Originally written for CLNS Radio.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. locked himself into the Chase by picking up his second win of the season at Pocono on Sunday.
|Photo courtesy NASCAR via Getty Images|
Earnhardt’s win in the Pocono 400 was his second victory of the season, making this his first multi-win season since 2004.
Earnhardt had to race down Brad Keselowski, who had a strong car all day. But when Keselowski got a big piece of debris on his grille, Earnhardt took advantage.
“Well he didn’t want to let me by, but I’m not sure if his motor was going to make it,” Earnhardt said in victory lane. “He had me beat. We just couldn’t get to him, and it’s really hard to pass here.”
Keselowski slowed coming off Turn 2, and many believed he was slowing down to use Earnhardt to get the debris off his front end. Earnhardt said he knew that Keselowski wouldn’t let him do that.
“Brad definitely had the better car, but I won the race,” Earnhardt said. “It goes into the books and helps us into the Chase. We capitalized when somebody had an issue.”
Denny Hamlin started on the pole, but Keselowski jumped out to the early lead heading into Turn 1.
Keselowski led through the first round of green flag pit stops and up until the first caution came out on lap 32. There was a small fire in the infield grass in Turn 3 where fireworks had been fired during pre-race ceremonies.
Keselowski led the field back to the green flag, and led throughout another round of green-flag stops. The second caution came out for debris on lap 60, and Keselowski led the field back to the green flag on the following restart.
The third caution came out on lap 72 for debris. The leader pitted under caution, and Jimmie Johnson got together with Marcos Ambrose. Johnson spun into Ambrose’s pit stall, but was able to straighten it out and get back to his pit. He had a lot of damage to his right-front fender, but the team was able to get it fixed without losing a lap.
Tony Stewart took the lead on the next restart, but he only led until Dave Blaney spun to bring out the caution on lap 81.
On the next restart, Kurt Busch drove around his team owner on the outside to take the lead. He led for only five laps before Stewart got back around him for the lead.
Following a round of green-flag pit stops, Stewart cycled back around as the leader. The caution came out again for oil on the track on lap 118, and Stewart lost the lead when he was caught speeding on pit road.
Keselowski regained the lead and led the field back to the green flag on the next restart. A long round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 131, and they had not been completed when Danica Patrick hit the wall on lap 138 to bring out the caution.
The remainder of the field pitted under the caution, and Keselowski once again resumed the lead.
The race restarted on lap 142, but it only remained green for one lap. Coming out of Turn 2, Kyle Busch slid into Kasey Kahne, who pounded the outside wall. Carl Edwards slid into Kahne, knocking Kahne farther down the racetrack until his car came to a stop in Turn 3.
When the race restarted, Keselowski jumped out ahead of Earnhardt. But when Keselowski got debris on his grille, his car began to overheat.
With four laps to go, Keselowski tried to use the lapped car of Danica Patrick to get the debris off, but she slowed Keselowski down too much and Earnhardt was able to get around him for the lead. Keselowski could never get close enough to Earnhardt’s back bumper to get the debris off and take the lead, and Earnhardt won his first career race at Pocono.
Here are the unofficial results:
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Kurt Busch
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kyle Larson
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Ryan Newman
8. Jeff Gordon
9. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Jamie McMurray
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Kyle Busch
13. Tony Stewart
14. Kevin Harvick
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
16. Greg Biffle
17. Austin Dillon
18. David Ragan
19. Brian Vickers
20. Michael Annett
21. AJ Allmendinger
22. Aric Almirola
23. Casey Mears
24. Marcos Ambrose
25. Matt Kenseth
26. Paul Menard
27. Justin Allgaier
28. David Gilliland
29. Travis Kvapil
30. Cole Whitt
31. Alex Bowman
32. Ryan Truex
33. Landon Cassill
34. Reed Sorenson
35. Josh Wise
36. Timmy Hill
37. Danica Patrick
38. J.J. Yeley
39. Alex Kennedy
40. Joey Logano
41. Carl Edwards
42. Kasey Kahne
43. Dave Blaney
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the first time this season. The Quicken Loans 400 can be seen next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST, only on TNT.
|Photo courtesy NASCAR via Getty Images|