Tag Archives: Pocono Raceway

Only a Matter of Time: Truex claims long-awaited win at Pocono

Martin Truex Jr. hugs girlfriend Sherry Pollex after winning the Axalta 400 at Pocono Raceway. (Credit: @NASCAR on Twitter)
Martin Truex Jr. hugs girlfriend Sherry Pollex after winning the Axalta 400 at Pocono Raceway. (Credit: @NASCAR on Twitter)

Martin Truex Jr. is finally a winner.

The No. 78 team cashed their ticket in Sunday afternoon at Pocono Raceway, claiming victory after finishing in the top-10 in 12 of the last 13 races. His consistency wasn’t lost on anyone; media and fans alike waited for this moment to arrive.

The Richmond International Raceway scandal left Truex out of the Chase and with a bad taste in his mouth. After leaving Michael Waltrip Racing, his future looked bleak. He joined Furniture Row Racing, a one-car team that helped Kurt Busch get back on his feet. During 2013, Busch earned 11 top-10s and finished 10th in points. The New Jersey native decided to align with FRR and start all over.

It wasn’t going to be easy; 2014 was a difficult time for the No. 78 team, earning only one top-5 finish all season. The on-track struggle, however, wasn’t the only obstacle. Summer brought the news that Truex’s long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She underwent surgery, and the treatments soon began. November brought the end of a trying season.

Changes were made, including a crew chief switch. Cole Pearn stepped in, who became the second crew chief from Canada. This turned out to be exactly what the team needed.

Truex’s win at Pocono is the third of his career, propelling him to third in the point standings and the Chase. As he rolled his Chevrolet into victory lane, Pollex was there to give him a hug that brought tears to everyone’s eyes. The win gave her something to smile about, even with eight months of chemotherapy still ahead.

Pocono was full of cautions and great racing, but nothing could top such a deserving win. It was only a matter of time.

The No. 78 team will try to ride the momentum into Michigan International Speedway, the two-mile track next on the schedule. There hasn’t been much success there for Martin Truex Jr., but this season is a season of change for him. Kevin Harvick, who finished second at Pocono, will definitely rival whatever the newest Chase driver can put down.

Action is abundant in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and it’s time to get excited.

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Earnhardt Jr.’s Pocono win paints a championship picture

(Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
(Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Someone better get a broom. And the championship trophy.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. visited victory lane again at Pocono Raceway, winning both events at the track this year. The Hendrick Motorsports driver led the final fourteen laps on his way to his third checkered flag of 2014. Crew chief Steve Letarte’s slight fuel strategy gamble ended up earning the No. 88 team the jackpot.

The win comes after a vital announcement; team owner Rick Hendrick and Earnhardt Jr. made known that Greg Ives will crew chief in 2015. Letarte will aid NBC in the booth when their NASCAR coverage kicks up. The Farewell Tour was already in full-swing, and now it has full intentions to go out with a bang.

If the team keeps it up, it’s Earnhardt Jr.’s year. Why? Because it’s finally different. His personal life, the team dynamic, the HMS power have all changed for the better. Letarte leaving only adds fuel to the fire.

There’s no stopping Earnhardt Jr.; he’s racing toward his first championship.

The race in general was a thrill ride, kicking Pocono’s dull stereotype to the curb. It all peaked when a thirteen-car wreck occurred, taking out Chase hopefuls Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, along with Brian Vickers, Aric Almirola, and many other notables. The backwards day continued with reigning champ Jimmie Johnson hitting the wall twice and ending his day in the garage.

Many contenders tried to win. Jeff Gordon was running high off his Brickyard victory. Joey Logano, stout as well. Heck, even Kevin Harvick came back with a vengeance from multiple issues.

Nobody could run down the No. 88. They should get use to that once the playoffs come around.

Point Standings after the GoBowling.com 400 (asterisk indicates number of wins)

1. Jeff Gordon (–)**
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-17)***
3. Brad Keselowski (-70)***
4. Matt Kenseth (-89)
5. Ryan Newman (-115)
6. Jimmie Johnson (-124)***
6. Joey Logano (-124)**
8. Carl Edwards (-139)**
9. Clint Bowyer (-140)
10. Kyle Busch (-146)*
12. Kyle Larson (-162)
13. Greg Biffle (-167)
14. Kasey Kahne (-168)
15. Austin Dillon (-169)
16. Paul Menard (-195)

Pocono produces an Earnhardt Jr. victory as TNT takes over coverage

The Tricky Triangle’s nickname comes from the need to shift and its unique layout, of course. It’s been known to shake things up. This time around, it didn’t disappoint. An excited day ended with a fan favorite capturing the win.

“I’ve lost some [races] in some strange ways, so it’s nice to win one this way,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. in victory lane Sunday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.

The No. 88 took the checkered flag first after Brad Keselowski fumbled on-track. Keselowski, who was the dominant car of the day, collected some debris and suffered. He went behind a lapped Danica Patrick to get it loose, but she was going too slow. By the time the No. 2 realized this, Earnhardt Jr. soared past and didn’t look back. This is Earnhardt Jr.’s second win of 2014 and the first time in ten years he’s won multiple times in a season. It also secures his bid into The Chase.

About his controversial decision, Keselowski explained, “I just got a big piece of debris on the grille, and I had to do something . . .it was starting to blow up, and it was all I could do.” He was searching for his second win, hoping to top a beautiful day off with a cherry.

Other notable finishes: Kurt Busch (3rd), Denny Hamlin (4th/race polesitter), Kyle Larson (5th/top rookie), and Jimmie Johnson (6th/early issues on pit road).

There were multiple cautions throughout the day, yet only one was for a wreck. The incident involved Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne. Busch’s spotter failed to call him clear, and he came up into Kahne. Kahne smacked the wall and then ran nose-first into the barrier once he tried to drive off, seemingly having no brakes. Carl Edwards also got a piece of the mess.

Over the past few seasons, Busch and Kahne have squabbled various times, the No. 5 car on the receiving end. In a post-wreck interview with MRN, Kahne stated, “That’s just Kyle [Busch] being Kyle. He’s probably pissed off because his car was slow.” His upset is understood; he was running thirteenth and gaining at the time of the wreck, a bright spot during a horrific 2014. It seems like the driver is about to snap, and that is a rarity.

Speaking of rarities, TNT brought its A-game when it came to the pre-race, creating high expectations for the broadcast. It was okay for the first race of their summer stint, although they failed to have a reporter on-scene when Kahne came out of the care center. That, along with audio issues and eighteen commercial breaks during racing action, made for a shaky debut. They have five more races to work out the kinks.

Earnhardt Jr.’s win was weird, as was the race in its entirety; there was no rain, things were exciting, and everything had anticipation surrounding it. As the Summer Series kicks off, it’s looking like things are getting spicy. Who knew Pocono would create such flare.

Point Standings after the Pocono 400

1. Jeff Gordon (-)
2. Matt Kenseth (-16)
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-22)
4. Jimmie Johnson (-23)
5. Brad Keselowski (-50)
6. Kyle Busch (-55)
7. Carl Edwards (-57)
8. Denny Hamlin (-78)
9. Joey Logano (-80)
10. Kyle Larson (-81)
11. Ryan Newman (-87)
12. Kevin Harvick (-95)
13. Brian Vickers (-106)
14. Greg Biffle (-113)
14. Austin Dillon (-113)
16. Clint Bowyer (-115)

Pocono surprises as Kahne solidifies Chase berth with win

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)

Sunday’s Doubleheader Spells Success for Bayne, Johnson

Sunday presented us with a rare opportunity, one that riled everyone and their remotes up. Ready to do work, NASCAR fans sat on their couches, thumbs poised over the ‘recall’ button. Breakfast was being served a bit earlier to accommodate the new circumstances, and Mother Nature was to blame.

Or maybe we should thank her…? Hmm.

Rain swept into Iowa Saturday night, and the soul-crushing words of “We’ve lost the track” were uttered. NASCAR decided to run the Nationwide race Sunday morning, eleven a.m. ET, carried by ESPN2. This set us up for a doubleheader.

Baseball has perfected the concept of back-to-back games, so why not try it with racing, right? It also set a populated stage for NNS; viewers could watch the race, then switch to the Cup race at Pocono when it was done.

Of course, that didn’t really work out, but still! The opportunities!

With each series in a separate state, double or triple duty wasn’t expected. Joey Logano was ready to run Iowa and Pocono, but Mother Nature said, “No,” so that wasn’t going to work out. It was a field full of strictly NNS drivers (as it should be), and they were going to strut their stuff.

The caution didn’t take long to come out, when lap three brought us a wrecked Brad Sweet, but the lead didn’t change much; Austin Dillon was clearly the class of the field. The only driver that seemed to be much of a threat was Trevor Bayne, who was charging up to second . . .

. . .when Mother Nature came out to play.

Travis Pastrana, Brian Vickers, Alex Bowman, and Max Papis had just gotten into a caution-resulting accident when it began to rain. NASCAR pulled the cars onto pit road, and a downpour ensued, half the race already over.

Red flag. Just in time for Pocono’s green flag.

With the Cup field set by points, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards were on the front row. Lap two was trouble for Kasey Kahne, who had an issue in the drive train. He went behind the wall. Edwards led awhile in the beginning, yet Johnson quickly took over. The no. 48 was running triangles around the entire field.

“*click* Hey, the NNS drivers are back in their cars!”

When they went back green, it was a battle between Dillon and Bayne. The two were in a whole other zip code. An incident with Michael Annett brought out a caution, but the adrenaline couldn’t slow. The no. 6 had to chase Dillon down, but the no. 3 was caught with eleven to go. Bayne even used his bumper, roughing up his competitor, uncharacteristic of the baby-faced driver. The two tangoed, and hearts were in throats.

Dillon fell back, and the newly-married Trevor Bayne won the second race of his NNS career. Finally, people can stop comparing him to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who raced the no. 6 before him.

“*click* Ryan Newman?!”

Yes, as everyone settled in to finish the Pocono race, Newman had used fuel strategy to make his way to the lead. Of course, it put him on a completely different pit stop cycle, and that was his downfall in the end; he was going to be six laps short.

A restart allowed Johnson to regain the lead, and, although there were plenty of cautions in the last thirty laps, he couldn’t be beat.

People keep getting upset with the no. 48 team and how dominant they are, and it’s quite funny; that’s what the best drivers do. They win. They slaughter the field. They put everyone else a lap down before halfway. That’s how it was in the old-school days of NASCAR.

You can say it’s Chad Knaus. You can say it’s the car. You can say it isn’t Johnson’s ability at all. However, you would be dead wrong. It’s a combination of everything -the crew, the car, the driver- that makes this team nearly unstoppable.

Superman isn’t going anywhere. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble.

As we take our cool down laps after this beautiful day of racing, no matter what you thought of each race, you have to admit that it was exciting to have back-to-back races.

Maybe Mother Nature did us good today. But she’s certainly not invited to Michigan.

NNS Point Standings after Iowa

1. Regan Smith (–)
2. Sam Hornish Jr. (-23)
3. Justin Allgaier (-44)
4. Austin Dillon (-46)
5. Elliott Sadler (-60)
6. Parker Kligerman (-63)
7. Brian Vickers (-64)
8. Brian Scott (-67)
9. Trevor Bayne (-80)
10. Kyle Larson (-87)
11. Alex Bowman (-117)
11. Mike Bliss (-117)
Point Standings after Pocono

1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Carl Edwards (-51)
3. Clint Bowyer (-69)
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-82)
5. Kevin Harvick (-87)
6. Matt Kenseth (-103)
7. Kyle Busch (-109)
8. Kasey Kahne (-121)
9. Brad Keselowski (-123)
10. Greg Biffle (-126)
11. Jeff Gordon (-128)
12. Paul Menard (-136)