Sunday, August 5, 2012
Gordon is Benefactor of Rain-Shortened Pennsylvania 400
by Dino Oberto
LONG POND, Pa. -- Hendrick Motorsports has been the most successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team at Pocono Raceway and that was the case yet again in Sunday’s rain shortened 39th Annual Pennsylvania 400 as Jeff Gordon won for the first time this season and record sixth at the Tricky Triangle. For team owner Rick Hendrick it was the 13th time one of his cars took top honors.
The Hendrick cars dominated the race although Gordon’s win was more luck than supremacy.
Jimmie Johnson was the strongest car on track, cruising out-front when the second yellow waved for a wall hitting incident by Kurt Busch on lap 85.
When the race resumed on lap 90, Johnson headed the pack over Matt Kenseth. Charging their way into turn one, Johnson’s Chevrolet lost traction and his tail end kicked out. As he was trying to gather the car he made contact with Kenseth’s Ford.
Amazingly Johnson never lost total control and made a great save although he fell back 14 spots. He did make contact with Kenseth who unfortunately slid up the track and banged the wall. After that he then came into the path of oncoming traffic and was clobbered by Denny Hamlin.
Gordon was running fifth on the restart but was able to fly past the chaos and came out as the race leader just as the caution waved. His teammate, Kasey Kahne, took the same evasive route and was second.
Just a few laps afterwards a powerful rain storm hit the area and the race was called at 98 laps complete. The race was slated for 160 laps. It was the second storm of the day. 30-minutes prior to the scheduled 1:15 p.m. start it down poured and delayed the things by two hours.
“It’s just been an amazing day. I said to Alan Gustafson (crew chief) that miracles to happen. I can think of a handful of times that we were in position to win this year and things didn’t go our way for whatever reason. To see this race unfold the way it did certainly makes up for a lot of those would have, could have, should haves this year,” said Gordon who started 27th.
“Things are coming together at the right time. The attitude of this team is that we never give up. We keep fighting. We go to the race track and try to win and today we got the win. Pocono has been a special place for us.”
While Gordon reaped the accolades of victory, it was Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who shined most for the Hendrick team.
Point leader Earnhardt was leading early in the race. He passed Hamlin for the top spot on 11 and looked solid until coming out after a scheduled pit stop on lap 47. His transmission gave way and he was forced to pit again, losing many laps.
Earnhardt led 17 circuits and prior to his falling out had run in the top three from the start.
Johnson led a race high 34 laps. Gordon led the final eight laps which were all run under caution. Kahne was scored the leader for one lap giving Team Hendrick a total of 70 of 98 laps out front.
This was the seventh Sprint Cup Series win of the 2012 season for Hendrick Motorsports.
“I hate that those guys got caught up in that spin and wreck or whatever happened there. It was slick on those re-starts. All four of our Hendrick cars finally got into victory lane in one year,” added Gordon who now has 86 career wins in 674 starts. 40 of them have been at Pocono.
The victory also puts him second behind Kahne in the wild card standings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup title and with five races to go before the title run begins.
“We had a great car. (Crew chief) Kenny Francis did an awesome job. The Hendrick power is something else here on these long straight-aways” said Kahne.
“Jeff (Gordon) got a little bit better restart and got in front of me in turn one when the field wrecked in front of us and he won the race and we were second so it was a solid day for us car. Jimmie (Johnson) was leading and we were faster if not faster than during a lot of the race then he was.”
Martin Truex, Jr., equaled his best Pocono finish in third with defending race winner Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart completing the top five.
Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Regan Smith and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top ten.
The race was slowed three times for 14 caution laps. Two of those yellows were for the Busch brothers Kyle and Kurt. Kyle hit the wall on lap 18. Kurt’s wall banger on lap 85 set the stage for the race’s outcome.