Pocono Race Recap

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The Key Moment - Jimmie Johnson was fending off a hard challenge from Jeremy Mayfield when Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton blew engines almost simultaneously drawing a caution flag. Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick got into a shoving match under caution which added more debris to the track surface, and while the cars were halted, no red flag was ever displayed. (Despite the fact the crew chiefs were apparently told it would be.)

In a Nutshell - Once again a profusion of confusion makes it difficult to draw any conclusion. So what's the solution?

Dramatic Moment - The most dramatic part of Sunday's race was the part that never happened, the last four races.

There was some intense racing in those handful of laps between the restart after the tenth caution and the last yellow flag after Johnson had once again dominated most of a race.

Waiting to see if Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth were going to destroy each other. I bet it got pretty dramatic in the official trailer once those two met up after the race as well.

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

Honest to goodness, these NASCAR guys could screw up at two car funeral, couldn't they? So much for learning something from last week's Dover Debacle and salvation through electronics. And again, why not red flag the race while they figure out the running order?

Why did NASCAR bring the field to a stop then not red flag the race? It seemed they were still within the window for a red flag announced before the race started. This is a two and a half mile track after all.

Who was the instigator in the Matt Kenseth- Kevin Harvick brawl under caution? Will one or both of them get sat out for a race? What was Kenseth thinking pitting under yellow with the race not going back green? Did he have a flat?

Why did the tenth caution flag fly for incidental contact in the Tunnel Turn? Was NASCAR admitting they almost stole the race from Johnson and trying to make sure they handed it back to him by keeping him from running out of gas?

Are the fans in Pennsylvania politer than those in Alabama, or they just not as good at throwing stuff. Was FOX purposely trying to downplay the amount of debris thrown? Or was less stuff thrown because it wasn't Junior in second?

Does the Pocono Chamber of Commerce have some sort of payola deal with the Weather Channel not to predict rain on race weekends? As late as 2 AM on Sunday morning the forecast was still for 70 degrees and sunny, yet the race started under thick clouds with rain in the area. (It beats the year we went to bed with a sunny forecast up there and woke up with the cooler floating away across the backyard.) Still, not having the usual pre-race show was actually a bonus.

Why did Bobby Labonte stay out while his car was oiling down the whole track?

Seems like these new Ford engines need a little more development huh? Well the new engines in the 88 and the 99 almost made it to the end. The top finishing Ford driver ran the old engine. Go figure.

What's gone wrong with Ryan Newman's qualifying efforts? He hasn't won a pole since March (Bristol) and Kasey Kahne now has four poles to Newman's three. (Actually Newman is still doing all right. His eleventh place effort at Pocono ended a streak of four straight outside poles.)

Did you make it to the end of the Busch race or did you fall asleep on the couch? When's the last time a NASCAR race ran until almost two in the morning ET? (So, OK, Nashville is an hour behind the East Coast.) Sure hope this doesn't become an issue with the Labor Day weekend race at California.

Three more races and Darrell Waltrip is gone for the season right? It seems like he ran out of sensible things to say a month ago and yet he keeps right on talking.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

If they managed to eke out even an iota of their vanished credibility after last week by apologizing for their conduct, NASCAR officials squandered that iota Sunday. But on a brighter note, FREE BEER!

Last week's winner Mark Martin was unable to ride the momentum wave after he blew an engine mid-way through the race. And that was despite the fact Martin opted to go the conservative route with the tried and true Ford engine rather than the newly developed one.

Scott Wimmer and Sterling Marlin were running on the lead lap when Bobby Labonte wore a hole through his oil filter and oiled down the track. Both Marlin and Wimmer wrecked in the incident.

Tony's tricky tranny turned to trash today in turn two.

Whatever animal Johnson hit out on the track has gone to Critter Heaven.

Michael Waltrip typically doesn't run well at Pocono. Rusty Wallace saw to it that the streak continued. It was a miserable weekend who also ran poorly in the Saturday night (into Sunday morning) Busch race. I wonder what he's like to do with Wallace's finger.

Ryan Newman was struggling a bit but was put out of his misery when Robby "Captain Crunch" Gordon bounced off the curb and wrecked the 12 car in the tunnel turn.

Dale Jarrett was running in the top 5 when he blew an engine with five laps to go. Jeff Burton was also vying for a top 10 finish when he blew an engine late.

It wasn't a great day for Roger Penske. One of his cars blew an engine (77) another got wrecked by Robby Gordon (12) and the third allegedly lost its brakes and wrecked in the tunnel turn.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

A mistake by the pace car driver and pit road flagman left Jimmie Johnson in danger of running out of gas before the end of the race. But a wealth of late cautions and a red flag that never flew clinched his win. He also had to survive a collision with a UFM. (Unidentified flying mammal.)

Jeff Gordon was forced to make a second pit stop when lug nuts were left loose on pit road and he fell back to 23rd, but rallied back to a convincing fourth place finish at the end.

When Bobby Labonte's car ground an oil filter open two other cars wrecked but Labonte kept going. Though he lost 4.5 of 5 gallons of oil the Cup cars run the engine was apparently undamaged and despite having to pit for repairs he still finished third. That's mind blowing. Jiffy Lube can't replace an oil filter that fast.

He might not have had the greatest finish but Ward Burton spun in the tunnel turn and didn't hit anything or anyone. That ought to give him a medal and an airplane or something for that trick.

Once again Earnhardt had a slow car early in the race and he was clearly displeased with it. But the team rallied back to a sixth place finish to preserve their spot atop the points standings despite Johnson's win.

Jamie McMurray just slipped by when Wallace and Waltrip wrecked. He went on to finish ninth.

Worth Noting

Jimmie Johnson's third win of the season has him tied with Earnhardt Jr. for the most victories this season. Kenseth and Jeff Gordon have two wins apiece, so those four drivers half won ten of fourteen races this year.

The top finishers drove seven Chevys, two Dodges and a lone Ford. (Kurt Busch in ninth). If the race had ended two laps earlier there might have been four Fords in the top 10. Seriously I'm so confused right now my brain hurts.

Brian Vickers was the top finishing rookie coming home fourteenth, one spot ahead of fellow rookie candidate Kasey Kahne.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has the most top 10 finishes this season (Eleven to Johnson's ten) but Johnson now has more top 5 finishes (Nine to Earnhardt's eight.)

Kasey Kahne matches Art Watts as far as the least amount of starts to accumulate four poles. But Watts started 10 races in 1954 and 56 without earning a pole, prior to winning the pole in all five races he entered in 1957. For comparison's sake it took Ryan Newman 35 races to score four poles.

In the last six races Johnson has won twice and finished second twice. He was running second at Dover when he got wrecked from behind. He has top 10 in nine of the last ten points races with top 5 results in seven of those events.

Kurt Busch scored his first top 5 finish since winning at Bristol.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished sixth or better in the last four points races and in seven of the last eight races.

Jeremy Mayfield finished second for the second time this year. (The last time was at Atlanta.) He's now finished second eight times since his last win.

Jeff Gordon has top 10 finishes in seven of the last nineCup points races.

Last week's race was the slowest ever run at Dover. This week's race was the slowest ever run at Pocono. Sensing a pattern here? Don't shorten the races, just officiate them correctly.

What's the Points?

Earnhardt Jr. maintains the points lead but is now just 58 points ahead of second place Jimmie Johnson. Matt Kenseth remains in third but fell back to 224 points behind Earnhardt. (As Richard Petty might say, he had a lot of help losing those points.)

Jeff Gordon took back the fourth place position in the points he surrender to Tony Stewart last week.

Bobby Labonte moved up two spots to sixth in the points. Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler each slid back a spot to wind up seventh and eighth respectively.

Ryan Newman remains tenth in the points but is now 439 points out of the lead.

Jeremy Mayfield vaulted ahead four spots to wind up eleventh, only two points out of the top 10 (and just two points ahead of twelfth place Jamie McMurray) and 41 points out of the magical mystical 400 marker point behind the leader.

Michael Waltrip took the biggest hit in the points falling four spots to 24th, 714 points out of the lead. Terry Labonte and Greg Biffle each moved up two spots to nineteenth and 23rd.

To make way for Mayfield, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace all slid back a position. They are now twelfth through fifteenth respectively.

If both drivers are hit with a 25 point fine for their actions under caution, Kevin Harvick would remain ninth in the points but Matt Kenseth would fall back to fourth position.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) The only cans that count this weekend are the ones thrown over the fence to make NASCAR fans feelings about how this sport is being run (into the ground) known. The FOX folks might hate you, but I feel your pain.

Next Up - It's off to the Irish Hills in Michigan for NASCAR's Fathers' Day Matinee. We'll have to wait and see what NASCAR screws up next week.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2004

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