Rating the Race: Pocono - 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.
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 Race: 84%
the Drama: 94%
Overall Grade: 88.2%
Complete Results (from nascar.com):
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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
|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|
|2||–||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2883||-176||21||1||1||7||12|
|17||–||Martin Truex Jr.||2264||-795||21||0||0||2||6|
|33||–||Sam Hornish Jr.*||1607||-1452||21||0||0||0||0|
- 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)