Same track, same result for Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Hendrick Motorsports driver returned to Pocono to win his second consecutive race at the track and his third of the season overall.
The No. 88 car was in contention throughout the day, but late strategy led to Earnhardt pushing himself to first in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. Junior held off Kevin Harvick in the final laps to became just the third driver to win three races on the season.
Though he had never won a race at the track before the 2014 season, Earnhardt now has the season sweep at the Tricky Triangle.
It was a sweep for Hendrick as well. The team now has another milestone to add to the long list of achievements, as Jim Utter of The Charlotte Observer notes:
Earnhardt picked up his first victory at Pocono after Brad Keselowski had issues with debris. But on Sunday, the No. 88 car dominated the end of the race. Earnhardt spoke about the win, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News:
Dale Jr tells team: "We didnt get lucky that time" .. also did I hear right that he said he drove like sh*t but had a great car.— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) August 3, 2014
With the win, Junior has now won at least three races in a season for the third time in his career. He's still three wins off his pace of six in 2004, but he's showing signs of that kind of dominance.
Jeff Gluck of USA Today provides some background on just how great the season has been for Junior:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has now won as many races in 2014 (three) as he did from 2006-2013 COMBINED. #NASCAR— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 3, 2014
The only other time Dale Jr. swept a track: Talladega 2002.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 3, 2014
Just behind Harvick, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five. While Harvick and Logano didn't win the race, they still have a spot secured for the Chase at the end of the regular season unlike Bowyer and Biffle.
Here's a look at the full results and standings following the GoBowling.com 400:
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||14|
|18||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||0|
Full results can be found at NASCAR.com.
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||740||3||10||15|
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||740|
An eventful afternoon in Pocono started with rookie Kyle Larson atop the leaderboard after winning his first Sprint Cup pole. The 22-year-old finished 11th.
Larson may be a rising star in the Sprint Cup Series, but one driver who has been atop the points for much of the year made more history on Sunday. After collecting a win at the Brickyard last weekend, Jeff Gordon reached another milestone at Pocono, per NASCAR:
Gordon ran near the front of the pack on Sunday and put together yet another strong performance. The Hendrick representative has proved all season he's still a dominant driver and looks like a contender for the Sprint Cup title.
Though there were some promising results from both Larson and Gordon, there were plenty of drivers who fell on hard times at Pocono.
The biggest pileup on the day came late in the race, halting several contenders. Denny Hamlin got loose on Turn 1 and caused several of the drivers behind him to wreck, as NASCAR Stats mentions:
The following thirteen cars were involved in the accident in Turn 1: 43, 20, 47, 2, 27, 14, 55, 51, 11, 7, 78, 4, 99. #NASCAR— NASCAR Stats (@NASCARStats) August 3, 2014
One of those drivers involved in the accident was Matt Kenseth, who hasn't won a race to this point in the season. Joe Gibbs Racing provides a look at the carnage from the wreck:
Following the Pocono event, just five races remain before the start of the new Chase format. Several notable drivers are still searching for an important win heading to Watkins Glen as the season winds down.
Tony Stewart and Marcos Ambrose have pulled out victories at Watkins Glen in the past and will need another to secure a spot in the Chase.
With the points race tightening up, those drivers and several others will need a good showing next week. As for Junior, the Chase Grid leader looks like a contender for the points championship moving forward.
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