With 10 laps to go in the Pocono 400 Sunday afternoon leader Brad Keselowski had a piece of trash get stuck on his grill which caused his No. 2 Team Penske Ford to start to overheat. With six laps to go Keselowski caught the lap car of Danica Patrick and tried to get behind her in Turn 1 to remove the debris from the grill but the maneuver made him lose his momentum and Dale Earnhardt Jr pounced to take the lead.
Earnhardt Jr in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet would hold off Keselowski over the final laps to record his first career win at Pocono Raceway and second of the 2014 season to lock him into the Chase Grid.
"He had me beat…but I've lost some in some strange ways so it feels good to win one like that," Earnhardt Jr said in victory lane.
The win is the 21st of Dale Jr's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and it marks his first multi-win season since 2004. Brad Keselowski finished second after leading the most laps in the 160 lap race. Finishing in third was Kurt Busch with Denny Hamlin fourth and Kyle Larson fifth.
The Pocono 400 began with Denny Hamlin on the pole but it was Brad Keselowski who made the move in Turn 1 to take the early lead in the race. By lap 20 Keselowski held a one second lead on Jeff Gordon in second. Further back were Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Denny Hamlin.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 26 when Jimmie Johnson, who started 20th, pitted. Keselowski pitted on lap 28 and was able to hold the lead with the top five running the same.
The first caution would come out on lap 31 when a small fire broke out at the infield barrier in Turn 3. The race would restart on lap 36 with Keselowski still in the lead. On the restart Kurt Busch moved into second and back in the pack Matt Kenseth drove hard into the back of Jamie McMurray in Turn 1 and did a lot of damage to the nose of his car which put him off the pace.
By lap 50 Keselowski led over Harvick, Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch. On lap 56 Harvick started another round of green flag pit stops. Keselowski would pit on lap 57 which gave the lead to Gordon. Gordon then pitted on lap 58 and Stewart moved to the lead before pitting on lap 59.
The second caution flew on lap 60 for debris in Turn 3 with Denny Hamlin in the lead. Those who had not made their green flag stop made pit stops under the caution which put Keselowski back in the lead and Harvick, Gordon, Stewart, and Kurt Busch in the top five on the lap 65 restart.
The third caution flew on lap 72 for debris off of JJ Yeley's car. Jimmie Johnson was running fifth and was the first driver to decide to pit under the caution. He took two tires and when he pulled out to leave his pit box he slammed into the car of Marcos Ambrose who was pulling into his. Johnson's crew would take the remainder of the caution to fix the damage on the right side of his No. 48 Chevrolet.
The race restarted on lap 76 and this time Tony Stewart got a great restart to move from fourth to the lead and Keselowski was shuffled to fifth.
The fourth caution flew at the halfway lap of 80 when Dave Blaney spun. He would finish in 43rd. The lead cars did not pit while others further back did and the race restarted on lap 84 where Austin Dillon was black flagged for changing lanes on the restart. Also Kurt Busch was able to take the lead from Stewart in Turn 1. By lap 90 Stewart had passed Busch back for the lead.
On lap 92 a round of green flag pit stops would begin when Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick pitted. Stewart gave up the lead on lap 95 to pit which put Hamlin out front. He then pitted on lap 97 which gave Dale Earnhardt Jr his first lead. Dale Jr then pitted on lap 102 which gave the lead over to Kyle Larson. He would pit on lap 109 and Jimmie Johnson ended up in the lead before pitting on lap 111. Michael Annett led lap 112 which cycled the lead back to Stewart on lap 113 ahead of Harvick, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, and Gordon in the top five.
On lap 116 Harvick had to pit due to a punctured left-front tire on his No. 4 Chevrolet. The fifth caution then came out on lap 118 for reported fluid on the track. Stewart pitted from the lead while others stayed on track. Stewart would exit pit road first ahead of Gordon, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch and would have restarted 17th however he sped entering the pits and was penalized to the tail end of the field for the lap 123 restart. Brad Keselowski led over Dale Earnhardt Jr of the cars that did not pit.
On lap 129 Keselowski pitted under green from the lead and then Earnhardt Jr did the same on lap 131 which put Jimmie Johnson into the lead. He would pit on lap 133 which gave the lead to Gordon who pitted on lap 134 for two tires. Justin Allgaier then led ahead of four other drivers that did not pit yet. They were Danica Patrick, AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan, and David Gilliland. Brad Keselowski was sixth, with Dale Jr seventh, Johnson eighth, Logano ninth, and Clint Bowyer tenth.
The sixth caution would come out on lap 138 when Danica Patrick hit the wall in Turn 3. Those who did not stop yet did so the top five on lap 142's restart was Keselowski, Earnhardt Jr, Johnson, Logano, and Bowyer.
The seventh caution flew on lap 143 when Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne got together off of Turn 1. The contact forced Kahne hard into the outside wall and then Carl Edwards slammed into the back of Kahne's car and then nosed into the outside wall. Kahne would also hit the wall hard in Turn 2 and would leave the track without giving comment. Edwards and Kahne were done for the race and finished 41st and 42nd respectively. Kyle Busch would continue with minimal right side damage and Greg Biffle also continued after hitting debris from the crash with the front of his car.
The top five for the lap 149 restart was Keselowski, Earnhardt jr, Kurt Busch, Logano, and Hamlin. On the restart Logano's No. 22 Ford did not accelerate as he reported no oil pressure. He would pull to the garage and finish 40th. On lap 151 the lead car of Keselowski picked up a piece of trash on his grill that started to cause his car to overheat. He did not think the engine would make it to the end of the race so on lap 155 he tried to use the lap car of Patrick to change the air on his nose to remove the piece. The move did not work and Dale Earnhardt Jr sped by Keselowski down into Turn 2.
From there Keselowski tried to catch Dale Jr but could not. The victory made it four in a row for Hendrick Motorsports at Pocono Raceway. Jeff Gordon won the August race in 2013 and then Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne won the two races last season.
Finishing in sixth was Jimmie Johnson with Ryan Newman seventh, Jeff Gordon eighth, Martin Truex Jr ninth, and Jamie McMurray tenth. Clint Bowyer was 11th, Kyle Busch 12th, Tony Stewart 13th, Kevin Harvick 14th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr 15th, Greg Biffle 16th, Austin Dillon 17th, David Ragan 18th, Brian Vickers 19th, and Michael Annett 20th. Other notables in the field were Matt Kenseth in 25th and Danica Patrick in 37th.
After 14 races the new Chase Grid leader is Dale Earnhardt Jr with his two wins and being third in points. Jimmie Johnson has two wins and is fourth in points, Joey Logano has two wins and is ninth in points, and Kevin Harvick has two wins and is 12th in points. Then comes the six drivers with one win. Jeff Gordon is first in points, Brad Keselowski fifth, Kyle Busch sixth, Carl Edwards seventh, Denny Hamlin eighth, and Kurt Busch 27th.
The remaining six Chase Grid places belong to those drivers without a win that are highest in points. Matt Kenseth is second, Kyle Larson tenth, Ryan Newman 11th, Brian Vickers 13th, Greg Biffle 14th, and Austin Dillon 15th.
The next race on the Sprint Cup Series schedule is the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 15th.Tags: Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Pocono Raceway