Jimmie Johnson was coming off of back-to-back wins entering the Pocono 400. However, Johnson was taken out of contention early in the event after colliding with Marcos Ambrose on pit road.
Johnson was exiting his pit stall after racing his way into the top-10 when the caution came out on Lap 73. The No. 48 car received major damage to the right front quarter panel, and caused Johnson to make multiple trips back to pit road.
“I was scared to death I was going to hurt someone,” Johnson said. “We just went to work and do what the No. 48 does best and grind it out. We thought we had a shot at it. Chad had a great strategy, but that last set of tires was just way too tight and I couldn’t get it done.”
After all of the chaos, he was able to finish sixth after capturing the lead for a handful of laps during a green flag pit cycle as the race was winding down. Moreover, Johnson experienced some issues with the handling of his Chevrolet. With the high speeds at the Pocono Raceway, aerodynamics play a key role in attempting to keep up with the leaders.
“We took two (tires) and we were leaving pretty quick and Chad (Knaus) was spotting me out of the pit and took full responsibility for it. He didn’t know the No. 9 was ahead of us pulling in. He thought the No. 9 had left his pit box,” he said.
“We had some aero stuff to sort out. After the second pit stop working on it, the car was a lot better. I honestly forgot about it until I felt like we had a shot to win.”
Johnson remains fourth in the standings as he has all but secured a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. This was Johnson’s ninth top-10 of the 2014 season, and he is on pace to surpass 20 top-10s for the year for the 13th consecutive season.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is ready to tackle the “Tricky Triangle.” After arriving mid-week at the Pocono Raceway, the field has been set for the 33rd annual Pocono 400.
Denny Hamlin broke Joey Logano’s track record which was set in 2012 by flying around the Pocono Raceway at a blistering 181.415 mph. Hamlin is searching for his first top-10 at a track 1.5 miles long or larger. Even though he has a win at Talladega this year, Hamlin has struggled on the larger circuits, and is looking for some form of consistency after winning his second pole award of the year. Hamlin has won four previous races at Pocono, including his first pair of victories in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series back in 2006 where he won from the pole in both events.
Jimmie Johnson is coming off of back-to-back wins at Charlotte and Dover – both of which he dominated. After winning the Pocono 400 in 2013, Johnson has set his sights high for Sunday’s event. However, Johnson will have to come from mid-pack to contend for the win as he will be starting 20th in the No. 48 Chevrolet. Johnson was eighth in the second practice session of the weekend and recorded the third fastest time during Happy Hour. Could Johnson win his fourth Pocono race this weekend?
Jeff Gordon comes into Pocono as the all-time wins leader at the track. Gordon was runner-up to his teammate, Kasey Kahne, in last year’s August Pocono event. However, Gordon is coming off a disastrous race at Dover where he was contending for a top-five position, but fell back approximately 10 spots within the final handful of laps.
Speaking of Kahne – he has been struggling with the handling of the No. 5 Chevrolet this weekend. He was 17th in the second practice and 14th in final practice. Although it is not horrific, compared to his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, he is struggling.
Brian Vickers has been fast all weekend. The No. 55 Toyota led the first practice session of the weekend, and was fastest in the first round of qualifying before falling to ninth in the final session. Vickers has not raced at Pocono since 2011 – making this race his first at the track since it was repaved. Entering Pocono, Vickers is 13th in the points standings in his return to full-time racing at NASCAR’s highest level.
Kevin Harvick was quickest in both of Saturday’s practice sessions, but his No. 4 team had to change their transmission. Harvick will not have to go to the rear of the field as NASCAR enables teams to change transmissions. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also had to have a transmission swapped before Happy Hour in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Aric Almirola also had a transmission issue after initially believing the engine had gone out on the No. 43 Ford. NASCAR enables teams to change transmissions at Pocono as well as the pair of road courses.
Mike Bliss is on standby for David Ragan whose wife is pregnant. Alex Kennedy spun out during practice on Saturday, but did not hit anything.
The Pocono Raceway also opened up the apron by the apex in Turn 2 - the tunnel turn. Though not many drivers have attempted to drive down on the apron, Landon Cassill showed Speedway Digest what it would be like to drive into that area during a pace car ride on Sunday morning. The Chevrolet pace car immediately shot up the track and was extremely loose, and that was after going 115-130 mph. Cassill believes late in the race, someone might try to go down there, but he doesn't see many drivers taking that risk considering it is so rough on that part of the track.
After hitting the high-banked Dover International Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has arrived to an unorthodox track. The Pocono Raceway, home of the “Tricky Triangle,” is hosting the 33rd annual Pocono 400, and the 73rd race in the track’s history.
In this weekend’s version of statistically analyzing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field, we will give you a look at a bit of history of the results which drivers have recorded.
-Jamie McMurray: After controversially having damage due to the concrete breaking apart at Dover, McMurray is looking to have a cleaner race this weekend at Pocono. Though McMurray has never finished better than ninth at Pocono, he has been consistently inside the top-20 at the two-mile triangle.
-Brad Keselowski: Keselowski is coming off of a runner-up finish at Dover, and is now eighth in the points standings. However, he is utilizing a chassis that has yet to run on the track. After winning at Pocono in 2011, it has been all or nothing for the Michigan native. He has two top-six finishes since then, but also has two finishes outside of the top-15.
-Austin Dillon: Dillon is the most experienced of rookie drivers at Pocono. He has a pair of top-10 finishes at Pocono in two Camping World Truck Series events, but did not lead a single lap in either of those races. After running inside of the top-10 at the season-opener in Daytona, he has yet to crack the top-10 since. However, he has nine top-20s since the Daytona 500 and is solidly 15th in points.
-Kevin Harvick: Harvick has never won at Pocono in 26 starts and has led just five laps after completing over 4,500 laps over the course of his career at Pocono. He was arguably the only driver that could contend with Jimmie Johnson for the win at Dover, but ended up having to make an unscheduled pit stop and was on a pit cycle which was different from the leaders. Harvick has nine top-10s at Pocono, but it is safe to say that he will be a contender this weekend.
-Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been underperforming this year compared to his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports. After winning at Pocono in August of last season, Kahne should feel fairly confident this weekend. The No. 5 team is utilizing the chassis which they used to finish third with at Kansas. Although he has been successful at Pocono in the past, Kahne has an average finish of 17th as he has been involved in multiple wrecks at the track.
-Michael Annett: Annett, like most of the rookie drivers, has never run a race at Pocono. Coming off of what would have been a solid run at Dover had he not experienced trouble to put him over20 laps down, Annett could have a decent race at Pocono.
-Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose compares Pocono to a road course since drivers have to attack each corner differently from one another. In a year where he has just two top-fives, each at short tracks, Ambrose needs a solid run at a larger track. He has six top-20 finishes at Pocono in 10 races, but also has two top-10s.
-Danica Patrick: This could be opportunity weekend for Patrick. However, she is using a car that has been nothing better than mediocre this weekend, and she struggled mightily at Pocono in 2013. If she could have a clean race, Patrick should be able to run inside of the top-25 this weekend.
-Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won his first pair of races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono back in 2006. He has two more wins at Pocono, but has yet to win at Pocono since the track was resurfaced. Hamlin has led 11 of the 16 races he has started at Pocono, but did not lead a single lap in either event at Pocono in 2013. Besides winning at Talladega, he has been inconsistent this year, especially on the larger tracks.
-Casey Mears: Mears has had a solid year after Germain Racing created an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. Pocono has been one of his better tracks in the past, and finished inside of the top-25 in both races last year. Currently, he sits 24th in points with six top-15s after 13 races into the 2014 season.
-Tony Stewart: Stewart is coming off of his best race of the year at Dover. He ran inside the top-10 through all 400 miles, and was going to be a contender for the win had the caution not come out late in the race and he was able to save enough fuel. He won his first race as an owner-driver at Pocono in 2009, and has run very well since the repave. In 30 starts at Pocono, Stewart has 22 top-10s with an average finish of 11th.
-Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been solid at Pocono in each of the last four races at the track. He has seven top-10s in 16 starts at Dover, but has not contended for a win at the track since 2010. Bowyer enters Pocono 17th in points, but is coming off of one of his better races this year at Dover.
-Greg Biffle: With speculation growing that he might stay at Roush-Fenway Racing, Biffle has finished outside of the top-15 in three straight races. With RFR’s inconsistency this year, Biffle needs a solid run. He finished runner-up during this race last year, but has been inconsistent at the larger tracks this season. With a win at Pocono in 2010, Biffle is looking to regain his momentum as he is now 16th in points.
-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse Jr. struggled in both Pocono races in his rookie year – finishing 26th and 24th, respectively. He has dropped to 26th in points after eight finishes of 22nd or worse this season.
-Kyle Busch: Along with Hamlin, Busch has just been missing a little something on the larger tracks which has prevented him from going to victory lane. He has never won at Pocono, and it is one of his worst tracks with an average finish of 17.8 in 18 starts. Currently, Busch sits seventh in points, even after getting wrecked by Bowyer last weekend at Dover. He has seven top-10s at Pocono, and is looking for his third straight finish of eighth or better at the Tricky Triangle.
-Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has started off races slow this year, but begins to contend for the win after the halfway mark, just like his days at Roush-Fenway Racing. Coming off of back-to-back third-place finishes, Kenseth has momentum on his side. Pocono was one of the few tracks which Kenseth struggled at in 2013, and has done so for the majority of his career. In 28 races at Pocono, Kenseth has just 10 top-10s with a best finish of third in 2003 – his championship season.
-Joey Logano: With two wins this year, Logano can test out different setups as he is all but secure in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has led laps in all but three races this season, but has had three finishes of 32nd or worse. Logano edged out Mark Martin for the win at Pocono in 2012. Since then, he has raced solidly inside of the top-13 in each of the last three Pocono races. Currently, the Team Penske driver sits sixth in points and is looking to have the best season of his young career.
-Alex Bowman:Bowman has a pair of third place finishes at Pocono in two ARCA Series starts back in 2012. He struggled mightily at Dover – getting into the wall three times, and is looking to have a solid day.
-Jeff Gordon: Gordon lost the points lead to Kenseth after Dover, but has a win which should make him feel more secure entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The No. 24 car has been fast at each race this year, and he might just be able to capture another victory this weekend at Pocono. He is using the same chassis that he used to win at Kansas, and has had his fair share of success at the two-mile track. Gordon has six wins and 29 top-10s in 42 starts at Pocono, and if he leads 28 or more laps on Sunday, he will surpass the one thousand laps led mark at Pocono.
-Cole Whitt: After making the switch to BK Racing from Swan Racing, Whitt has run inside of the top-30 for the past four races. Though he has not run great, he has outrun his teammates and has shown improvement from the events he ran with Swan.
-Paul Menard: Menard has seven top-10 finishes already this year. He is using the chassis which he used at Darlington, and is looking to capture his second top-five of the season. Menard has two top-10 finishes at Pocono in 14 starts at the track, but finished 30th or worse in both Pocono races last year.
-Ryan Newman: Since making the move over to Richard Childress Racing, Newman has been running inside of the top-20 for the most part. However, he has not been contending for wins. That may change at Pocono as he participated in the test on May 27, and he is racing the car which he ran at Las Vegas and Texas. Newman has an average finish of 11.7 at Pocono in 24 starts, and is looking for his fourth straight top-six finish.
-Alex Kennedy: Kennedy is making his season debut for Circle Sport Racing in the No. 33 Chevrolet. He will also race the two road course events over the summer months. He made three starts for Humphrey-Smith Motorsports last year (including Pocono).
-David Ragan: Ragan and the entire Front Row Motorsports team have struggled getting adjusted to the new aero package this year. However, Ragan finished 21st in one of the two Pocono races last year, and is expected to run inside the top-30 if he does not experience any mechanical issues.
-Reed Sorenson: Soreneson’s best career finish at Pocono was 20th in 2009 with Richard Petty Motorsports. Coming off of one of his best races this year at Dover, Sorenson will welcome a new sponsor to the No. 36 Chevrolet this weekend with Theme Park Connection coming aboard for Tommy Baldwin Racing.
-David Gilliland: Gilliland has experienced trouble over the past four races, and is looking just to finish a race. His best Pocono finish with Front Row Motorsports was a 21st-place finish in 2012.
-Kurt Busch: Busch will be using a brand new chassis this weekend. After finishing 18th at Dover, Busch is 28th in points, but is rather secure in the top-30. However, he has just two top-10s this year, and has been extremely inconsistent. Busch has a pair of wins at Pocono in 25 starts, and also has 14 top-10s at the track including a third-place finish at Pocono in August last year.
-Kyle Larson: Larson has never raced at Pocono, so he will be doing the “double” by racing the ARCA Series event on Saturday. He has run well at the high speed tracks this year, and has finished inside of the top-20 all but two times this season.
-Aric Almirola: Almirola has consistently run around the top-20 at Pocono over the last three races. His No. 43 car has run inside of the top-13 over the past four races, and has momentum on his side.
-A.J. Allmendinger: The alliance with RCR has begun to pay dividends for JTG Daugherty Racing. He has three top-10s this year, but has struggled at Pocono as of late. Allmendinger’s average finish at Pocono in 12 starts is worse than 24th, and had a pair of 33rd-place finishes in both Pocono races last year.
-Jimmie Johnson: Coming off of back-to-back wins, Johnson is looking for his third win of 2014. After running very well at both races at Pocono last season, including a win in this event, Johnson is poised to return to victory lane once again. He has three career wins at Pocono with an average finish better than ninth in 24 starts.
-Justin Allgaier: Allgaier won at Pocono in the ARCA Series back in 2008, and has four top-10s in six prior Pocono starts. He is starting to pick up momentum with Steve Addington as he has five top-25 finishes this year.
-Brian Vickers: Vickers has been running well in his return to full-time racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He has five top-10s this year, and currently sits 13th in points. This will be the first time Vickers will race at Pocono since 2011, but he completed the test in late May which should help him get readjusted to Pocono. In 14 prior starts at Pocono, Vickers’ best finish was second in 2008 with Red Bull Racing, and in 2005 with Hendrick Motorsports as it has been one of his better tracks. However, he has not raced on the new surface.
-Timmy Hill: Hill will be running the No. 66 Toyota at Pocono as Joe Nemechek will be racing at Texas in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
-Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has five top-10s at Pocono in 16 starts, and nearly won at Pocono in 2012. This year, however, Truex has struggled with Furniture Row Racing. He had his best run of the year at Dover with a sixth-place finish, and is looking to take that momentum to Pocono.
-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt Jr. has six top-10s this year, and has run well at the larger tracks. His average finish this year is approximately 12th after 13 events, but is still looking for a win on a non-restrictor plate track. Earnhardt Jr. finished in the top-five in both Pocono races last year, and is utilizing the same chassis he raced with at the Auto Club Speedway earlier this year.
-Carl Edwards: Edwards has been inconsistent this year, but when he runs well – he races inside of the top-five. When he runs poorly – Edwards struggles to stay inside of the top-20. He’ll be racing with a new chassis this weekend, and is looking for his third win at Pocono in what will be his 19th start at the track. Edwards has eight top-10s at Pocono, and is looking to capture his first win since 2008 at Pocono.
43 cars are entered in the race, so no drivers will miss the event.
A race that featured a pothole ended with NASCAR’s most dominant driver going back to victory lane for his second straight victory. Jimmie Johnson earned his second win a row as he led 272 of the 400 laps run in Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover.
Johnson has now won nine times at the Monster Mile, extending his record for having the most wins at the track. The win marks Johnson’s 68th career victory on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit. On a restart with less than five laps to go, the No. 48 Chevrolet was able to hold off a hard charging Brad Keselowski for the win after passing Matt Kenseth who spun his tires on the restart.
“Our whole day, we were in a range and we were balanced pretty well, just couldn’t run that fast," Kenseth said in a post-race press conference. “If we tried running fast, we just couldn’t run that quickly. We just started off too tight and if we started out decently, we would be too loose at the end of a run. We were just trying to keep up with track position.”
"The first run or two, I didn't think we were in a dominant position, but towards the end of the first run, things started coming around and I felt like we were in great shape," Johnson said. "It was an awesome racecar. The first run wasn't sure we were really going to have the normal Dover magic here.
However, the win did not come easy as the entire field was thrown a curve ball before the half-way point of the race.
Suddenly, a piece of debris went flying into the air. There was thought that it was a can at first, but conclusions came that one of the strangest incidents occurred.
Jamie McMurray was running 16th when his No. 1 car suddenly hit a piece of the track. As he was coming out of Turn 2, McMurray hit a piece of concrete which sent his Chevrolet into the wall on the backstretch. The race was red flagged as track officials worked on repairing the hole in Turn 2 which was approximately six inches according to team radios.
“We will do the best job that we can and see what we can get,” McMurray’s crew chief, Keith Rodden said after NASCAR wouldn’t enable them to work on the car during the red flag.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton said after the race that it was against the rules, but there has been exception to that specific rule in the past. Pemberton referenced the cable issue at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2013 as an example of when NASCAR would enable teams to work on cars under red flag conditions. Pemberton also stated that an epoxy-type solution was used to patch up the hole.
Besides having damage to the pavement, the cross-over bridge above the turn was also bruised in the incident. A piece of glass on the bridge’s outer part shattered as the concrete flew up into the air. The bridge is approximately 30 feet above the track surface according to a track spokes
Kevin Harvick stated that some guys were looking at that area on Saturday after the NASCAR Nationwide Series event. He noticed the track was coming up, but it was not worked on.
“I saw it this morning on the way to the driver's meeting," Johnson said over the radio to his crew during the red flag. "It was already coming up. I was wondering if they'd seen it."
The red flag lasted just over 22 minutes as a speedy-dry type of concrete was used to fill the hole.
As pit stops were about to start, Alex Bowman blew out a tire to throw out the first caution of the day, but A.J. Allmendinger attempted to short pit and was caught a lap down with just 25 cars on the lead lap after 65 laps.
Clint Bowyer was attempting to pass Kyle Busch in Turn 4 when he got into Busch’s No. 18 Toyota, sending him into the wall. He successfully got around Busch, but then he went right into the fence. After the wreck, Busch stalked Bowyer’s car during the caution, attempted to give him a tap, and then went into the garage with his beat up car. Busch rushed over to his motor home where he could not be reached for comment.
Allmendinger got into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who then hit his teammate, Greg Biffle. The rear end of the No. 16 Ford was destroyed, and the entire right side of Stenhouse’s car had to be cut off in the garage after he hit the inside wall on the backstretch.
“I didn’t see it coming," Biffle said in the garage area. "They were about two and a half groove up on the top and it looked like A.J. tried to squeeze Ricky there. When he came up off the bottom, he turned right into me. It really sucks. We were racing hard there, and that’s what happens when you are back there.”
As he was leading the race, Harvick blew a right-side tire following the restart after the red flag. Bowman got into the will two more times following his initial wreck, and went to the garage after blowing a tire on Lap 221.
Ryan Newman was working his way inside of the top-10 after running approximately 20th for the first half of the race, but had a transmission failure which forced his No. 31 crew to go to the garage. Newman was mandated to a 31st-place finish.
Entering Dover, four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was leading the points standings. Gordon was contending for a top-five spot the majority of the day. Evidently, the handling gave out on the No. 24 Chevrolet, ending the day in 15th.
After the 400-mile race, Gordon relinquished the points lead to Kenseth, who has yet to win a race this year. Kenseth leads the standings by two markers over Gordon with Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson with Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounding out the top-five.
After 13 races, 10 drivers are all but locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup with Kenseth, Larson, Newman, Vickers, Menard and Dillon being the remaining six drivers who are high enough in points to race in the Chase as of now.
Here are some notables from the FedEx 400:
- Clint Bowyer earned his first top-five finish of the year at a non-restrictor plate track by crossing the stripe in the fourth position.
-Martin Truex Jr. recorded his best finish of the young season on Sunday afternoon by finishing in sixth.
-Tony Stewart made a hard charge for the lead late in the race, but after the late-race caution, Stewart fell back to the seventh position.
-Finishing 11th, Kyle Larson was the Rookie of the Race. Larson started at the rear of the field for an engine change, but sporadically made his way up through the field.
-Making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut – Brett Moffitt finished 22nd in the No. 66 Toyota Camry for Identity Ventures Racing.
-Danica Patrick finished 23rd on Sunday – her best career finish in four starts at Dover.
-After experiencing fuel pickup issues throughout the day, David Gilliland ended the day in 29th.
-Blake Koch recorded a career-best finish of 30th in the No. 32 Ford. Making his fourth Sprint Cup Series start, Koch outran his previous best finish of 35th during this year’s Coca-Cola 600 where he finished 35th.
-J.J. Yeley had his third engine failure for the third consecutive time this year.
-Paul Menard earned his seventh top-10 of the season with a 10th-place finish at Dover. Menard's career-best years in 2012 and 2013 consisted of nine top-10s each.
The Sun is shining down on the Dover International Speedway. With fans taking selfies by Miles the Monster, everyone is gearing up for the FedEx 400.
Entering Sunday’s event at Dover, there have been 34 different drivers to cross the finish line ahead of the rest of the field in the 88 Sprint Cup Series races that have been run at the one-mile speedway. In Sunday’s race, 12 of those drivers will be fighting for the checkered flag once again.
Jimmie Johnson enters Dover as the all-time wins leader at the Monster Mile, and he scored his first victory of the season during the Coca-Cola 600. If Johnson were to win on Sunday, it would be his ninth victory at the track in what will be his 25th start. Johnson will be starting fourth for the FedEx 400, but was arguably the best car during Happy Hour as teams were discussing how to beat the No. 48 team.
Kyle Busch has won both races at Dover to start the weekend, but can he keep up his dominance? Well, albeit he did not post a stunning lap time during either of Saturday’s practice sessions, Busch was moderately quick during his run of 10 consecutive laps during the morning session. A win on Sunday would mark Busch’s 30th career win in NASCAR’s top-tier division.
Brad Keselowski will start on the pole for the FedEx 400 as Team Penske continues their dominance with the new qualifying format. Keselowski is roughly around where he was at this point last year, but has a win which is evidently the difference maker for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. He won at Dover back in 2012, and was inside of the top-two throughout the Saturday practice sessions.
Entering Dover, there have been 10 different winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in just 12 races this year. With only six spots remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, drivers such as Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle are still winless as they attempt to get adjusted to the new aero package which NASCAR has thrown at the teams.
Joey Logano lost his first Nationwide Series race at Dover on Saturday as he attempted to win his fifth straight race at the speedway. However, Logano just could not hold off Busch who was extremely quick throughout the entire 200-mile race.
A.J. Allmendinger will start 11th in the No. 47 Toyota for JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger led a large portion of the 2010 version of the fall race at Dover, but has just one top-10 since then. Allmendinger has three top-10s this season as the team has taken advantage of their alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
Speaking of RCR, they have yet to score a victory this season. After scoring a top-10 at Daytona to start the year off, Austin Dillon has yet to crack the top-10 at any race since, and his teammate have been running well, but once again – the numbers show they are not contending for wins. Ryan Newman has led just 10 laps this year, but has four top-10s as he has been consistent enough to hold a spot inside of the top-10 in points. However, Paul Menard has arguably been the strongest car in the RCR camp. Menard was close to a victory at Las Vegas, which happens to be the only top-five RCR has recorded this season.