
6. Jimmie Johnson, led 5 laps
7. Ryan Newman
8. Jeff Gordon, led 2 laps
9. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Jamie McMurray
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Kyle Busch
13. Tony Stewart, led 24 laps
14. Kevin Harvick
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
16. Greg Biffle
17. Austin Dillon
18. David Ragan
19. Brian Vickers, led one lap
20. Michael Annett
21. A.J. Allmendinger
22. Aric Almirola
23. Casey Mears
24. Marcos Ambrose
25. Matt Kenseth
26. Paul Menard
27. Justin Allgaier, led six laps
28. David Gilliland
29. Travis Kvapil
30. Cole Whitt, -1 lap
31. Alex Bowman, -1 lap
32. Ryan Truex, -1 lap
33. Landon Cassill, -2 laps
34. Reed Sorenson, -2 laps
35. Josh Wise, -2 laps
36. Timmy Hill, -2 laps
37. Danica Patrick, -2 laps
38. J.J. Yeley, -3 laps
39. Alex Kennedy, -4 laps
40. Joey Logano, Lap 150, Engine
41. Carl Edwards, Lap 143, Accident
42. Kasey Kahne, Lap 142, Accident
43. Dave Blaney, Lap 142, Running
Average Speed: 139.440 MPH
Lead Changes: 21 among 10 drivers
Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 52 Mins, 07 Secs.
Cautions: 7 for 26 laps
Margin of Victory: 0.439 Seconds
Jul 26, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Finn challenged the decision not to run again in Q1, and was proven right when Jules Bianchi knocked him out of qualifying.
Jul 26, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – When Sunday’s 21st running of the Brickyard 400 is in the rearview mirror, we’re once again likely to hear significant griping about “did you see all the empty seats at Indy?”
Jul 26, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT
Petty: “Our main deal is not to run NASCAR. Anything we do to tear NASCAR down is cutting our own throats.”
Jul 26, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Hamilton calls on Mercedes to improve the reliability of his car following yet another problem during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Jul 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Williams driver continuing his run of good form despite the car not suiting the Hungaroring circuit.
Jul 26, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT
Four-time Brickyard 400 champion leads an abbreviated “Happy Hour” with a lap of 189.298 mph.
Jul 26, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Defending world champion matches his best qualifying result of the season in Hungary.
Jul 26, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT
Ferrari driver delighted to qualify so well at the Hungaroring, and is now focusing on a good start in tomorrow’s race.
Jul 26, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT
German driver would have preferred a straight fight with Lewis Hamilton, but delighted all the same to bag pole in Hungary.
Jul 26, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT
Crazy qualifying session in Hungary ends with Rosberg at the front once again.
Jul 26, 2014, 8:43 AM EDT
An engine fire sees Hamilton’s hopes of a first pole since the Spanish Grand Prix go up in flames.
Jul 26, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has no doubts about the future of his star driver.
Jul 26, 2014, 6:30 AM EDT
Boycott of the race in Sochi this October seems unlikely.
Jul 26, 2014, 6:02 AM EDT
Clean sweep of practices for Hamilton, but Rosberg is still hanging onto his teammate’s coattails.
Jul 26, 2014, 4:45 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton looks to continue his clean sweep of practice in Hungary.
Jul 26, 2014, 1:14 AM EDT
BROWNSBURG, Ind. – In an exciting finish that featured plenty of beating and banging, Kyle Busch waited until the final turn of the final lap to get by John Hunter Nemechek and win Friday night’s ARCA CRA Super Series Circle City 100 late-model event at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Jul 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Action Express wins Indy; RSR, Viper and Ferrari the other TUDOR Championship class winners.
Jul 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
After Tanner Foust emerged as the victor of a riotous final in New York, the beat goes on for Red Bull GRC this weekend with a trip to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.