[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”241″][/media-credit]In a race delayed by rain at the start and then called later for severe thunderstorms, one driver weathered the storms to collect his first victory of the season.
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, won the rain-shortened race, with torrential rain, blinding wind, thunder and lightning heralding his official celebration.
The win tops an action-packed weekend for the Hendrick Motorsports driver, who earlier collected the Heisman Trophy Humanitarian Award and celebrated his 41st birthday. Crew chief Alan Gustafson also celebrated his birthday on race day.
This was Gordon’s 86th victory in 674 Cup races and he is third on the all-time series wins list. But sweeter still is that this is Gordon’s first win of the season and his ninth top-10 finish in 2012.
Although wild weather this weekend, Pocono Raceway has been smooth sailing for Gordon. This is his sixth victory at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ and he is now the sole proprietor of the all-time Pocono win list.
With the victory, Gordon moves to second in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup wild card standings.
“Pocono has been a special place for us,” Gordon said. “It’s been an interesting year to say the least.”
“We’ve had some trying times,” Gordon continued. “We’ve had cars capable of winning and things didn’t go our way, so to see this race unfold the way it did certainly makes up for those would have, could have, should haves.”
“Today we got the win and it’s nice to know that things can still go our way.”
What meant the most to Gordon, however, was that his family, his wife Ingrid Vandebosch and children Ella and Leo, were there to celebrate with him.
“With the wind, rain and lightning, I was so excited to have all my family here,” Gordon said. “I didn’t care if Victory Lane was in a shed.”
“That experience means more to me than anything else.”
“Obviously that was a great day for us,” Alan Gustafson, crew chief, said. “We didn’t have the fastest car but we did have a good enough car to get a win. It all worked out our way.”
Along with Gordon in the first wild card position is now teammate Kasey Kahne. The driver of the No. 5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet finished in the runner up spot, even with a flat right rear tire and some miscues in the pits.
This was Kahne’s sixth top-10 finish in 18 races at Pocono and his 11th top-10 finish for the season.
“We had a great car,” Kahne said. “The Hendrick power is something else here on these straightaways.”
“I made a mistake on pit road, slid over the hose, and it cost us a lot of time and a couple of positions,” Kahne continued. “Jeff got a little better restart and got in front of me when the field wrecked in front of us and he won the race.”
“And we came in second,” Kahne said. “It was a solid day for us car-wise.”
New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr., in the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, posted his fifth top-10 finish in 14 races at Pocono. He scored the third place finish in the 39th Annual Pennsylvania 400.
Truex Jr. commented that the weather was a ‘monsoon’ and that he had to move quickly through his post-race media obligations.
“Newman told me ‘one word answers’ because he’s waiting on me and we’ve got to go,’ Truex Jr. said. “It was a good race for NAPA Toyota.”
“Once we got going out there, we were the fastest car on the track,” Truex Jr. continued. “Obviously we got a little bit lucky because a lot of those guys wrecked.”
“All in all a good day for us.”
Storms brewed for the Busch brothers, both of whom had close encounters with the wall. Kyle Busch, driving the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota, brought out the first caution on Lap 20 and brother Kurt, behind the wheel of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet, brought out the second caution on Lap 87.
While Kurt Busch was whisked away without comment from the infield care center after his hard hit, Kyle Busch had plenty to share as his team worked feverishly on his car to get him back on the track.
“We just blew out the rear brake rotors – – disintegrated it and then blew out the rear caliper after that,” Kyle Busch said. “Getting down into Turn One with a three-wheel brake is about the worst situation you can have as a race car driver.”
“I kept trying to pump it to keep feeding pressure to the rest of the three wheels to keep it off the fence, but just couldn’t do it,” Busch continued. “I hate it for all of these guys. We had a really fast race car today.”
Busch admitted that this did nothing but hurt him in the point standings. And he knows that a win will be a necessity going forward.
“We’re obviously not going to make the top-10 so if we get a win great we’ll make the Chase,” Busch said. “If not, we’ll probably miss it.”
Points leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also had a stormy day at the ‘Tricky Triangle.’ The driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet lost a transmission and finished 32nd.
“We didn’t have third or fourth gear, so we had to change the transmission,” Junior said. “After qualifying it was fine, but when the race started it was a bit of a vibration and started missing some shifts.”
“We had a good run going,” Junior continued. “I’m sorry to all the guys at the shop and I hope we get a win for one of our cars.”
The other major drama of the race occurred in the waning laps just before the storms hit. On Lap 92, the race leaders got into one another, causing a wreck that involved Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson.
“Well on that last restart, Turn One actually widened out pretty good and we took off,” Kenseth, driving the No. 17 Zest Ford, said. “The 2 didn’t get going and I had a pretty good gap so I crossed the line and was going to pull behind Jimmie (Johnson) and when I pulled down to go behind him I got a little draft and actually pulled up to his door.”
“So, I decided to race him through there and we went off into One and I could hear his pipes,” Kenseth continued. “I wasn’t sure he lifted. He drove in really, really far and spun out underneath me and I got wrecked.”
“You don’t mind if something happens it is just a bummer when it takes you out after you are running top three all day and finish 22nd or wherever we are,” Kenseth said. “That is very disappointing and it is hard to look at the bright spot in that.”
Rounding out the top-five finishers in the Pennsylvania 400 were Brad Keselowski, in the No. 2 Miller Lite Doge, who finished fourth, and Tony Stewart, in the No. 14 Office Depot Back to School Chevrolet, who finished fifth.
|Unofficial Race Results|
|Pennsylvania 400, Pocono Raceway|
|3||15||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||41|
|16||25||22||Sam Hornish Jr.||Dodge||0|
|32||8||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||13|
|37||34||26||Josh Wise *||Ford||7|