The Final Word – It was the thrill of victory at Pocono for one, but first a lot had to suffer the agony of defeat

If you were looking for tight pack racing, Pocono was not it. However, if you wanted to see variations of the old Wide World of Sports “agony of defeat” scenario, that it had.

Bubba Wallace, Jr. got his first Cup ride sitting in for the injured Aric Almirola. His opening act was a lot similar to an actor stepping out from behind the curtain for the first time, only to fall off the stage. Wallace got caught speeding on pit road twice in the opening stage, including his penalty pass through. He went down a lap early, and stayed there, coming home 26th.

Clint Bowyer saw his tail end slip slide away on him to brush the fence. He never threatened, yet finished on the lead lap in 17th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up a bad habit in his 609th career race. As you accelerate, shifting from third to fourth saves the engine. Shifting from third to second kills it. Junior did it twice. Once in practice, once during the second stage. Same result; 38th was to be his fate.

Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray are what I might call fitness freaks. They do freaky things together, like a Saturday bicycle ride, for example. They got caught in the rain and probably skipped the Piña coladas after that exercise trek got washed out. On Sunday, they had brake failures within a couple of seconds and a few yards apart. Johnson had his chimes rung a bit while McMurray needed to evacuate his burning auto. Now you know who finished just ahead of Junior.

Kevin Harvick was in his 588th race. Near the end of the second segment, he did the same damn thing Junior did. Fortunately for him, a quick tap on the clutch saved his bacon, along with a very stoutly built engine. It was a death watch for smoke and flames that proved to be a tad premature.

After Kasey Kahne brought out a late caution, we had Kyle Busch on point, with Ryan Blaney just behind him with 13 to go. Three laps later, Blaney finally managed to avoid the blocks and took over the lead, but he had company. As Rowdy faded to ninth, it was Harvick, abused engine and all, making this a race to the line. In the end, it was Dave Blaney’s son coming through to do something his dad could only come close to accomplishing in 473 starts and claim a Cup victory.

It was a great day for Blaney and Harvick, a good one points-wise for the Busch boys (Kurt was fourth), Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott. However, if we have just seven more drivers winning their first of the season over the next dozen races, points will not mean as much as they used it.

An encumbered win means nothing, so that leaves Joey Logano 16th in the standings, just three points up on Matt Kenseth. Michigan is next, and with the pair having won two of the past three runs at the track, it might be a time for one of those other Wide World of Sports moments. You know, the “thrill of victory.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of  As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases for some links and banners that are being displayed on

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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