Everyone thought Pocono would be a parade. Although the stands are always filled, it hasn’t been marked as an exciting stop on the schedule. Its wide, triangular qualities makes it unique, a racetrack you’re bound to remember.
Sunday, it gave us a race to remember.
The first caution was set to fly on lap 20 due to overnight rain, but it ended up showing its face on lap one. The likes of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya, and Matt Kenseth were caught up, and all three would fail to recover.
The ESPN broadcast gravitated towards Denny Hamlin during the pre-race show and first part of the race, but that was put to an end when he slammed the wall. It resulted in him finishing last. Many dubbed this race to be where he could finally gain some positive momentum. That, and his Chase hopes, faded into the background.
Because of the way everyone was running, the right side tires were wearing down fast than the left sides, and it showed. One driver who suffered from this problem was Jimmie Johnson. He was running away with this race, per the usual, and it was thrown off by hitting the wall.
As fans rejoiced, it was only a matter of time until the no. 48 team got their feet back underneath them. Johnson fought back to finish thirteenth, thanks to his talent and some of Chad Knaus’ voodoo magic (I kid, I kid).
It was officially a “free for all” when Johnson hit the wall, and many wondered who would rise to the top. Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne soon tangled for the lead, flexing and strutting their stuff. Keselowski ended up attempting to play the pit strategy game with four tires, while Kahne took two to stay up front during a pit stop.
This turned out to be Kahne’s race to lose, but two other contenders showed up near the end: Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch (Fun fact: they share a birthday, which was Sunday). Both had fast cars, and Gordon was tussling with Kahne for the lead when the final caution came out. When they racked them up with three laps to go, Busch was behind Kahne. Everyone sat on the edge of their seats as they came to the green.
The driver of the no. 5 has never restarted well, and he spun his tires, backing up Busch. Gordon got the jump. Busch, ever the gentleman, pushed Kahne enough to help him get momentum going into turn one.
Kahne slid by Gordon and ran away with it.
This is Kasey Kahne’s second win this season, his fourth with Hendrick Motorsports. Don’t think that running for a large team has gotten to his head, though; in his Victory Lane interview, he went on to mention his late friend and fellow Sprint car driver Jason Leffler. He also spoke of a friend who had a heart attack after the race at Indianapolis. It was a nice tribute from a gracious man.
Kahne’s win means he will most likely be in The Chase, pulling him out of a heated Wild Card battle that includes tenth in points on back. He will breathe easier now.
Another shocking moment was during Gordon’s post race interview, where he seemed almost in tears. The emotion was that of someone who hates to lose, yet garners the blame on his shoulders.
Pocono Raceway, you are a gem. Don’t ever change.
Point Standings after Pocono
1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Clint Bowyer (-77)
3. Carl Edwards (-84)
4. Kevin Harvick (-97)
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-116)
6. Kyle Busch (-126)
7. Matt Kenseth (-134)
8. Kasey Kahne (-160)
9. Jeff Gordon (-170)
10. Greg Biffle (-173)
11. Tony Stewart (-178)
12. Brad Keselowski (-180)