Pocono Race Recap

The Key Moment – Bobby Labonte’s blown engine and subsequent crash ensured not only that Ryan Newman had enough gas to finish the race but that he had enough to drive wide open and keep Kurt Busch behind him.

In a Nutshell- It’s nice when one of these deals doesn’t come down to fuel mileage at the end.

Dramatic Moment-

For the final five laps Kurt Busch was stalking Ryan Newman and running him down. It looked like a finish worthy of Darlington was brewing but Busch just wasn’t fast enough through the third corner.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Why was Kyle Busch’s pole speed for the ARCA race faster than Ryan Newman’s pole speed for the Cup race?

Is the title race over or does someone still have a chance to catch Kenseth? Think Kenseth was a little upset by the conservative points racing decision to pit for gas late?

Does it seem like Michael Waltrip is running into a lot of people lately?

Did they ever catch the guy who ran across the track? What a moron. Did he think this was a Formula One race?

Is Craven going to get penalized for remaining on the track when he had several chances to turn off? The timing of that yellow flag is going to have conspiracy theorists howling!

What was McMurray thinking racing the leaders while he was five laps or more down?

How many more poles and races is Newman going to win this year?

Does Miss Winston work for Powerade now? At least Ryan was subtle about removing the oversized prop she tried to replace before a member of the 12 team hustled it out of camera view.


The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Mark Martin usually runs well at Pocono but he got tag-teamed by the DEI cars midway through the race.

Jeff Gordon took a big hit in the points when he wrecked. That’s two straight off weekends for the 24 team with Gordon looking hopelessly out to lunch all weekend at Pocono. (His 25th place qualifying result was his worst since Atlanta this spring.)

Ricky Rudd’s much heralded 700th start didn’t work out too well. He lost an engine.

Casey Mears had a dream weekend going with two ARCA wins at Pocono and a strong run early in the Cup race, but when it went bad, it went bad big. Mears crashed out of the Cup race.

Tony Stewart had a car that looked strong enough to win but blew an engine. It was Stewart’s 5th DNF of the year. Combined with teammate Bobby Labonte’s blown engine and subsequent crash it was a rough day for Joe Gibbs engine shop and Mark Conqurist.

Jamie McMurray was running in the top 5 when he broke a transmission.

Jeremy Mayfield became the latest driver to cross Robby Gordon off his Christmas card list. At this rate Gordon might as well become a Buddhist.

No matter how well he runs in the first half of the race Rusty Wallace just can’t parlay it into a competitive finish.


The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Ryan Newman’s day could have ended when he thought he had a tire going down early and he dove into the pits. Not only was he right at the entrance to the pit lane when he felt he had problems but everyone else pitted over the next six laps to return him to the lead. And as it turned out the tire wasn’t flat anyway.

Kurt Busch overcame pit row problems to finish second.

Michael Waltrip came away with a top 5 finish despite damaging his fenders in the wreck with Mark Martin.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also suffered some collision damage in the wreck with Martin and he was forced to the pits to get the passenger side “window” refastened.

Worth Noting

Ryan Newman now leads all drivers with four wins in 2003. Kurt Busch who finished second has the second most wins with three.

Matt Kenseth continues to lead all drivers with fifteen top 10 finishes in 2003 but Dale Earnhardt Jr. is closing the gap with thirteen top 10s. Bobby Labonte continues to lead all drivers with ten top 5 finishes but has failed to score a top 5 in the last three races.

The top 10 finishers consisted of four Fords, four Chevys and two Dodges. The best finishing Pontiac was Johnny Benson in twentieth.

It wasn’t a great day for rookies with Tony Raines having the best finish of the rookie crop in 16th. Greg Biffle was next in 27th.

Four drivers finished in the top 10 in both Pocono races; Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Terry Labonte and Sterling Marlin.

Todd Bodine scored his first top 10 finish of the season finishing eighth. Dave Blaney scored his first top 10 since he finished third at Darlington this spring.

Ryan Newman has top 5 finishes in seven of the last nine races and the last three consecutive races. Dodges have won four races this year and Newman has won every one of those races.

Kurt Busch scored his first top 10 finish since he won at Michigan last month.

Jeff Burton scored his fourth straight top 10 finish.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished eleventh or better in six of the last seven races.

Kurt Busch has now finished second four times this season.

Jimmie Johnson has failed to finish in the top 10 in six of the last eight races.

Joe Nemechek’s seventh place finish was his first top 10 in a points race since he won at Richmond.

Terry Labonte scored his third top 5 finish of 2003. He only had one top 5 finish in all of 2002.

Sterling Marlin scored his first top 10 finish since he finished sixth at Michigan.


What’s the Points?

Mechanical problems and crashes really scrambled the points situation this week. Matt Kenseth continues to lead (as he has since Las Vegas) and is now 232 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. who takes over second place from Jeff Gordon. (Who now trails Kenseth by 308 points or more than two full races worth. The maximum points a driver can gain on a race weekend is 143 barring injury to the points leader. )

This week’s biggest gainer is Ryan Newman who skyrockets four spots back into the top 10 and ninth place. Hendrick teammate Terry Labonte and Joe Nemechek each gained three spots and are now thirteenth and 22nd respectively.

This week’s “Wrong Way Willies” include Tony Stewart (down five spots to fourteenth) Mark Martin (down four spots to sixteenth) and Rickys Craven and Rudd (down two spots a piece to nineteenth and 23rd.)

Also inside the top 10 Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte swapped fourth and fifth spots with Johnson now having the advantage despite a fifteenth place finish Sunday at Pocono.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We’ll give this one four and a half cans of Coors Light. It’s been awhile since it’s been a matter of seeing if the second place driver could pass for the win rather than waiting to see if the leader ran out of gas.

Next Up- It’s back off to Cow Country for the Brickyard 400, a race that’s ironically more sizzle than steak. Moo-gity, moo-gity, moo-gity, Boys.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003

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