Saturday, June 7, 2008

Race 14: Pocono 500 at Pocono


After winning his first pole of the season in the same car that wrecked at Phoenix in April, #9-Kasey Kahne successfully rebounded from a pit miscue to fly through the pack and win his second points race of the season. After battling for the lead with #48-Jimmie Johnson, Kahne dropped to 38th under the fourth caution of the race on lap 57 when an audible by crew chief Kenny Francis to switch from a four tire change to a two tire change left him with three missing lugnuts, forcing him to pit a second time. Calmly, Kahne and his well-handling Dodge were able to gain most of those spots on the racetrack, avoiding disaster during a tight battle with #11-Denny Hamlin through turn three on lap 111 to take the lead by lap 129, relinquishing it only during pit stops before making the winning pass on #83-Brian Vickers with 15 laps to go. Kahne led a race-high 69 laps en route to a victory at a track where he had only once ever finished in the top five.

1) #9-Kasey Kahne
2) #83-Brian Vickers First became a factor in the race when he did not pit under the fourth caution of the race, giving him the lead for a brief time after the lap 64 restart before #48-Johnson passed him once again. He remained in the top 10 for much of the rest of the race despite the rear bumper of his car being caved-in from bump-drafting cars near the halfway mark. During the round of green-flag stops which preceded the tenth caution of the race, he remained on the track a few laps longer in a car that was very loose off the corners before finally pitting with 36 to go along with #24-J. Gordon and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. He had the lead on #9-Kahne after the tenth caution and, though he lost it soon after the restart, he held firm to the second spot and even held off #11-Hamlin as he closed. Led 18 laps.
3) #11-Denny Hamlin Successfully bounced back from his last-place finish at Dover with a solid top-five run. His car actually drove better after contact with #70-Leffler coming off pit road during the third caution crushed his right-front fender and he was third by lap 55. The crew made repairs to the fender under the fifth caution just before the red flag for a brief rainstorm on lap 71. As one of the six cars who stayed out under the sixth caution of the race, he took the lead from #19-E. Sadler on lap 90. Pit stops put him back to the fourth position after that, yet his rally toward the front in the closing stages lost steam when he could not get past #83-Vickers. Led 17 laps.
4) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Found his way toward the front around the halfway mark when a two-tire stop under the seventh caution moved him up to the fifth position, but then slipped back when the handling started to go away. Pit stops under the tenth caution of the race again allowed him to make his way up to second for the restart and, though he slipped back to fourth, he waged a spirited battle with #31-J. Burton for that position with a turn three crossover move in the final laps.
5) #31-Jeff Burton Strong top five run came from another mid-pack qualifying effort. He and #6-Ragan made contact coming off pit road under the third caution of the race, to which he responded by swerving toward the car of #6-Ragan. Another fixture in the top 10 late in the going, he fought #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for the fourth position and nearly had it until his pass in turn two was responded to in the next turn with a daring crossover move by #88-Earnhardt, Jr.
6) #48-Jimmie Johnson Took the lead from polesitter #9-Kahne on the first lap and presented himself as #9-Kahne’s biggest competition. However, his attempts to get off-sequence with teammate #24-J. Gordon and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. turned out to not quite be the best strategy as the tenth caution brought out by #18-Ky. Busch prevented him from gaining an advantage on the field. Led 59 laps.
7) #17-Matt Kenseth Had the lead for a moment when #99-Edwards chose not to pit at the last moment when the tenth caution came out on lap 177. Led 2 laps.
8) #2-Kurt Busch Brought out the second caution of the day on lap 40 when he spun by himself off turn two and slid through the grass. As he bounced off the bumps in the grass, he damaged his splitter and broke a few of its braces, but didn’t lose a lap when the crews repaired it and he even managed to claw his way up the field, reaching 9th place on lap 94.
9) #99-Carl Edwards Made his way to the front in the late stages, moving up to third with 31 to go and taking the lead during green-flag stops. He was about to pit right when the tenth caution of the race came out on lap 177 and thought better of it, swerving back onto the track before he could reach the commitment cone. The move was well-timed as pit road was closed at that moment, but the maneuver also allowed #17-Kenseth to slip by him for the lead. Then, after narrowly avoiding that disaster, he wound up pitting under the caution anyway with a flat left-rear tire. Led 2 laps.
10) #8-Mark Martin NO NOTES
11) #43-Bobby Labonte Found his way up near the front when he stayed out with #19-E. Sadler under the sixth caution of the race and managed to remain in the top 10 for much of the race afterwards before scraping the wall off turn two with laps to go slipped him out of the top 10.
12) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Had a stellar run all day long from his eighth-place starting spot, fighting tooth and nail with the leaders as he hovered between 5th and 10th. He was still in the 8th position on lap 136 and only fell back to 12th after the final round of pit stops.
13) #29-Kevin Harvick Was forced to give up his 28th-place starting spot when his team left the ignition switch on in his car, forcing them to change the battery while the car was on the grid.
14) #24-Jeff Gordon Struggles in qualifying forced crew chief Steve Letarte to be more creative with pit strategy, putting him on the same sequence as teammates #48-Johnson and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for much of the race. Unable to find enough speed to be competitive, this resulted in a roller-coaster ride for the 24 team where he oscillated from the top 10 to the middle of the pack.
15) #16-Greg Biffle Competed in his 200th consecutive Cup start along with fellow 2003 rookie #26-McMurray by first fighting his way from a 33rd place starting spot. By the second half of the race, he was solidly with the leaders, then had an eventful pit stop under the eighth caution when one of his tire changers had to jump over the hood of his car, then #00-McDowell made contact with the right-rear of his car. Still remaining with the leaders by pitting with #9-Kahne and the others, he thought he had a right-rear tire going down and pitted with 36 laps to go. There, his bad luck bit him again with a pit road speeding penalty for too fast exiting that dropped him from contention. Led 4 laps.
16) #38-David Gilliland Spun through the grass to avoid the spinning #10-Carpentier and #77-Hornish, Jr. during the fifth caution on lap 68, then brought out the eighth caution when he made contact with #40-Franchitti as the two vied for racing on the same narrow patch in turn three, his car on the outside hooking #40-Franchitti into the wall and forcing him to check up.
17) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Early struggles on pit road prevented him from securing a strong run, falling back early under the first caution when his catch can man failed to keep the can inserted for the entire stop. He fell back after not pitting under the second caution of the race brought out by #2-Ku. Busch, then benefitted by pitting just before the seventh caution brought out by #55-Waltrip. Led 2 laps.
18) #12-Ryan Newman NO NOTES
19) #44-David Reutimann NO NOTES
20) #26-Jamie McMurray Competed in his 200th consecutive Cup start along with fellow 2003 rookie #16-Biffle and suffered some minor damage to his car in the third caution of the race when #18-Ky. Busch hooked himself off the front of his car as they raced down the frontstretch on lap 46.
21) #66-Scott Riggs After falling out of the top 35 at Dover, luck smiled on his team early in the race when the first caution for debris came out just after he pitted to clear debris from his grille, the move putting him in the lead. Though #9-Kahne did pass him for the top spot a few laps after the restart, he remained near the front for some time before being shaken out in the second half of the race. Made his way back up into the top 35, moving to 34th ahead of #77-Hornish, Jr. and bumping out #55-Waltrip. Led 6 laps.
22) #22-Dave Blaney Was penalized for too fast entering the pits during the round of green-flag stops which preceded the tenth caution of the race, then was black-flagged when he didn’t immediately serve his pass-through penalty. Led 1 lap.
23) #28-Travis Kvapil Raced his way up to tenth place on lap 80, but slipped back in the late stages.
24) #6-David Ragan Though he and his crew did not panic when he missed his pit stall under the first caution of the race, forcing him to stop and back up into his stall, he was unable to gain valuable track position. Mired in the back of the pack, he made contact with #31-J. Burton as the two came off the tight exit of pit road, #31-J. Burton responding by swerving toward him.
25) #15-Paul Menard NO NOTES
26) #5-Casey Mears NO NOTES
27) #00-Michael McDowell (R) As he came down pit road under the eighth caution of the race, his left-front was hit by the right-rear of the exiting #16-Biffle. Was the highest-finishing rookie for the second time this season.
28) #01-Regan Smith (R) Turned in a career-best qualifying effort by starting fourth.
29) #78-Joe Nemechek Turned in his best qualifying effort since his pole at Talladega with a fifth-place starting spot.
30) #45-Terry Labonte Making his first Sprint Cup start since filling in for Michael Waltrip last summer, he narrowly avoided involvement in the fifth caution of the race involving #10-Carpentier and #77-Hornish, Jr. when he cut through the grass and stopped behind the spinning cars. Went a lap down around that time and then received the Lucky Dog under the seventh caution brought out by #55-Waltrip.
31) #21-Bill Elliott Solidly made the field on his first qualifying lap, but damaged the right side of his car when he got loose off turn one when he tried to best that speed on his second lap, forcing him to a backup car.
32) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) Turbulent run began when contact from #77-Hornish, Jr. sent him spinning through the grass on lap 57, bringing out the fourth caution of the race. Just four laps after the lap 64 restart following that caution, the roles were reversed when he got loose in turn one and saved it, only to slip up into #77-Hornish, Jr. and send the two spinning off the wall and into the grass in the same spot. To add insult to injury, he was docked for too fast exiting the pits during the green flag stops which preceded the tenth caution of the race.
33) #41-Reed Sorenson NO NOTES
34) #19-Elliott Sadler Led briefly after the sixth caution when he and five other cars did not pit, but lost it when #11-Hamlin passed him soon after on lap 90. Led 6 laps.
35) #20-Tony Stewart Was in the top 10 for much of the day, running up to fourth on lap 80 in a car that became more and more loose as the day wore on. His good day turned bad during a late round of green-flag stops when he was docked for too fast exiting pit road just before the tenth and final caution of the race, trapping him as one of the few cars one lap down. Led 14 laps.
36) #7-Robby Gordon NO NOTES
37) #55-Michael Waltrip Brought out the seventh caution on lap 105 when he drove too high into turn one, spun around backwards, and tagged the outside wall. Though the damage was not severe enough to keep him from driving away, it did knock him out of the top 35.
38) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Had nowhere to go when #07-Bowyer spun in front of him coming off turn three on lap 81 and became involved in that sixth caution of the race. After slamming into the side of #07-Bowyer’s car, he limped down the inside of the frontstretch with flames sputtering from beneath his crippled Dodge. Fortunately, he climbed out when he reached the end of pit road and, a few moments later, fire crews extinguished his car. Incredibly, he returned to the race several laps later and even got the Lucky Dog for one of his 42 laps he lost under the ninth caution of the race. He parked his car after running 157 laps.
39) #07-Clint Bowyer Was taken out in the sixth caution of the race when he broke loose racing under #15-Menard coming off turn three on lap 81, sending him spinning directly into the path of #42-Montoya, who had nowhere to go. The resulting contact sent him spinning into the outside pit road wall, tearing up the back of his car badly. Still finished the race running.
40) #70-Jason Leffler Making his first Sprint Cup race since the 2005 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, his was the car hit by #11-Hamlin during pit stops under the third caution of the race. He also suffered damage to the left-rear from an undisclosed incident sometime during the eighth caution brought out by #40-Franchitti on lap 122.
41) #40-Dario Franchitti (R) Returned to Sprint Cup competition for the first time in more than a month with a stellar 14th-place qualifying effort. Unfortunately, he was first damaged in the eighth caution of the race when #38-Gilliland raced to his outside coming into turn three, sending him backing into the outside wall. His car was finished off in the ninth caution when, while racing #77-Hornish, Jr., #77-Hornish, Jr. spun him again in turn one on lap 130.
42) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Had a rough day through the event in his backup car after he wrecked his primary during Happy Hour. He brought out the fourth caution of the race on lap 57 when he clipped the right-rear of #10-Carpentier and spun through the grass. He was on the receiving end of the fifth caution, again involving #10-Carpentier in turn one, and then brought out the ninth caution on lap 130 when he spun #40-Franchitti and then hit the wall himself before driving through the turn one grass yet again.
43) #18-Kyle Busch While pulling triple-duty with the truck race in Texas and the Nationwide event in Nashville, Kyle’s promising 10th-place starting spot proved to be the only highlight. He wrecked his primary car coming onto pit road during practice on Saturday, then wrecked the secondary just 46 laps into the race itself, bringing out the third caution when he merged up into #26-McMurray on the frontstretch and slammed into the outside wall. The crew got his car back onto the track more than 80 laps down, at which time he brought out the tenth and final caution of the race when he spun by himself off turn two on lap 177. With #31-J. Burton’s strong run, his point lead was cut to just 21 points.

#96-J.J. Yeley

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