Dale Earnhardt Jr. may not have dominated the Pocono 400 race, but he was the one who took his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet to Victory Lane after Brad Keselowski succumbed to trash on his grille and overheating issues.
This was Junior’s first win at Pocono Raceway and the first time that he has scored multiple wins in one season since 2004, when he won six times. Now that he has two wins, Earnhardt Jr. is guaranteed a spot in the Chase for the Championship for 2014.
“I’ve lost some in some strange ways, so it feels good to win one,” Dale Jr. said from Victory Lane. “We won the race and it goes in the books and helps us toward the Chase.”
“I’ve never won here,” Junior continued. “I can mark this one off.”
Steve Letarte, crew chief, shared his driver’s sentiments in the media center after the race.
“It means the world to win races,” Letarte said. “We talk a lot about the Chase and points and they are important but when you’re little you just want to win.”
“You appreciate the wins when they come,” Letarte continued. “I don’t think we had the best car, but Dale drove a great race and we had a little luck on our side at the end.”
“This one fell our way and we’ll take it.”
After running so well and leading 95 laps, Brad Keselowski was visibly disappointed with his runner up finish, for the most part blaming himself for the decision to try to get the trash off his grille.
“First off, I’m really proud of the speed we had today,” Keselowski said. “But this one’s kind of on me and the circumstances.”
“I was trying to do something for me and to help the car out, the driver of the No. 2 Redd’s Ford continued. “I knew it was going to break and I was going to get passed. So, I was trying to make whatever move I could do to help clean it off.”
“I’m not sure I did enough to make a difference,” Keselowski said. “But I made enough of a difference to lose the lead in the process. I thought I had enough of a cushion. When I got down in the corner, the car got sideways and I realized I had made a mistake. It was too little too late.”
“The team did a heck of a job; I just messed up a little bit there. We had a really, really good car. It was really a flawless day other than my mess-up there.”
Kurt Busch, who started the race on the outside pole, finished third in his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet. He was the highest finishing Stewart-Haas Racing driver as Tony Stewart finished 13th; Kevin Harvick finished 14th; and Danica Patrick finished 37th.
“Nice solid day. Top five car and we cashed in on a top five finish,” Busch said. “We were able to hold the track position and it was a solid execution. It was a nice turning of the page so to speak and a congratulations for shedding that new team skin.”
Kyle Larson, winner of the ARCA race the day before, finished fifth and was once again the top finishing rookie.
“It was a lot better finish than I thought that we were going to get,” the driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet said. “I knew from the drop of the green that we were going to be pretty good. Today I had a lot of grip and I knew that was a good sign.”
“We tried to put ourselves into position to get a better finish on that last restart and it all worked out,” Larson continued. “I’ll take a top five here at Pocono.”
Denny Hamlin, who started from the pole position, ended up taking the checkered flag in fourth in his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota.
“We had great strategy, great pit stops,” Hamlin said. “Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and the guys really put a great FedEx Ground Toyota underneath me this evening. It’s a good run for us — two top-fives in a row for us this year all year and that’s not bad.”
“We had great strategy and I’m proud of the Camry our FedEx Ground crew put under me this week.”
While several of the cautions were due to debris on the track, as well as one bizarre caution for a grass fire in the infield in Turn 3, there was one very vicious wreck that occurred, involving the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne, the No. 18 of Kyle Busch and the No. 99 of Carl Edwards.
“Well I had just passed Kyle (Busch) and I caught (Ryan) Newman I was passing him off Turn 3,” Kahne advised. “We were side-by-side so Kyle was able to get a good draft down the straightaway. We got to Turn 1 and I was on the outside and then he knew if he didn’t clear me there then I would pass him back because I just had.”
“He just floored it and didn’t care there was someone out there and ran me right in the wall,” Kahne continued. “We both ended up wrecking. I think he wrecked a little bit, but I hit a good bit harder once we hit my car just went hard right.”
“I’m not sure what happened,” Edwards said. “Somehow Kasey hit the wall.”
“It’s just tough to run the whole race and miss the best part.”
Thanks to Jeff Gordon’s eighth place finish and the trouble of Matt Kenseth, who ran into Jamie McMurray early, damaging his nose and finishing 25th, Gordon re-assumed the points lead which he had lost after the Dover race.
The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet is now sixteen points to the good of the driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota.
“It was just kind of chaos,” Gordon said of his race. “I thought that we were consistent all day long and the pits tops were fantastic.”
“It was a great effort, great race car again.”
The full race results for the 33rd annual Pocono 400 are as follows:
|1||8||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||National Guard Chevrolet||160||47||4||Running||3||11|
|2||3||2||Brad Keselowski||Redd’s Ford||160||44||2||Running||4||95|
|3||2||41||Kurt Busch||Haas Automation Chevrolet||160||42||1||Running||1||5|
|4||1||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Ground Toyota||160||41||1||Running||2||4|
|5||14||42||Kyle Larson #||Target Chevrolet||160||40||1||Running||1||7|
|6||20||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet||160||39||1||Running||2||5|
|7||15||31||Ryan Newman||Wix Filters Chevrolet||160||37||Running|
|8||5||24||Jeff Gordon||Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet||160||37||1||Running||2||2|
|9||17||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row Chevrolet||160||35||Running|
|10||18||1||Jamie McMurray||Cushman/Cessna Chevrolet||160||34||Running|
|11||19||15||Clint Bowyer||RK Motors Charlotte Toyota||160||33||Running|
|12||6||18||Kyle Busch||M&M’s Peanut Butter Toyota||160||32||Running|
|13||12||14||Tony Stewart||Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet||160||32||1||Running||4||24|
|14||4||4||Kevin Harvick||Budweiser Chevrolet||160||30||Runnng|
|15||28||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Zest Ford||160||29||Running|
|16||13||16||Greg Biffle||3M Ford||160||28||Running|
|17||11||3||Austin Dillon #||Dow Chevrolet||160||27||Running|
|18||32||34||David Ragan||Taco Bell Ford||160||26||Running|
|19||9||55||Brian Vickers||Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota||160||26||1||Running||1||1|
|20||30||7||Michael Annett #||Pilot Flying J Chevrolet||160||24||Running|
|21||21||47||AJ Allmendinger||Clorox Chevrolet||160||23||Running|
|22||22||43||Aric Almirola||Nathan’s Famous Ford||160||22||Running|
|23||25||13||Casey Mears||GEICO Chevrolet||160||21||Running|
|24||29||9||Marcos Ambrose||Stanley Ford||160||20||Running|
|25||26||20||Matt Kenseth||Dollar General Toyota||160||19||Running|
|26||23||27||Paul Menard||Moen/Menards Chevrolet||160||18||Running|
|27||24||51||Justin Allgaier #||BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet||160||18||1||Running||1||6|
|28||35||38||David Gilliland||Long John Silver’s Ford||160||16||Running|
|29||33||32||Travis Kvapil||Corvetteparts.net Ford||160||15||Running|
|30||40||26||Cole Whitt #||Burger King Toyota||159||14||Running|
|31||34||23||Alex Bowman #||Dr.Pepper Toyota||159||13||Running|
|32||41||83||Ryan Truex #||Burger King Toyota||159||12||Running|
|33||31||40||Landon Cassill(i)||Newtown Building Supplies Inc. Chevrolet||158||0||Running|
|34||36||36||Reed Sorenson||Theme Park Connection Chevrolet||158||10||Running|
|35||37||98||Josh Wise||Phil Parsons Racing Ford||158||9||Running|
|36||39||66||Timmy Hill||Land Castle Title Toyota||158||8||Running|
|37||16||10||Danica Patrick||GoDaddy Chevrolet||158||7||Running|
|38||38||44||JJ Yeley(i)||All City Leasing & Warehousing Chevrolet||157||0||Running|
|39||42||33||Alex Kennedy||Dream Factory Chevrolet||156||5||Running|
|40||7||22||Joey Logano||Shell Pennzoil Ford||150||4||Engine|
|41||10||99||Carl Edwards||Kelloggs/Cheez-It Ford||143||3||Accident|
|42||27||5||Kasey Kahne||Great Clips Chevrolet||142||2||Accident|
|43||43||77||Dave Blaney||AmyRFochlerVtrnsLawAttrnyLLC/valor4vets.com Ford||142||1||Running|
# = Rookie, Fin = Finish, Str = Start, Pts = Total Points, BPs = Lap Leader Bns Pts, TLd = Times Led, LLd = Laps Led. (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series