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
Aug 1, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT
One year ago, Kahne effectively put himself into the Chase with a win at Pocono. Another win on Sunday at the Tricky Triangle could do it again.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
Is his first career Sprint Cup win not too far off? Larson’s lap of 183.438 mph is enough to earn pole position for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Coming up today: Kasey Kahne on his hunt for a Chase-clinching win; expectations for Denny Hamlin’s interim crew chief; Dale Jr. and IndyCar’s Graham Rahal visit National Guard soldiers; the many nuances of Pocono Raceway; Ty Dillon looks back on an extraordinary weekend at Indy.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:43 PM EDT
Larson and Peters go 1-2 in the first Truck practice, then flip-flop in the second practice at Pocono.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Former Pocono winner Kyle Petty explains the aspects that set Pocono apart from the rest of NASCAR’s tracks.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT
Toronto winner leads second practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series on Friday.
Aug 1, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Kenseth’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, does not have regular crew chief Darian Grubb behind him this weekend, as Grubb has begun serving his six-race suspension.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
In the final part of our 2014 mid-season review, we look at the storylines that have defined the season so far and take a look at what we may be talking about come the end of the year.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Ives has won multiple Sprint Cup titles as an engineer for Jimmie Johnson, but will be making his Cup debut as a crew chief when he joins forces with Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
NASCAR drivers are known for trading paint, spinning out rivals and are seemingly always ready for a fight. And those are just some of the same elements that NASCAR drivers share with CEO’s of some of the best middle-market companies, according to a new story.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Busch posts a lap of 180.353 mph around the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Much like a frequent flier or frequent hotel guest program, JTG Daugherty has created the first ‘rewards program’ for fans to earn awards and prizes using engagement with the team and its sponsors through social media.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
In part two of our mid-season report, we look at the drivers: who has excelled and who has floundered in 2014?
Aug 1, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
Multi-motorsports team owner Chip Ganassi will be honored August 7 in Corning, N.Y., for more than a quarter-century of contributions to the auto racing world.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Austin Dillon isn’t skating through his rookie season in Sprint Cup. Everything he achieves, he earns. But Dillon did try skating of a different kind and took to it like a natural.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:07 AM EDT
The American goes P1 with a lap of 1 minute, 6.5316 seconds in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
We grade the eleven teams for their seasons so far as F1 embarks on its summer break.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:10 AM EDT
Should NASCAR consider shifting to a format that features timed races instead of hundreds of miles or laps? Let’s get your take in our poll.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Brazilian driver confident that tracks such as Spa, Monza and the Circuit of the Americas will suit the FW36 car.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
The DeltaWing team makes new shop upgrades as it plans for the future.