Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the 33rd Annual Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania for the 14th race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. This is his 21st victory in 519 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and his first victory at Pocono.
Earnhardt Jr., driving the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, is virtually assured of gaining a spot among the top 16 winners after race #26 at Richmond International Raceway the first weekend in September. Earnhardt Jr. has to attempt to qualify for every race and finish in the top 30th in driver points to remain eligible. Earnhardt Jr. joins fellow teammate Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano with two victories this season. Since 2004 Earnhardt Jr. has not won multiple races in a season, in 2004 he won 6 races.
“He (Brad Keselowski) didn’t want to let me by but I don’t think his motor was going to make it, that’s unfortunate for him.” Earnhardt Jr. said in victory lane. “He had me beat. I couldn’t get to him. It’s real hard to pass here. I’ve lost some in some strange ways. It feels good to win one like that.”
“We had a little temperature on our car. Brad definitely had the better car,” Earnhardt Jr. continued. “I’ll own up to that, but we won the race.”
The race looked as if Brad Keselowski would drive away with the win after having the dominate car all race long, leading 95 of the 160 scheduled laps of the race when debris on the front grille caused temperatures to rise on the #2 Redd’s Ford.
Keselowski pulled behind the lap down car of the #10 Go Daddy Chevrolet to get the debris off when Danica Patrick slid up the track, Keselowski lost momentum as he swerved to go around but Earnhardt Jr. saw his opportunity and pounced, passing both Patrick and Keselowski.
Keselowski then tried to pull up behind Earnhardt Jr., who also had debris littered on the front of his car and had climbing water temperatures too, in an attempt to remove the trash that cause the temperature to rise but couldn’t get close enough.
“I had a really fast car and I just had a big piece of debris and had to do something,” Keselowski said. “Had to do some kind of move or it wasn’t going to make it. It was running really hot, the motor was going to blow up.”
“Maybe I should have just ran it. I didn’t think it would have made it,” Keselowski said. “Maybe it would have.”
Keselowski finished the race in second, with Kurt Busch in third, Denny Hamlin finishing in fourth, and the rookie Kyle Larson finished in fifth. Johnson, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top ten.
The next race is at Michigan International Speedway for the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday, June 15 with coverage on TNT beginning at 1 pm eastern time.