Pennsylvania 500: Winners and Losers

Patti RodischAnalyst IAugust 3, 2009

LONG POND, PA - AUGUST 03:  Denny Hamlin (L), driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a crew member in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2009 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

If you turned the TV on Sunday to watch the race day programs then you noticed it was wet, well let’s be honest downright soaked. Mother Nature had her way and pushed back the start of the race on Sunday to Monday.

Now you can check out this week’s winners and losers in the series final visit in the Pocono Mountains for 2009.

 

Winners

Denny Hamlin

It has been an emotional week for Denny Hamlin, after losing his grandmother late last week he wanted this race.

Hamlin had a great car all day long. They stayed up front and paced the field. They fell behind on an adjustment but battled back.

Hamlin wanted this win, and he wanted it bad. On the final restart Hamlin muscle his car to the front and taking the lead away from Clint Bowyer, and never looking back.

Hamlin has come oh so close many times this year, only to come up short, but this victory is sweeter for this driver.

The emotions were raw and you couldn’t help but you couldn’t help but feeling like the right guy won this race today.

Points: Fifth

 

Juan Pablo Montoya 

Well last week Juan Pablo Montoya was on the other side of this list, but today smart pit strategy and a good race car earned them their first top five finish of the year.

It didn’t start out so good for this team. They struggled with the setup and were really fighting for a top 15 finish.

A great call by this team that brought Montoya in right as the caution came out and allowed him to pit and come out in the top five. Montoya lost momentum on a restart and he never really had a shot at Hamlin in the end.

A second place finish is a good point’s day for this team.

Taking care of business each and every day…I am sorry wrong sponsor, too bad for target no snazzy catch line.

Points: Eighth


Sam Hornish Jr.

Sadly, for Sam Hornish Jr. all the talk will be about Denny Hamlin's emotional win and Montoya, and Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson comebacks.

Hornish though had a comeback of his own today. After starting deep in the pack this team played pit strategy and fuel mileage perfect.

Hornish didn’t have the best car out there today, but they worked on this car made good adjustments and worked their way through the field. They pit just as a caution came out and were able to start up front and battle for the win.

He fell back just a bit on the final restart but was able to earn his best finish in his Sprint Cup career in fourth.

I have said this a lot can he carry this momentum into the next week and for the first time I actually think he can.

Points: 27th

 

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson was fast. He was fast on Friday and fast on Saturday. On Sunday he was fast until he had a mechanical failure and went three laps down during green flag stops. Johnson had a top five car all day long; in fact he was a threat for the lead.

They diagnosed the issue as a carburetor issue, but it was too late they went down two laps. You got to give credit to that team they managed the caution time perfectly and corrected the issue.

With multiple cautions and Johnson being the only car at least one lap down, Johnson earned all three of his laps back and went onto finish 13th.Champions are able to rebound and Johnson proved that on Monday.

Are we surprised that Johnson finished on the lead lap after being three laps down?

Points: Second

 

Losers

Robby Gordon

You know sometimes keeping your mouth shut on the radio after an incident on track is the best option.

Robby Gordon has yet to learn that apparently. After an on track altercation with David Stremme, Gordon repeatedly on the radio threatened to take Stremme out.

He was taunting NASCAR to penalize this struggling organization as long as he got his revenge. On the restart Stremme and Gordon were racing each other the two made contact and Gordon went spinning and both received damage to their race cars.

NASCAR penalized Stremme five laps for aggressive driving and Gordon five laps for hitting a car under caution.

Now on TV you never saw this caution incident, so it leaves me to speculate that NASCAR really penalized him for his actions on the radio and on the track.

You would think Gordon who is struggling, just barley in the top 35 in owner’s points would be smart and just fix the car and move on, and unfortunately for him he didn’t, costing him a better finish than 33rd.

The difference between Stewart the owner/driver and Gordon also an owner/driver Stewart knows it’s better to salvage a good point’s day rather than tear up a race car, Gordon doesn’t.

Points: 34th

 

Carl Edwards

I am not sure what happened here, at one point Carl Edwards was second on the track late in the race. After a pit stop and a running order reshuffling due to strategy he was outside the top 10 and never recovered.

They were pretty consistent early on and were running well within the top 10. They were making good adjustments but would lose ground on pit road.

Edwards, who was as high as second at one point, looked like he was becoming a factor late in the race.Once again on the restarts, Edwards struggled to make up ground lost both on pit road and off.

On the final restart he dropped all the way back to 21st at one point but wound up 18th.

This team was a favorite coming into this weekend, to break out of the winless track dating back to last year’s season finale. Yet again this team is unable to not only maintain track position but gain track position something they did so easily last year.

Edwards had worked his way into the top five in the standings and away from the danger zone, well now he is back in the danger zone.

Points: Sixth

 

Mother Nature

Well drivers and crews and NASCAR know that when you head up to the northeast rain will be a factor. As it has been throughout this year, weather has played a factor, whether it is with qualifying, or practices or the race, Mother Nature has had it say.

Sunday was no different, heavy rains in the morning pushed back the start and the NASCAR got to work. When they finally got it going drivers had to deal with one more issue at this tricky triangle, weepers. NASCAR made the call and on Monday we raced.

Running line every time it rains; “Need rain, schedule a NASCAR race” sad but true.

Lucky Dog…

Tony Stewart was my reluctant pick for lucky dog this week. I am well aware that he started last and finished in the top 10.

Everyone on Saturday had crowned him the winner due to the uncanny resemblance this weekend had started off to. Rain out of qualifying, and crashes in practices and goes to the rear at the green. Just Like in June.

Unlike June, he struggled all day long. His finish is of a lucky break on a caution and good pit strategy. Sometimes the only way to salvage a good finish is to get lucky and Stewart was just that today.

Points: First

 

Final lap…

I want to give NASCAR credit, we have suffered through some downright ridiculous rain delays (California, Feb. 2008 come to mind?) and we have watched NASCAR call a race too quickly.

They got it right this time. With the heavy rains in the morning as soon as it let up NASCAR got to work and started drying the track, but weepers and more storms forced NASCAR to make a call.

They don’t like making these calls, the last thing they want is to postpone races or call a race, but with daylight going against them they had no choice.

They went right up to the window and made the call, no delays, no dancing around the call, they did the right thing for the fans who sat in the stands the whole time and the drivers. We all know NASCAR does not race in the rain and the weepers would have caused dangerous track conditions.

Think back to Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears at California all were good race cars taken out of the race early due to weepers.

So yes, NASCAR made the right call was it what the fans wanted of course not but it was the right call.

One more thing, I think the last 50 laps proved one thing, this race is just way to long. 200 laps at this track take four hours to race and that is too long for a two and half mile track. The racing in the last 50 laps or so was the best we had seen all day long.

Not knocking the racing overall today as it was pretty good, some great three and four wide racing. I like long races, but at two and half mile tracks 400 miles is better.

Next up Watkins Glen and the final road race of the year.