Rating the Race: Pocono - Pennsylvania 500

August 3, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500

Rain played a large part in pretty much anything NASCAR tried to accomplish this weekend, and Sunday’s race at Pocono was no different. It was also one of the more interesting weekends in Carl Edwards’ professional racing career, that’s for sure. He had to squeegee the rain off his own windshield under caution during Saturday’s Nationwide Series race in Montreal (in which he finished 6th). Then, after both of the Sprint Cup practice sessions were rained out on Saturday, his team unloaded off the hauler on Sunday with a car that Crew Chief, Bob Osbourne, described as “experimental.” Then, they had to weed their way through a slieu of pit strategies that overcame the field when rain crept its way back into Pocono a little over past the halway point in the race, and in the end, it was Carl Edwards stretching his fuel en route to his fourth win in the Sprint Cup Series this season.

Jimmie Johnson was looking to continue his current hot streak when he started the day out on the pole, but it was Mark Martin from the 2nd spot that led the first 21 laps of the race, which saw three caution periods. The first came on the very first lap of the race when Kevin Harvick was spun by Joe Nemecheck, and then just 7 laps later, it was Kurt Busch going around in a single car spin. The third caution was brought out by NASCAR on lap 21 as a competition caution due to the teams not having the opportunity to run Saturday’s practice sessions as a result of inclimate weather.

The field pitted during the lap 21 caution, and Johnson was able to take advantage of a slow stop by the no. 8 team and came out front to take the lead. But, Mark Martin was able to comeback up through the field to take the lead on lap 36 and stayed out front all the way until lap 66, minus a few laps in which he surrendered the lead during a round of green flag stops. The fourth caution was brought out on lap 66 for debris, and this time it was Carl Edwards jumping out to the front.

Edwards held onto the lead until the next caution on lap 87 - also for debris, but it was again Jimmie Johnson’s team getting him out up front off of pit road followed by Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr, and Matt Kenseth. Edwards came out of the pits in 7th, and Mark Martin came out 17th. Carl later passed Johnson for the lead under green on lap 111.

Things started to get a bit more interesting when the race fell under caution on lap 127 due to rain - about 7 laps after the field cycled its way through a round of green flag stops. With pit road open, all but 19 cars decided to pit for fuel, including Edwards, Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Tony Stewart who led the field down pit road.

Kasey Kahne, the winner of the June race at Pocono, was handed the lead for the first time on the day by virtue of the leaders’ decision to pit, followed by Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, and Kurt Busch when the race was red flagged on lap 131 when the rain began to pickup.

The race restarted about a half hour later, and Joe Nemecheck and Paul Menard were the first to find out where the slick spots on the track were as they wrecked on lap 137 to bring out the 7th caution. Juan Pablo Montoya then blew his engine about 8 laps later, but NASCAR decided not to waive the caution. Kurt Busch inherited the lead on lap 158 when some of the cars in front of him started to make their scheduled green flag stops, but he was the next to work his way toward disaster after stretching his fuel out a bit too far, eventually running out of gas on lap 161. He was able to make it to pit road, but lost a ton of time on the track as a result.

Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson both found themselves back out in front momentarily as the 19 cars that stayed out during the rain caution all worked their way to the pits, but it was eventually Kasey Kahne back in the lead with 30 to go once they made their stops as well. Kahne continued to run the next 15 laps out front praying for the caution that never came, knowing that he would be forced to make one more pit stop while some of the other cars claimed that they could run the rest of the way without stopping.

Kahne and Mark Martin both made their final stops with 15 laps to go, handing the lead over once again to Carl Edwards as they watched their premonition come true. Edwards run out to more than a 6 second lead over Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson as he crossed the line to pickup his fourth win of the season.

Knowing that he couldn’t catch Edwards for the lead, Stewart backed off the throttle in the closing laps to conserve fuel, but still ran it hard enough to finish 2nd. Johnson ran out of gas right as he crossed the finish line in 3rd, and from there, things started to get ugly as a ton of cars behind him started to bobble as they ran out of gas as well. Kevin Harvick - who worked all day long to rebound from his spin on lap 1 - kept enough fuel in the tank to finish 4th, and 5th place went to one of the guys chasing him in the points, David Ragan.

Clint Bowyer overcame a long day of struggles to walk away with a 6th place finish. Behind him in 7th and 8th were Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin, both of whom made up a ton of ground despite having to make earlier stops under the green. In 9th was Jamie McMurray, who now has back-to-back top-ten finishes to his credit. And, 10th place went to Jeff Gordon, who ran out of gas after crossing the line and had to be pushed around the track by his Hendrick teammate, Casey Mears.

Other Notables:
Matt Kenseth finished in 11th. He made his final stop with 16 laps to go after he and Crew Chief, Chip Bolin, originally planned on trying to stretch their fuel out ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 4th coming going through the final turn, but ran out of gas just before the line and had to coast his way to the finish. He wound up 12th ….. Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman finished 13th and 14th ….. Denny Hamlin had previously finished no worse than 6th in his first five trips to Pocono, but wound up 23rd after his car got away from him late in the race. He was running 9th when he made his final stop of the day with 26 laps to go ….. Brian Vickers fell victim to a disappointing 28th place finish after running up in the top-15 for most of the day ….. The no. 18 team for Joe Gibbs Racing appeared to have finally gotten the flat track program turned around for Kyle Busch, as he ran inside the top-five late in the race. But, he ran out of gas and was forced to pit with just two laps to go, and they were unable to get his car restarted. He finished 36th.

Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. remain 1st and 2nd in the points standings, but Carl Edwards’ win moved him up two spots to third overall.  Jimmie Johnson held onto 4th, while Jeff Burton’s 21st place run dropped him down to 5th. Kevin Harvick came into the race 2 points out of the final Chase spot, but his top-five effort was enough to move him up to 11th in the standings, while Matt Kenseth gave up two spots and now finds himself on the outside looking in. He’s no 11 points behind 12th place Clint Bowyer.

the Grades:
the Race:  84%
the Drama:  94%
Coverage:  92%
Pre-Race:  90%

Overall Grade:  88.2%

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 15 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 190/5 200 Running
2 20 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 170/0 200 Running
3 1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 170/5 200 Running
4 21 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 160/0 200 Running
5 16 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 160/5 200 Running
6 30 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel’s 150/0 200 Running
7 7 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 151/5 200 Running
8 2 8 Mark Martin Chevrolet Steak-umm Burgers 152/10 200 Running
9 41 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 143/5 200 Running
10 4 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 134/0 200 Running
11 5 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 135/5 200 Running
12 12 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet AMP Energy / National Guard 132/5 200 Running
13 9 16 Greg Biffle Ford DISH Network Turbo HD 129/5 200 Running
14 6 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Avis 121/0 200 Running
15 17 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 118/0 200 Running
16 19 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Hitachi Power Tools 115/0 200 Running
17 34 45 Chad McCumbee Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 112/0 200 Running
18 18 70 Tony Raines Chevrolet Haas Automation 109/0 200 Running
19 31 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 106/0 200 Running
20 37 21 Bill Elliott Ford Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies 108/5 200 Running
21 39 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Team USA 100/0 200 Running
22 33 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet Cheez-It / CARQUEST 97/0 200 Running
23 14 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 94/0 200 Running
24 35 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Champion Mortgage 91/0 200 Running
25 36 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 88/0 200 Running
26 26 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 85/0 200 Running
27 29 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 82/0 200 Running
28 8 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 79/0 200 In Pit
29 40 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet Haas Automation 81/5 200 Running
30 28 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 73/0 200 In Pit
31 24 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 70/0 198 Running
32 25 10 Terry Labonte Dodge Charter Comm. 67/0 198 Running
33 11 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 64/0 198 Running
34 3 38 David Gilliland Ford FreeCreditRep
ort.com
61/0 198 Running
35 32 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 58/0 198 Running
36 27 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M’s 55/0 198 Running
37 38 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Johns Manville / Menards 52/0 197 Running
38 10 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 54/5 197 Running
39 43 96 J.J. Yeley Toyota DLP HDTV 46/0 196 In Pit
40 13 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Texaco / Havoline 43/0 146 Out of Race
41 23 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row
/ DenverMattress.com
40/0 138 In Pit
42 22 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Energizer / Menards 37/0 137 Running
43 42 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 39/5 24 Out of Race

Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 3059 Leader 21 2 7 12 13
2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2883 -176 21 1 1 7 12
3 +2 Carl Edwards 2874 -185 21 0 4 9 15
4 Jimmie Johnson 2859 -200 21 3 2 7 11
5 -2 Jeff Burton 2833 -226 21 0 1 4 11
6 Jeff Gordon 2678 -381 21 2 0 8 10
7 +2 Kasey Kahne 2592 -467 21 2 2 3 11
8 -1 Greg Biffle 2589 -470 21 2 0 6 9
9 +1 Tony Stewart 2569 -490 21 0 0 7 10
10 -2 Denny Hamlin 2547 -512 21 1 1 6 10
11 +2 Kevin Harvick 2520 -539 21 0 0 4 7
12 Clint Bowyer 2512 -547 21 0 1 4 10
13 -2 Matt Kenseth 2501 -558 21 0 0 4 12
14 David Ragan 2466 -593 21 0 0 4 7
15 +1 Ryan Newman 2339 -720 21 1 1 2 7
16 -1 Brian Vickers 2309 -750 21 0 0 3 5
17 Martin Truex Jr. 2264 -795 21 0 0 2 6
18 Kurt Busch 2135 -924 21 0 1 3 4
19 +1 Jamie McMurray 2116 -943 21 0 0 0 5
20 -1 Bobby Labonte 2084 -975 21 0 0 0 1
21 Elliott Sadler 2041 -1018 21 0 0 2 5
22 +1 Travis Kvapil 2016 -1043 21 0 0 0 3
23 +3 Mark Martin 1965 -1094 16 0 0 2 7
24 +1 Casey Mears 1964 -1095 21 0 0 1 4
25 -3 Juan Montoya 1952 -1107 21 0 0 1 2
26 -2 David Gilliland 1936 -1123 21 0 0 1 2
27 David Reutimann 1863 -1196 21 0 0 0 1
28 Paul Menard 1804 -1255 21 1 0 0 0
29 +1 Dave Blaney 1696 -1363 20 0 0 0 2
30 -1 Robby Gordon 1688 -1371 21 0 0 0 2
31 Reed Sorenson 1666 -1393 20 0 0 1 2
32 Michael Waltrip 1636 -1423 21 0 0 1 1
33 Sam Hornish Jr.* 1607 -1452 21 0 0 0 0
34 Regan Smith* 1584 -1475 20 0 0 0 0
35 Scott Riggs 1488 -1571 19 0 0 0 0
36 +1 J.J. Yeley 1263 -1796 17 0 0 1 1
37 -1 Patrick Carpentier* 1230 -1829 17 1 0 0 0
38 Joe Nemechek 1223 -1836 18 1 0 0 0
39 Michael McDowell* 1112 -1947 16 0 0 0 0
40 A.J. Allmendinger 1096 -1963 13 0 0 0 1

Recommended Reads:
- Carl Edwards Captures 4th Victory of the Season in Pocono (Racing for the Win)
- Live on Type Delay: Pocono II, Part One (Rev Jim’s Rants ‘n’ Raves)

BallHype: hype it up!

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Comments

6 Responses to “Rating the Race: Pocono - Pennsylvania 500”
  1. RevJim says:

    How about Scott Riggs running in the top ten for most of the race? He was another one who ran out of gas at a bad time, though, but over all it was a good run for him.

    I agree with your rating, and I am happy to see I wasn’t the only one having a lot of fun watching this one.

  2. RevJim says:

    Oh, and thank you for adding me to your recommended reading list! Much appreciated.

  3. Tim Zaegel says:

    Yeah, you’re right, Jim. Thinking back, I really actually kinda wish I’d have gotten Scott Riggs a little bit more love in this post. That team definitely put a great run together, even if they didn’t have the finish to show for it.

    And, no problem for the link love. ;)

  4. Tim Zaegel says:

    Btw, I was actually a bit surprised that nobody questioned my high grades for Coverage and Pre-Race.

    Really, I thought the Pre-Race was pretty simple, yet still entertaining. I liked that they didn’t try to over-do it. And, the coverage was 10x better than what we saw at Indy. The number of commercial breaks was healthy, and I thought they did a good job of keeping everyone informed of what was going on during the race.

  5. RevJim says:

    I didn’t listen to the coverage much, except when MRN took a break and ESPN didn’t, but it seemed like they learned from their mistakes last year. What I saw and the bit I heard was good, and they paid a lot more attention to the racing than they did last year.

  6. Tim Zaegel says:

    I was just happy that they didn’t cover it like they did Indy.

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