Under surprisingly blue skies with no rain in sight, here is what else was surprising and not surprising from the 33rd annual Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
Surprising: It may have been his first ever win at Pocono Raceway and his second win of the season guaranteeing him an opportunity to run for the championship, but surprisingly Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was focused more after the race on how he was going to share the victory with Junior nation.
In fact, the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet advised the media that he planned to head over to his Twitter account because he “took a picture of myself over at the pylon and I’ll tweet that out later once I get to my phone.”
“I joined Twitter in February at Daytona and I underestimated just how enjoyable that could be,” the race winner continued. “The interaction is unlike any other, and I get as much out of it, I think, as the fans that are following me.”
“It definitely has some sort of a small effect on your personality, to have that kind of support directly right at your fingertips, knowing everybody is behind you 100 percent every day.”
“I’ve enjoyed it a lot and it’s wins like this that certainly make it a whole lot more fun for everybody.”
Not Surprising: There is no doubt that Brad Keselowski must be hoping that NASCAR forget Air Titan and develop Trash Titan after having to choose between trying to get some trash off his grille and finishing the race or trying to win and blowing up in the process.
To make matter worse, the driver of the No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale Ford had not only been leading the race at the time of the trash, but had also dominated the race, leading 95 laps.
“You know, we were just running really hot and the motor was going to blow up so I had to do something,” Keselowski said. “So, I tried to follow the 10 down in the corner to get the debris off and I just checked up too much. I thought I had more room than I did.”
“I’m not sure I did enough to make a difference,” Keselowski continued. “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.”
“It was really a flawless day except for my mess up.”
Surprising: At the conclusion of the Pocono 400, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch shared something surprisingly snake-like in common. Kahne continued to be snake bit after crashing hard on lap 142 to finish 42nd, while third-place finisher Busch commented that he felt like he and his team were “shedding that new-team skin today and running up front.”
In contrast to Busch’s shedding off of bad runs, the snake bit runs of Kasey Kahne continued. And the driver of the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet was not happy about any of it as he emerged from the infield care center after his hard crash.
“Well, I had just passed Kyle (Busch) and I caught (Ryan) Newman and I was passing him off Turn 3,” Kahne said. “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.”
Not Surprising: Kyle Larson continued to prove himself to be a quick learner by winning the ARCA race at Pocono and also by mastering the art of shifting.
“To be honest with you, I did miss a couple shifts,” the driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet said. “Yeah, just twice, which is a lot better than probably it would have been if I didn’t practice shifting a whole lot.”
“But yeah, I mean, surprisingly there was only two times, when I was battling people and when I was pretty excited,” Larson continued. “I don’t know, I thought it was a good day.”
It was indeed a good day as the rookie driver finished fifth, again scoring Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors, at a track where he had never been before.
Surprising: ‘Home’ tracks were surprisingly good for Martin Truex Jr., who scored his second top-ten finish in two races, taking the checkered flag in ninth at Pocono this weekend and sixth at Dover last weekend. Since Truex is from southern New Jersey, he considers both tracks his ‘home’ turf.
“We had top-10 cars all year but we were not able to finish races,” the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet said. “The last two weeks we finished the races and got some decent results. We’re gaining but still have a ways to get to where we want to be with our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.”
“I made a mistake on one of the restarts and lost a bunch of track position,” Truex, a native of nearby Mayetta, N.J, continued. “But on the last restart I was in the right line and got a little lucky. Earlier in the race we were unlucky on the restarts.”
“I guess what goes around comes around.”
Not Surprising: Even champs make mistakes, but their true measure is demonstrated as to how they handle those errors. Both Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart made pit road mistakes, Johnson with a spin on pit road and Smoke with a speeding penalty, but both were able to rebound, finishing sixth and thirteenth respectively.
“My car somehow pivoted around that right-front tire changer and carrier,” Johnson said. “From there, we just went to work and did what the No. 48 does best and grind it out.”
“100 percent driver error,” Stewart said of his pit road speeding issue. “I got to where I blew through all the lights.”
“Had an awesome Mobil 1 Chevy all day, so great race, just the driver screwed it up this week.”
Surprising: David Ragan had a surprisingly good Tricky Triangle run, finishing 18th in his No. 34 Taco Bell Ford.
“That was fun to be racing up there with those guys,” Ragan said. “Obviously it’s been a tough year for us so hopefully this can be a turning point for our Front Row Motorsports team.”
“It was nice to have things go in our favor today and do what we know we’re capable of doing.”
Not Surprising: Denny Hamlin, after scoring the pole, went on to prepare for the upcoming charity poker event for the next race at Pocono.
“It was a challenge,” Hamlin said of his fourth place run in the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota. “Those are the cards you are dealt and you have to deal with it.”
“I think in today’s world, strategy plays more into it than wheeling the car,” Hamlin continued. “The driver was at the mercy with the air that he’s dealt and the car that’s under him.”
“Those were the cards we had today.”
Surprising: One of NASCAR’s intrepid beat reporters Dustin Long became the story this past weekend, after breaking his ankle during an interview with eventual race winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Junior bantered with Long in the media center after the race, telling Long to use the ramp and asking why he was so far away sitting at the furthest end of the media center from the dais.
“I’m keeping my distance now,” Long replied.
“I won’t push you again,” Junior bantered back.
While Earnhardt Jr. did no such thing as Long tripped over one of the scales during the interview, the story took on a life of its own and will no doubt be one of the stories to remember in the 2014 season.
Not Surprising: It was Jeff Gordon’s turn to snatch the points lead back from Matt Kenseth, after Kenseth stumbled early in the race to finish 25th in his Dollar General Toyota while Gordon brought his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet home in the 8th position.
“It was a great effort, great race car again,” Gordon said. “I thought that was consistent all day long and the pit stops were fantastic.”
Gordon now leads the winless Kenseth in the point standings by just 16 points.