NASCAR officials were probably pretty happy after Dale Earnhardt Jr took the lead during the closing laps of the Pocono 400. The second win of the season for Earnhardt helps solidify his place as one of the few drivers eligible to be part of the “Chase.” It’s the first Chase under the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rules that have placed more of an emphasis wins.
With Earnhardt as one of the drivers most likely to now have a solid place in the Chase it almost guarantees NASCAR that his massive fan base will pay attention to the championship races. That’s great news for the series, TV ratings, and ticket sales.
Brad Keselowski was leading the race in fast car but a piece of garbage on the grill caused some concern that his engine might expire due to overheating. Keselowski pulled in behind Danica Patrick hoping the draft from Patrick’s car would help remove the trash from his car. While Keselowski was working to save his overheating engine Earnhardt powered past both Keselowski and Patrick for the lead.
Earnhardt took the lead with five laps to go and never faced much of a challenge as he drove his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS to the checkered flag. It was his second win of the season and the 21st of his Cup Series career.
Afterwards, Earnhardt talked about the win and the fact that Keselowski had such a strong car for the race:
“(Keselowski) had me beat, I couldn’t get to him (before his engine overheated),” Earnhardt said.
“It’s hard to pass here. But I’ve lost some in some strange ways, so it feels good to win one like that. We all have to thank our team when we win, but when I talk about my team, I really mean it. I’ve never won here. This is amazing. I can mark this one (Pocono) off.”
At the same time Keselowski said that while the garbage stuck to his grill did cause some problems he knew that Earnhardt had a strong car during the entire race:
“The car was really hot, I just got a really big piece of debris on it,” said Keselowski, who led 95 laps.
“It was blowing up. We had a really good car. Dale and I were pretty equal. He made the right move.”
NASCAR hoped to place a new emphasis on winning with the new Chase format which when boiled down to its basic form says that drivers with wins will automatically be eligible to race for the Sprint Cup Series Championship. Over the years it seems that drivers and teams were more interested in protecting points rather than racing hard for a win. The argument being that if you fight hard for a win then a wreck might happen and then the driver would take a chance of losing points and even possibly suffering a DNF.
With the new point system in place a win during the regular season almost ensures a driver a place in the chase baring a horrible rest of the season. Two wins for one driver seemingly locks down a spot in the Championship run. Having Dale Earnhardt Jr as one of the Chase drivers is a great selling point to bring even more advertisers on board and to help sell tickets.
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