Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tames the Tricky Triangle

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tames the Tricky Triangle

by June 9, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images

LONG POND, Pa. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick Motorsports) entered Sunday’s Pocono 400 0-for-28 at the Pocono Raceway; as he leaves for Cleveland, North Carolina tonight he will do so as 1-for-29 at the track.

Earnhardt led 11 laps and successfully held off Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) and Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing) to win the Pocono 400, his second race win of the season. With his win, Earnhardt is all but clinched into the 2014 Chase and joins Joey Logano (Team Penske), Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing) and teammate Jimmie Johnson as the only drivers to have won two races thus far this season.

“We’re doing some of our best work certainly, right now,” Earnhardt said. “We should. We have a lot of passion and there’s a lot of emotion, considering this is Steve’s [Letarte, Earnhardt’s crew chief] last year, and I think that also adds some drive and determination to the team to do as well as we can.”

Earnhardt took advantage of Keselowski pulling behind the lapped car of Danica Patrick (Stewart-Haas Racing) to clear debris from his grille on Lap 155 to scoot around the No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale Fusion to claim the lead for the third time of the day. Keselowski, the leader of the most laps of the day with 95, would try to charge his way back around Earnhardt with his engine temperature continuing to climb but would come up short as the No. 88 National Guard SS would cross the line .439 of a second ahead of the 2012 series champion.

“I feel like this one is kind of on me and the circumstances,” Keselowski said. “I was trying to do something to help my car out and I knew it was going to break and I was going to get passed, so I was trying to make whatever move I could do to help clean it off, and I’m not sure I did enough to make a difference. But I made enough of a difference to lose the lead in the process. I thought I had enough of a cushion, and when I got down in the corner and the car in front of me got sideways, I realized I had made a mistake. But it was too little, too late.”

Busch was able to snap his streak of bad luck and was able to record his first top-10 finish since his win at Martinsville earlier in the year. The No. 41 Haas Automation team were fast across the entire weekend and were able to string together a run that had Busch beaming with delight after his run.

“It was a great top-five run,” Busch said. “Qualifying, throughout the race, the finish, restarts were good to us and just thanks to Daniel [Knost, Busch’s crew chief] for leading us in a new direction today. I feel like we shed some new team skin today and ran upfront.”

Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) would be the race’s highest-finishing rookie, finishing in fifth – earning his third top-five finish of the year. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing), the pole-sitter, would finish ahead of Larson in fourth while Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing), Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Motorsports), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing), and Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing) would round out the top-10.

Seven caution flags throughout the race, two for debris, one for oil on the track, and one for an infield fire. Dave Blaney (Randy Humphrey Racing) would bring out the caution on Lap 81 with a solo spin off of Turn 1 while Patrick would smack the Turn 3 wall on Lap 138 to bring out a caution of her one. The caution with the most damage occurred on Lap 144 when Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) and Carl Edwards (Roush-Fenway Racing) would come together in an accident on the straightaway between Turn 1 and Turn 2, Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) would also receive some damage as well from the incident.

Gordon remains the points leader heading into the next race at the Michigan International Speedway. The Kansas winner will take a 16-point lead to MIS ahead of Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) – who finished 25th – and teammates Earnhardt and Johnson.

Next Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 will be the series’ first trip to Michigan this season. Earnhardt will be looking to go for his third win of the season next week at a track that he has won twice at in the past six years.

Top-10 Finishers of the Pocono 400

  1. 88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports
  2. 2 – Brad Keselowski – Ford – Team Penske
  3. 41 – Kurt Busch – Chevrolet – Stewart-Haas Racing
  4. 11 – Denny Hamlin – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
  5. 42 – Kyle Larson# – Chevrolet – Chip Ganassi Racing
  6. 48 – Jimmie Johnson – Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports
  7. 31 – Ryan Newman – Chevrolet – Richard Childress Racing
  8. 24 – Jeff Gordon – Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports
  9. 78 – Martin Truex Jr. – Chevrolet – Furniture Row Racing
  10. 1 – Jamie McMurray – Chevrolet – Chip Ganassi Racing

Top-10 in Drivers’ Standings after Round 14 of 36

  1. 24 – Jeff Gordon – Hendrick Motorsports – 498 | Leader
  2. 20 – Matt Kenseth – Joe Gibbs Racing – 482 | -16
  3. 88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Hendrick Motorsports – 476 | -22
  4. 48 – Jimmie Johnson – Hendrick Motorsports – 475 | -23
  5. 2 – Brad Keselowski – Team Penske – 448 | -50
  6. 18 – Kyle Busch – Joe Gibbs Racing – 443 | -55
  7. 99 – Carl Edwards – Roush-Fenway Racing – 441 | -57
  8. 11 – Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing – 420 | -78
  9. 22 – Joey Logano – Team Penske – 418 | -80
  10. 42 – Kyle Larson# – Chip Ganassi Racing – 417 | -81

# = Rookie.

If Chase started today – the following drivers would be in: Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, Logano, Harvick, Gordon, Keselowski, Ky. Busch, Edwards, Hamlin, Ku. Busch, Kenseth, Larson, Newman, Vickers, Biffle, Dillon.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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