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Dale Yeah! Junior Wins at Pocono

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 6/8/2014
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Race: Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway
Track Specs: 2.5-mile tri-oval
Weather: Sunny, 76 degrees
Race Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won for the second time in 2014 and for the 21st time in his career by coupling a fast race car with picture-perfect strategy to take Sunday’s Pocono 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It was Earnhardt’s first victory in 29 starts at the 2.5-mile triangle track and his third consecutive top-five there.

Starting eighth and conserving enough fuel in the middle stages to gain an advantage on many of the competing teams, Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte aggressively pursued a game of track position and pit strategy that had the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet near the front when it counted.

Letarte strategically elected not to pit during the fifth caution when many of the others did, sticking to a strategy that would put the 88 team within a one-stop window. Earnhardt took over the second spot on a restart with 38 laps to go, made a green-flag pit stop with 29 to go, and had cycled right back into second by the time the sixth caution flew with 19 to go.

It set up a frenzied restart in which the field went eight-wide down the front stretch, yet when it all fanned out, there was Earnhardt’s Chevrolet versus Keselowski’s Ford to duke it out for the win. Complicating matters for Keselowski, the No. 2 car picked up a piece of trash on its front grille, which caused the engine to run hot. He drove up to the No. 10 of Danica Patrick in attempt to vacuum the wrapper off the grille but in doing so lost momentum. Earnhardt took the lead away from Keselowski with four laps to go and held him off in the tense final circuits to score the popular victory in Pennsylvania.

The win gives Earnhardt his first multi-win season since 2004 – a year in which Junior won six races and contended heavily for the championship. It also makes Earnhardt the fourth driver with two wins this year, essentially solidifying his spot in the 2014 Chase for the Championship if it wasn’t already. He moves from fifth to third in the Sprint Cup standings, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by 22 points.

Finishing behind Junior was Keselowski in second followed by Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. Sixth through 10th was Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., and Jamie McMurray.

DALE JR. QUOTES
“He (Brad Keselowski) didn’t want to let me by, but I don’t think his motor was going to make it. That’s unfortunate for him. He had me beat. I couldn’t get to him. It’s just real hard to pass here, but I’ve lost some in some strange ways so it feels good to win one like that.

“I want to thank National Guard, Diet Mountain Dew, Kelley Blue Book, Chevy, Sprint and all of our partners. I want to thank Rick and Linda (Hendrick). My team, what a great bunch of guys. We always have to thank those guys, but when I’m talking about my team, I really mean it. Those guys are a hell of a group. Obviously Steve Letarte, everybody back home watching. I don’t have much to do tomorrow so tonight’s going to be a long one.”

Pocono Race Report
Start 8th
Finish 1st
Laps Completed (Led) 160 of 160 (11)
Standings (From Leader) 3rd (-22)
Condition Running
Standings
After MyAFibStorycom 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Brad Keselowski 2059 0
2 -- Jeff Gordon 2052 -7
3 +2 Joey Logano 2049 -10
4 +2 Kevin Harvick 2047 -12
5 -2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2042 -17
6 -2 Jimmie Johnson 2041 -18
7 +1 Kyle Busch 2041 -18
8 +1 Denny Hamlin 2041 -18
9 +1 Kurt Busch 2039 -20
10 +1 Kasey Kahne 2034 -25
11 +3 Matt Kenseth 2034 -25
12 -5 Carl Edwards 2030 -29
Full Standings