Last week we were wondering if the most popular driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series could continue his winning ways at Pocono. It didn’t take long on Sunday afternoon for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to respond to the question. The driver was able to win both races at the Tricky Triangle this season completing the sweep of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events at Pocono Raceway Sunday.
The season sweep was complete as Earnhardt Jr. won the running of an action packed GoBowling.com 400. The race included eight cautions, restarts, and even a Talladega Superspeedway style pile up.
The win was an impressive one as Earnhardt’s car only seemed to become more dominant as the day went on. After a late restart following Kurt Busch losing a tire and hitting the wall Earnhardt powered through a tight restart with only a few laps remaining. In victory lane the driver said the team learned a lot from the win earlier in the season and improved upon that showing.
“I can’t believe we swept Pocono,” said Earnhardt, who also won the Pocono 400 on June 8.
“We definitely went home from the last race (at Pocono) and made our car better.”
Atop the Standings
The win, the third on the 2014 season for Earnhardt, at Pocono moved the driver to the top of the leader board in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. He joins Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski who also have three wins this year. The driver he battled during the closing laps of the race was Kevin Harvick who has two wins on the season.
After Pocono the top ten includes Earnhardt, Johnson, and Keselowski. They are followed by Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Aric Almirola. The other driver with a win on the season is Kurt Busch who sits in the eleventh spot.
Missing the Big One
On lap 117 Earnhardt was one of the few cars not caught up in a wreck that resembled those of Daytona and Talladega. The pile up included 13 cars and started during a restart as the field headed into turn one. The race leader at the time was Jeff Gordon followed by Denny Hamlin. As the cars picked up speed Hamlin’s ride jumped out from under him sending him into the wall.
Because of the restart the cars were still bunched together so a chain reaction wreck occurred as many drivers were unable to check up when the cars in front of them were wrecking. The wreck took out several drivers with strong cars including Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and others.
The wreck actually played into the pit strategy that Earnhardt and his crew had worked up for the race. Since Pocono is a 2.5 mile race track cars can pit on green and not lose a lap. The long caution allowed Earnhardt to save on gas as well as his tires.
When racing continued on lap 127 Earnhardt, along with a few other cars, decided to pit under green flag conditions. The driver took on fuel insuring him that he would not have to save gas during the closing laps but that he could continue to drive as hard as possible.