Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Goes Back-to-Back in Pocono

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the 400 on Sunday to complete the season sweep of both races at Pocono Raceway.
Photo courtesy Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Earnhardt won after using pit strategy late in the race.  After working his way to the front, Earnhardt was able to get around Greg Biffle to take the lead and pull away over the final 10 laps.

“We had a fast car all day,” Earnhardt said.  “Steve’s strategy was perfect at the end.  We definitely went home after the last race and made our car faster.  They wanted to get better and not have to get a little luck to win.”

Earnhardt had to hold off Kevin Harvick following the final restart, and Harvick made it very close in the closing laps.  Earnhardt said he was overdriving the corners, which allowed Harvick to close in.

“Turns 1 and 2, I just couldn’t back it down.  I was trying to hold them off, but they were just faster and I was overdriving it.”

This was also the first race after announcing who would take over for Steve Letarte as Earnhardt’s crew chief next season.  Earnhardt said he was extremely lucky to be a part of the team.

“We get along really good, and I just feel real lucky to have the opportunity to work with him and this crew.  They’d be winning races regardless of who’s driving the car; I’m just lucky to be a part of it.”

Rookie Kyle Larson won the pole for the race, and he led the field to the green flag.  He wasn’t able to hold on to the lead, however, and Joey Logano took the lead coming out of Turn 1.  

The first caution of the day came out on lap 9 when Jimmie Johnson blew a right-rear tire.  

Logano led the field back to the green flag, and he led until the second caution came out on lap 17.  Danica Patrick cut down a right-front tire and hit the wall while trying to get back to the pits.

Logano led on the following restart, and he continued to pull away from the field until Landon Cassill got into the wall.  The leader pitted under the caution, and Kurt Busch stayed out to take the lead.

Busch led the field back to the green flag on lap 34, and he led for 10 laps until making his green flag pit stop.  That allowed Jeff Gordon to take the lead, and he led until the caution came out on lap 51 when Joe Nemechek made contact with the wall.

Gordon led the field back to the green flag, and he led for 10 laps before pitting to begin a round of green-flag pit stops.  Gordon cycled back around as the leader on lap 78, but he gave up the lead again on lap 95 to pit.

Gordon cycled back around as the leader on lap 107, and he was leading when Johnson got into the wall to bring out the caution on lap 112.

Gordon led the field back to the green flag on lap 117, but the race did not remain green for long.  Coming out of Turn 1, Denny Hamlin got loose, which sparked a big wreck that collected 13 cars.  Some of the drivers collected included Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers and Kevin Harvick.

Gordon led when the race went back green following a lengthy cleanup, and he led until making a green-flag pit stop on lap 132.  

That handed the lead off to Harvick, who was trying to stretch his fuel to make it to the end of the race.  On lap 136, Biffle took the lead away from Harvick, and he led until the caution came out on lap 139 when AJ Allmendinger got into the wall.

Biffle led the field back to the green flag on lap 144, and he held off Earnhardt until lap 147 when he took the lead for the first time.  

On lap 153, Kurt Busch hit the wall with a flat tire to bring out the final caution.  

When the race restarted, Earnhardt had to hold off a hard-charging Harvick to take the victory.

Unofficial results:

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Joey Logano
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Greg Biffle
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Jamie McMurray
8. Ryan Newman
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Kasey Kahne
11. Kyle Larson
12. Casey Mears
13. Kurt Busch
14. Marcos Ambrose
15. Austin Dillon
16. Justin Allgaier
17. David Gilliland
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
19. David Ragan
20. Ryan Truex
21. Cole Whitt
22. Michael Annett
23. Brad Keselowski
24. Josh Wise
25. Travis Kvapil
26. Dave Blaney
27. Reed Sorenson
28. Alex Kennedy
29. Carl Edwards
30. Danica Patrick
31. Alex Bowman
32. Martin Truex Jr.
33. Paul Menard
34. AJ Allmendinger
35. Aric Almirola
36. Tony Stewart
37. Brian Vickers
38. Matt Kenseth
39. Jimmie Johnson
40. Joe Nemechek
41. Landon Cassill
42. Kyle Busch
43. Johnny Sauter

Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen for the final road course race of the season.  The Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST on ESPN and MRN Radio.

Photo courtesy Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

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