Three drivers. When it came to the story of the Pocono race, only three mattered. You probably wanted to know who led the race for the opening few laps, and that would have been Carl Edwards. He finished 15th. For the rest of the way, it was down to two names, right down to the final lap; Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. No one else much mattered on Sunday.
When it comes down to points, these two lead the way this year. When it comes to wins, Harvick’s two trailed only Jimmie Johnson’s four in that department. Truex, on the other hand, still had to close the deal. That finally happened in a race where he was a factor from start to finish, leading four times for 97 of the 160 laps, to snap a 69 race winless string. Harvick led for 39 to claim his 10th Top Two in 14 starts. As for third place, that eventually went to Johnson, as Pocono became a showcase of the three best thus far in 2015. Okay, Top Four, with Joey Logano finishing fourth.
With the Truex win, we still have no drivers outside the Top 16 in points with a victory this season. With a dozen events to go, that could change, which would put some pressure on those up there, yet still winless. However, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne and even Jeff Gordon look safe for the moment though Paul Menard, Aric Almirola and Ryan Newman are vulnerable. All three finished outside the Top Thirty on Sunday.
Top Thirty on the season is valuable for those who want to win to be in. Only Kyle Busch has a realistic expectation to possibly win amongst the outsiders, and he sits 151 points behind Trevor Bayne for that 30th spot. Busch gained 15 points on Bayne over the weekend and needs to average a 12.6 point advantage over each of the next 12 races, as well as claim a win along the way, for it to matter.
Danica Patrick looked good for much of the race, solidly a Top 15, if not better. She lost a tire, found a fence, and finished 37th. However, the girl looked good, and for those on her bandwagon, that certainly counts for something.
After taking the last five at Pocono, shared by their four drivers, Team Hendrick had to settle for all four in the Top 15. Considering the trials Truex has faced both professionally and personally over the past couple of years, I think their genuine happiness over his success more than makes up for any disappointment that they might feel. Way more.
While Truex celebrated, Almirola (43rd), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (42nd), and Sam Hornish Jr. (41st) were top thirty drivers who did not have top thirty days. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch (9th), Ty Dillon (18th), and Landon Cassill (25th) were among those outsiders who gladly took their place.
Michigan International Speedway is the next stop, where the last six contests run over the past three years have been split between Hendrick Chevrolets and Roush or Penske Fords. At least it is a venue Hendrick has not won the last five…just the last two.