(WOMR file photo)
Sunday was a great day for Hendrick Motorsports at Pocono Raceway. However, this was not “the typical” HMS story.
After leading a race high of 43 laps “Mr. Five-Time”, Jimmie Johnson, blew a right front tire, smacked the retaining wall, and eliminated the #48 as a threat to win his fifth race of the year. The reason that it was a good day for Hendrick Motorosporrts is that the “other three drivers finished in the top five!
Kasey Kahne passed Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for the lead after a restart with two laps to go, and took the checkered flag at Pocono Raceway in the GoBowling.com 400.
The victory was the 16th of Kahne’s Sprint Cup career. More importantly, it was the second of his season, and now moved him to eighth place in points.
“We needed this one to get in the Chase,” Kahne said. “We really did. It feels really good.Gordon finished second. He had the lead on a restart with two to go but Kahne was able to make the pass near Turn 1 after the race went green.”
Gordon was left shaking his head.
“I lost that one for us,” Gordon said to his team afterward. “Sorry guys.”
Jimmie Johnson, the series points leader and the pole-sitter on Sunday, blew a tire after leading 43 laps and clipped the wall. He fought back and finished 13th.
Kahne took control after a restart on lap 108 of the 160-lap race, but two laps later Danica Patrick lost control of her car, spun and took out Travis Kvapil, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. (Sorry about your little car, Tony!)
The field was bunched for a restart on Lap 116, but that was merely a momentary setback for Kahne, who pulled away from Kurt Busch to a lead of 4.851 seconds by Lap 125. The driver of the HMS Farmer’s Insurance #5 Chevy extended his advantage through a cycle of green-flag stops and was more than seven seconds ahead of Gordon when NASCAR called the eighth caution on Lap 149 because of debris in Turn 2.
Gordon surged ahead of Kahne after the restart on Lap 153, but a caution on Lap 156 for Matt Kenseth’s spin in the Tunnel Turn bunched the field again, and once again gave Kahne a chance to get the lead back, and thus the victory with two laps left.
Kahne made the winning pass to the outside of Gordon through Turn 1 and cleared his teammate near the entry to the Tunnel Turn at the tricky triangular track.
“On that final restart, I spun my tires a little bit and he (Gordon) got a great jump, and Kurt pushed me all the way to Turn 1, which really helped,” Kahne said. “I had one opportunity to either go for it and make it work, or not. As good as our (car) was all day long, I thought we could make that work on the outside.
“I just needed to clear him, and when we got to Turn 2, I was able to do that. It was a great race. We had a really fast car. (Crew chief) Kenny (Francis) called an awesome race, and the whole pit crew did a perfect job… We needed this one to get in the Chase—we were able to get it, and it feels really good.”
Gordon saw his shot at getting his first victory of the season pre-empted by the late caution, had the blues after the race.
“It’s funny how our emotions to go up and down in this sport,” Gordon said. “Before the race, if you told me that I’d finish second, I’d say that was a great birthday gift. But when you’re leading, and take the lead from Kasey (Kahne) the way we did you know, on that restart, I thought we had him. He was better than us but I thought getting out in front I could hold him off. I got a perfect restart that last one and probably jumped him a little bit and I moved up front of him and it looked like I needed to block the inside. I tried to protect the inside and he got out the outside and flat outdrove me through (Turn) 1. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get this win.”
With just five race left in “the regular season”, the time of reckoning is rapidly approaching. That is to say that the bell is tolling, and contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the pretenders! Or one more way to put it, and it is my most favorite saying,” it is time to let the big dog eat”!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!