Key Moment – Jimmie Johnson was obviously the car to beat until lap 76 when his right front tire rapidly lost air and put his No. 48 into the wall off of turn one. As a result, Johnson spent the last half of the race trying to get his car to handle and chasing a top 15 finish.
In a Nutshell – Jimmie Johnson was the car to beat until he blew a tire. After that Kasey Kahne was the best of the field but Jeff Gordon beat him on a late race restart to grab the point and looked to be headed to a win. Matt Kenseth spun to bring out a final caution and that was the opening Kahne needed. Gordon had a great final restart but Kahne drove it deep into turn one and cleared him off of turn two to regain the lead and hold on to it for the final lap and a half.
Dramatic Moment – On the final restart, Kahne spun his tires and Gordon got out to a comfortable lead heading into turn one. Kurt Busch pushed Kahne into turn one and Kahne drove around the outside of Gordon to snag the lead by the entrance to the tunnel turn and the win.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
Fox Sports announced their extension with NASCAR through 2024. After NBC was awarded the end of season races and three of the races that are currently being carried by TNT there were three races left that did not have television rights announced. The Fox Sports deal picks up those three races, along with 16 Nationwide races and all of the Camping World Truck Series races. The part that is most interesting is that seven of the Cup races are going to be carried on Fox Sports 1. For those of you who have missed the non-stop onslaught of commercials for the new sport network, it is the new name for SPEED. While some people might not find this surprising, the thought that the premier stock car racing series in the country now has seven of their races being carried on a network that has less reach than HGTV. The slow and steady decline to being a niche sport once again is well on its way.
Hendrick Motorsports is so far ahead of everyone else in the sport it is hardly fair. Last week they had six of the top seven finishers between house teams and satellite organizations. This weekend they put three house teams in the top five and had five cars in the top 10 including two of the Stewart Haas Satellites.
While no one will know what was going through Juan Pablo Montoya’s mind as he dove to the inside in turn one three-wide at Pocono on the very first lap, He certainly helped teach Ricky Stenhouse a lesson. When someone has their nose to the inside you need to leave them enough room or they’re going to spin you out. Stenhouse claims he won’t forget what happened going forward but Montoya won’t care.
Pocono is a different beast from everything else they run on the Sprint Cup schedule. With the surface beginning to age and lose some grip, the racing is starting to show signs of getting back to what it once was. Kahne and Gordon running a complete lap side-by-side at the end of the event showed just what Pocono racing can be.
As if things can’t get worse for Denny Hamlin, he comes into Pocono, one of the best tracks on the entire schedule for him, and he doesn’t even make it to the competition caution. Hamlin finished the race in 43rd after blowing a right front and killing the nose of his No. 11 Toyota. Since Hamlin broke his back at California, he has managed two top 5s and three top 10s in 11 races. At this point, if Hamlin needs an operation on his back it would be best for everyone if he went ahead and went under the knife.
Jimmie Johnson was the best car on the track without a doubt until his right front tire failed on lap 76. From then on it was a battle to try and salvage as many points as possible. Thanks to a vast quantity of Barebond and perseverance by the team, Johnson managed to wrangle a 13th place finish. While in the end that may look like a bad day for the No. 48 bunch, it is the kind of effort that wins championships when something like that happens during the Chase.
Ryan Blaney continues to make a name for himself in the Camping World Truck series. Having never raced on the demanding track that is Pocono before this weekend, he schooled some experienced drivers on his way to taking the win. Blaney has been running a Ford for Brad Keselowski in the Truck races this season and to say that is bringing a knife to a gun fight is an understatement. The Ford camp at Pocono consisted of Blaney, his teammate Ross Chastain, Bryan Silas, Sean Corr and Jennifer Jo Cobb. The only effort at a greater disadvantage was Chris Lafferty, the only Dodge in the field.
Speaking of the Trucks, running 125 mile races on a 2.5 mile track is just silly. If you’re going to run a race at a track the size of Pocono, Daytona or Indy, you need to run at least 250 miles.
Austin Dillon led the most laps on Saturday night which allowed him to score the same points as Sam Hornish, who was the top finishing Nationwide regular and who finished two spots ahead of Dillon. That allowed Dillon to maintain his 14 point lead in the standings over both Hornish and Regan Smith. While it is far too premature to seriously talk about Dillon winning the title, he is at least poised to score that win. If he does, he’ll be positioned as well as anyone since Greg Biffle to win the big three titles. Biffle is the only driver to win a Truck and Nationwide title while Brad Keselowski and Bobby Labonte are the only two to have won Nationwide and Cup.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were on the receiving end of Juan Pablo Montoya racing like it was the last lap on the first lap. As a result, Stenhouse spent the day driving around with a Barebond laden car just trying to make laps. Kenseth overcame the damage and turned in a solid performance until three laps to go and then spun out. In the end he came home with a 22nd place finish.
David Stremme and his team have been chasing the dream all season. They don’t have the big budget and they don’t have the extensive resources that the big teams have, but they run the full race every week. Sunday saw them fall victim to the dreaded failed right front and ended up with a top 30 finish.
Jeff Burton continues to have terrible luck haunt him. He lost track position due to a quarter panel issue and then got sucked into an incident between Travis Kvapil and Danica Patrick. A car that could have finished in the top 10 ended up in the 35th spot.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Tony Stewart stepped on himself with a speeding penalty early in the event and rebounded, thanks to some quality pit work to a ninth place finish. That finish gave Stewart three top 10 finishes in the last four races.
While some people might feel as though Jeff Gordon had some foul fortune, losing the lead on the final restart, he put on an impressive show all day long. Starting 22nd, Gordon was quickly inside the top 15 and spent the last 130 laps of the race in the top 10, most of it in the top 5. While Gordon really needs a win or two to solidify his Chase position, running as well as he has been of late positions him to be a formidable foe for Jimmie Johnson in the final 10 races assuming Gordon qualifies for it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. put on a yeoman like effort through the first half of the race to get to the top 5. He stayed there for most of the remainder of the event but lost three spots on the next to last restart. Fortunately for Earnhardt there was one more restart and he was able to gain one of those spots back, securing another top 5 finish for the season.
Kasey Kahne’s victory is his 16th of his career. He has started 345 races in his 10 years in the Cup series.
Kahne has won two races this season. His first came at Bristol in the Spring.
This is Kahne’s second career victory at Pocono in 20 races.
Jeff Gordon’s second place finish is his 19th top 5 in 42 career starts at Pocono. It is his sixth second place finish to go with six victories at the Tricky Triangle.
Kurt Busch’s third place finish marks his 10th top 5 in 25 career starts at Pocono.
There were 27 lead changes among 14 drivers during the 160 laps on Sunday. Six of those lead changes were actually on track passes for the lead. While it is far from a record, it is a vast improvement over the last four or five races we’ve seen this season.
Amazingly, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. still managed to win the Rookie of the Race even though he was 47 laps down to the leader.
Top 10 finishers by Manufacturer –
Chevrolet – 6
Ford – 3
Toyota – 1
What’s the Points
Jimmie Johnson finished 13th and GAINED points in the standings today. Clint Bowyer, who is currently second in the standings, finished one spot behind Johnson but didn’t lead a lap so he lost two points to the point leader. Carl Edwards had another tremendously unassuming run to an 11th place finish to gain one whole point on Johnson. Kevin Harvick struggled his way to a 17th place finish but managed to hang onto fourth place in the points. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth in the race and held onto fifth in the points.
The second half of the top 10 is where the movement happened on Sunday. Kyle Busch finished the race in eighth while Matt Kenseth spun late in the race to come home 22nd. As a result Busch jumped up to sixth while Kenseth fell back to seventh. Kahne’s win and Gordon’s second place finish allowed both of them to leapfrog Greg Biffle who scored a 10th place finish himself. Kahne is now eighth in points while Gordon is ninth. Biffle is holding onto 10th by the skin of his teeth.
In the Wild Card race, Tony Stewart sits 11th in points with a win to hold the first Wild Card position. Martin Truex Jr. is 14th in points but he is the next highest in points with a win. That gives Truex the second Wild Card spot at this point in time. Truex is one spot ahead of Ryan Newman so he is far from comfortable with five races left before the cutoff for the Chase.
Overall Rating(On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – Pocono gets a bad wrap just because it is a huge facility and the racing can get a little strung out. There is not much in Stock Car racing that compares to the fan out on the front straight at Pocono when cars end up six wide before they get to turn one. Add in the myriad of pit strategies in play on Sunday and the race was very compelling. Add in six on track passes for the lead and we’ll give the Gobowling.com 400 a crisp 4 cans of premium lager.
Next Up – Time to turn right and left one more time in 2013. The Cup series heads to the Finger Lakes region of New York to run the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. If the finish this year is anywhere close to the battle between Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski at the end of last season’s race we’re in for a treat. Coverage starts at 1:00 PM on ESPN and MRN.
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