Rain, Late Wreck Give Gordon First 2012 Victory
Jeff Gordon, desperate to win a race or two in order to get a wild card berth in the upcoming playoffs, won the rain-shortened Pennsylvania Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway Sunday afternoon.
The victory was the first of the season for Gordon, who started the day in 15th place in the standing and with six races left until the start of the Chase.
It came when rain came during a wreck-caused caution which came out on lap 91 of the scheduled 160-lap race.
“Finally had something go our way,” Gordon, who has had two DNFs on the season, said. “Don’t count us out.”
The storm which ended the race produced a lightning strike which killed one fan and injured several others outside of the track.
Kasey Kahne, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports’ teammate and who circled the track with a flat tire during the final caution in hopes that the rain would end the race, finished second.
Martin Truex Jr. of Michael Waltrip Racing was third and Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski was fourth. Fifth was defending series champion Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Regan Smith and Marcos Ambrose.
Jimmie Johnson, appeared headed to a second-straight victory as he had the lead, a fast car and rained appearing imminent on a restart on lap 91.
But heading into Turn 1, Johnson, who led 44 laps to that point, got loose and lost control. The wreck took out the car of Denny Hamlin and knocked Johnson back to 14th.
“When I was cooling my tires down through the tunnel turn coming to the green,” Johnson said, “I noticed that something didn’t feel right. I kept trying to clean the tires off and it got a little better so I just assumed I had trash on my tires, but when I got down into Turn 1 I realized that I had a right-rear (tire) flat. Unfortunate that we lost the lead there and we got a couple of cars in the process. I shouldn’t feel bad about that but not much you can do with a right-rear flat.”
Inheriting the lead was Gordon. A couple laps into the caution, the rain began to fall.
Gordon jumped to 13th in points.
“You can’t ever give up,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at. You’ve got to just try to go out there and win races. For all the things that have gone wrong for us this year, I still can’t believe what just happened. But, I think this is the one that makes up for all the ones that have gotten away. I’m just so proud of this team. They just never give up and they gave me a great race car today. To start 27th and only have one caution, and work our way all the way up there like that, is pretty awesome.
“We got a great re-start and got into that inside lane ahead of Kasey (Kahne) and then I saw the No. 48 (Johnson) get sideways and somehow I just came out on the other end of it leading. So, I’m just so excited right now. I know that you don’t want to win them quite like this, but we’ve earned it because of all the things that we’ve done this year. We’ve been in position to win races and we were at the right place at the right time. We probably had something going our way.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. entered the race as the point leader and led 17 laps early in the race. However, a third of the way through, his transmission failed and Earnhardt glided into the pits and then the garages. That gave Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing the points lead – briefly.
When Johnson wrecked on lap 91, Kenseth who was vying for the lead, was caught up and that moved Earnhartdt back to the points lead – he will head to the road race at Watkins Glen five points up on Kenseth.
(This story will be updated shortly)One Comment