The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Pocono-2 Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday August 5, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Pocono-2 Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday August 5, 2013


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.

Worth Noting

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 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.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

08/05/2013 08:50 AM

what i saw, when i saw johnson have issues, i wondered if other drivers/teams say to themselves, oh goodie, someone else has a chance.

hendrick still won, was surprised “team orders” didn’t get handed down for gordon to win.

08/05/2013 09:23 AM

Why don’t they just put Hendrink’s and Stewart-Haas cars on the track by themselves and send the rest of the field to a different track. They don’t have an advantage, do they? Naaah!!!

Bill B
08/05/2013 09:29 AM

For Pocono that was a pretty interesting race. However one can’t help but feel a large part of that had to do with the 48 having issues. Until that point it looked like the ending was predestined (never a good thing for any sporting event). I will give it five cans because it was an interesting race to watch despite being at Pocono which traditionally produces 1 or 2 can races.

08/05/2013 09:39 AM

Ricky’s taken out on the first lap and finishes 47 laps down but he still finishes ahead of whatshername by three laps. There is a racing God.

Here’s a list of drivers who won for the Wood Brothers:
Glen Wood
Speedy Thompson
Joe Weatherly
Tiny Lund
Marvin Panch
Dan Gurney
Curtis Turner
Cale Yarborough
A.J. Foyt
Donnie Allison
David Pearson
Neil Bonnett
Buddy Baker
Dale Jarrett
Morgan Shepherd

The winners for Bud Moore:
Jack Smith
Joe Weatherly
Billy Wade (Canadian tragedy)
Darel Dieringer
Buddy Baker
Bobby Allison
Benny Parsons
Dale Earnhardt
Ricky Rudd
Morgan Shepherd
Geoff Bodine

No one will convince me that another driver in the 48 couldn’t do as well or better than Johnson in Brian’s special car. Look at Kurt Busch in the 78. It’s running up front but it’s nowhere near the same car as the 48.

Carl D.
08/05/2013 09:51 AM

If hard-nosed determination translated into wins every time, we’d be talking about Kurt Busch running away with the championship and not Johnson. How the #78 team has managed to be this competitive and not yet win a race this year is baffling.

“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.”
Truer words have not been printed.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Danica Patrick so dejected after a race as she was yesterday. I think she realized that wreck was completely her fault and was quite upset about it. Still, to hear her say a good finish for her team was a top 20 tells me she’s set the bar pretty low and is very disappointed that she can’t even accomplish that goal.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte need to gas up the boat, buy some bait, and spend a few weekends fishing on Lake Norman.

I like the Dillon brothers but somebody needs to tell them the only person who looks more ridiculous in a cowboy hat than they do is Jeff Hammond.

08/05/2013 11:07 AM

Fun stat: the 27 lead changes yesterday were the most in a Pocono race since there were 30 in the 2004 June race, which was 40 laps longer. Just one of the many reasons yesterday’s race was so good.

As a 24 fan, I’m disappointed to get so close to a win for my driver. I think Jeff could have held Kasey off if not for that outrageous move on the outside on the last restart. Kasey had the best car, though—he was running sub-52 second laps for almost all of the last two runs and was consistently three to five tenths of a second faster than the cars behind. Johnson looked only marginally faster than the 2 and the 78, and I think Kahne would have outrun him even without the tire trouble.

08/05/2013 11:35 AM

Hey! I like the Cowboy hats. Great change of pace from the standard issue caps.

Jim Davis
08/05/2013 11:48 AM

Surely Timmy Hill was the Rookie of the Race?

08/05/2013 11:55 AM

I saw a tweet yesterday saying Timmy Hill won the Rookie of the Race.

Carl D.
08/05/2013 01:05 PM

Sorry, a guy in a racing firesuit wearing a cowboy hat looks as silly as a guy in chaps with a racing helmet on.

08/05/2013 01:48 PM

There are a team or two besides Kurt’s that have been competitive this year and haven’t won, hopefully they will soon. As for Hamlin he is now the third wheel at JGR, he is the new Logano and I bet its driving him nuts. A word of advice Denny in all his egotiscal glory gave to another driver..“Hush little baby hush”.

Jeff G.
08/05/2013 02:32 PM

Carl D.
I agree with everything you said. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that thinks that about the Dillon brothers! lol!

08/05/2013 04:04 PM

I was disappointed that Gordon didn’t get the win yesterday since the team had a really strong day and great restarts. It was too nice a day to spend inside all day, so I only came in to watch the last 10 laps live – the rest I saw via recording, but I can’t say I was disappointed that Johnson blew a tire so that he didn’t buzzkill the race for anyone who isn’t a 48 fan.

LOL about the cowboy hats. Yes, I don’t quite get the point with the Dillon brothers & the hats. To me they look silly, even though I like both of the young drivers.

Boy, I was really surprised to hear Danica say that a top 20 would be a good day for them. Really? Considering the $ for sponsorship that team gets. I would still like to see what Johanna Long could do in that car with the funding & team. Kyle Petty looks kind of right in his comments, doesn’t he?

08/05/2013 04:44 PM

Kyle Petty was spot on with his comments.
To the Wood Bros. winners list, don’t forget to add Trevor Bayne.
Even with the six on-track passes for the lead, it still seemed like a blech race for me. This track used to have 60 or so lead changes per race now you’re excited about 27, mostly under green flag pit stops?
Oh well, off to Knoxville for the rest of the week………..

08/05/2013 05:04 PM

yeah, those boys’ve gotta loose the cowboy hats. they look as foolish and forced as mr bush’s snow angel.
i actually almost felt a little bad for danica during that interview… almost. she looked completely lost with no one to blame. at this point i think even kyle petty could do a better job in that car.
i also have to admire jj and chad perseverance. holy crap they finish 13th with a broken car… now that shows what they really have, a car far superior to the rest of the field including their “team mates.”

Mike Neff
08/05/2013 07:13 PM

I apologize to all of the Timmy Hill fans. I did not think he was running for points in the Cup series which would make him ineligible for the Rookie of the Race. In looking at the results he was indeed eligible and did win the Rookie of the Race.

Again, apologies to Timmy and congrats on taking the Rookie of the Race.


Contact Mike Neff

Recent articles from Mike Neff:

Thinkin' Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Special Winter Sprint Car Series set for January debut at Cocopah Speedway
Beyond the Cockpit with Ben Rhodes
Kroger 250 postponed until Sunday afternoon
Denny Hamlin out of the car for the race at Auto Club Speedway

Want to find out more about Mike Neff? Maybe see all the articles he's written here at the Frontstetch? Check out his article archive and bio page then!