Surprising and Not Surprising: Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono

On a weekend where the patriarch of Pocono Raceway, Doc Mattioli, dramatically announced his retirement and sporadic rain made both the NASCAR Camping World Truck race and the ARCA Series race two-day events, it was no wonder that there was drama aplenty in the 38th Annual Good Sam RV Insurance 500.

[media-credit id=43 align=”alignright” width=”230″][/media-credit]Here is what was surprising and not surprising from the Long Pond, Pennsylvania track known affectionately as the ‘Tricky Triangle’.

Surprising:  Although known for his victory lap celebrations displaying a large American flag, it was surprising how the race winner put aside both the celebration and the pain of his broken ankle to patriotically pay tribute to the lives of the troops lost this weekend.

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, climbed gingerly from his race car after taking the checkered flag to pay tribute to the Navy Seals and all who protect the country.

“I’m no hero,” Keselowski said. “The heroes are the guys that died in Afghanistan this weekend. And I want to spend time thinking about them.”

“I have a cousin in the Navy Seals,” Keselowski said. “It was really inspirational to me.  That’s what it means to man up.”

“They were my inspiration for this weekend,” Keselowski continued. “I’m glad that we could win today but those are the heroes. I just drive race cars.”

This was Keselowski’s third victory in 74 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and his second victory in the 2011 season. This was also Keselowski’s first victory at Pocono Raceway.

Not Surprising:  With Keselowski’s set up in his car, it was no surprise that his teammate Kurt Busch, behind the wheel of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge, finished third. This was Busch’s 12th top-10 finish in 22 races at Pocono Raceway.

Although Kurt Busch did everything he could after the race to deflect the attention, it was also not surprising that he had the most significant altercation in the race, on and off the track. Busch got into it with five-time champ Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, as the two battled for position late in the race.

“Today was definitely a hard fought battle,” Busch said. “We were hanging on to it at the end. And I brought her home third.”

“We had a good battle all day, especially at the end with the 48,” Busch said. “We’ve had our battles and a lot of times I come out on the short end of the stick. But what I saw today was good hard racing.”

“That’s what race fans love to see, that’s what they bought this ticket for, that’s what they’re sitting in the grandstands, rooting on their favorite driver for to see him get out there, mix it up clean, and bring it home, just like what we were third and fourth.”

Surprising:  At a track the he admittedly does not do well at and after spinning in the early laps of the race, as well as being penalized for pitting too soon, it was surprising to see the other Busch brother, Kyle, finish in the runner up position. This was the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota driver’s fifth top-10 finish in four races at Pocono but his 13th top-10 finish in 2011.

“The guys were flawless this weekend,” Busch said. “We worked real hard at it and it was fast.”

“That last caution killed us,” Busch continued. “I was really hoping to see it go green the rest of the way. Our car was fast out front.”

“All in all, it was a great day to come in second at one of my worst tracks.”

This was the second race of the day in which Busch finished second. He was also the bridesmaid to Kevin Harvick in the Camping World Truck Series race, held over due to the rain.

Not Surprising:  Speaking of weather, it was not surprising to see it impact the race, which ended up being was halted for a rain delay lasting one hour, 40 minutes and 46 second. Principal among those drivers who suffered the consequences of the precipitation was pole sitter Joey Logano.

The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet not only started the race in front but was in the lead when the rains came pouring down. In spite of doing every rain dance possible, Pocono Raceway got the track dry and the race resumed. Logano, however, did not resume well,  struggling after the race restart, cutting a right rear tire down late in the race and finishing 26th.

“We just had a flat,” Greg Zipadelli, Logano’s crew chief, said. “You can’t predict that.”

Surprising:  Teammates Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota Camry, had their hopes for a good race weekend surprisingly dashed at the ‘Tricky Triangle.’

Vickers suffered an engine failure early in the race and suffered his first DNF since Talladega, officially finishing 39th.

“We lost an engine,” Vickers said dejectedly. “It was tough. I think we had a good car.”

“We just haven’t had things go our way.”

Teammate Kahne also did not have things go his way. He got into a late race collision with Juan Pablo Montoya and finished 28th.

“We started the weekend off pretty strong,” Kahne said. “But in the race we just were behind.”

“It definitely wasn’t what I expected, especially for a team that’s run so well here in the past.”

Not Surprising:  Since Jeff Gordon  won the June 12th Pocono race, it was not surprising to see him power his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet back from a qualifying encounter with the wall to finish top ten in the August 7th Pocono race.

“I’m happy with our finish considering were we started, deep in the field,” Gordon said.

It was also not surprising that his fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammates had good finishes as well, with Jimmie Johnson in fourth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 9th and Mark Martin in 13th.

“We had a good car all day long and I’m real happy how that worked out,” Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said.

Surprising:  With all the focus on ‘Iron Man’ Keselowski for gutting out his win and the new feud brewing between five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and one-time champion Kurt Busch, the driver of the No. 27 Certain Teed/Menards Chevrolet went surprisingly unnoticed.

Yet Paul Menard followed up his surprising win from last week at the Brickyard with a tenth place finish at Pocono.

“It was a good follow-up to last week’s win,” Menard said. “We fought hard for this top-10 finish.”

Not Surprising:  It was not surprising that the three turns of Pocono wreaked havoc with many drivers, most significantly the driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford. David Ragan brought out the second caution early in the race when he spun, heavily damaging the back end of his car.

“I was probably a little too aggressive this early in the race,” Ragan said. “I ran out of race track and didn’t have enough room to chase it.”

With his 34th place finish, David Ragan not surprisingly became NASCAR’s biggest loser, plummeting three positions in the point standings to 19th, all but shattering his Chase hopes.

Surprising:  There were a surprising number of lead changes, however, they were primarily due to green flag pit stops and not passing on the track. Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, had the lead four times for 65 laps and yet, in spite of that, still finished a surprisingly poor 15th at a track where he has excelled in the past.

Not Surprising:  Given the intensity of the restarts, especially on the long Pocono straightaway, it was not surprising to see yet another driver get bit by a changing lanes before the start-finish line penalty. Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M/811 Ford, was assessed a pass through penalty, yet was able to learn from his mistakes, overcome it, and rebound to finish 8th.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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