Garbage Time: Earnhardt Jr. Wins Pocono 400
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead from over-heated Brad Keselowski with five laps to go and went on to win the Pocono 400 Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.
The victory was the second of the season for Earnhardt, who also won the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.
Earnhardt got the Pocono victory after leader Keselowski moved in behind the lapped car of Danica Patrick in an attempted to clear his grille of trash.
The move caused Keselowski to lose his momentum and Earnhardt moved to the lead.
“That’s unfortunate for him,” Earnhardt said. “He had me beat. I couldn’t get to him. It’s real hard to pass here. I’ve lost some in some strange ways. It feels good to win one like that.
“We had a little temperature on our car. Brad definitely had the better car. I’ll own up to that, but we won the race.”
The debris in Keselowski’s grille was causing his engine temperature to rise.
“(It was) running really hot, the motor was going to blow up,” Keselowski said. “I had to do something. I couldn’t catch up to him.”
How hot was it? “Hot enough,” Keselowski said.
Keselowski led 95 of 160 laps and led Earnhardt by more than one second when his engine temperature forced him to take decisive action with five laps to go.
Would he have won had the grille not been plugged?
“Well, you would think so but you never know,” Keselowski said. “That is part of the fun of it and the challenge of racing right? We did what we could but it wasn’t going to make it. I thought I had a shot to clean it off and when the 10 car made the aggressive move I just got behind and lost my momentum and Dale did a good job of taking advantage of it.”
Kurt Busch finished third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.
Jimmie Johnson took sixth, with Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray rounding out the top 10.
Tony Stewart appeared to be headed for his first victory of the season. But Stewart, who led 24 laps, was penalized for speeding during a pit stop on Lap 119. The penalty dropped him to 31st for the restart with 40 laps remaining.
“One-hundred percent driver error,” Stewart said. “I don’t know how I got through the lights like I did, but I got to where I blew through all the lights and didn’t have any on the tach so I had no clue that I was over it. It was 100 percent driver error. I gave my guys grief last week with a sixth-place run thought we should run in the top three and then I threw it away this week. Had an awesome Mobil 1 Chevy all day, all from Friday through Sunday so great race just the driver screwed it up this week.”No Comment