If you missed the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, you didn’t miss much as far as your typical Pocono races go. It rained, the sun came out, it warmed up a little, then it rained again and cooled off. But you did miss a couple of nuances that have been hot-button issues as of late.
The first involved what was probably the hardest hit of Elliott Sadler’s career when his number 19 Ford went nose first into an earthen bank in the infield. He was slightly dazed and confused and had the wind knocked out of him, but he did walk away.
Credit for Elliott being able to walk away from such a horrendous wreck has to be given to NASCAR’s redesigning of the new car with safety of the driver being paramount. The force of the impact was enough to completely knock the engine out of the race car, but the carbon-fiber seat, safety restraints, and Hans-device did their job, enabling Elliott to walk away unscathed.
On the other hand, Pocono Raceway needs to address the reason for having that earthen bank jutting out toward the track. Had it been more in line with the line of the paved part of the track, Sadler probably would have glanced off it, much like Kurt Busch.
To their credit, the folks at Pocono had already addressed making some safety improvements, but with only six weeks between races there is only so much they can do.
As for the rest of the race, here it is in a nutshell:
The race started about an hour late due to rain.
The stands were once again about half-full.
Lap 15 - A competition caution; Biffle and Kenseth were among those taking just two tires, which didn’t work very well. Biffle led a couple of laps, but then fell back, as did Kenseth.
Lap 46 – Green flag pit stops started, with all drivers making four-tire stops.
Lap 75 – Uneventful green flag stops began.
Lap 105 – Uneventful green flag stops begin again.
Lap 121 – Gordon passes Johnson for the lead and, as if given a signal, the caution flag comes out for debris. Dale Jr. had just gone a lap down and gets his lap back via the “Lucky Dog” rule.
Lap 146 - Another caution for debris. This time they show the actual debris, a chunk of metal in the racing groove.
Lap 158 – Caution for Dale Jr.’s spin.
Lap 164 – Caution for Kurt Busch. As Jimmie Johnson was bump drafting him down the straightaway, Busch clipped, or was clipped by Clint Bowyer and wound up finding the wall. He had a hard hit, but nothing like the hit Elliott Sadler took. Sadler said later that he had been tagged from behind. Race was red-flagged for a half-hour for crews to clean up the wreck.
Red flag gave way to yellow, and pit stops were conducted with several drivers gambling on two tires, or no tires and gas only. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart took four tires with 30 laps to go.
With 26 laps to go rain started falling sporadically around the track and the laps kept ticking away. Sam Hornish, who did not stop, stood to gain a win if it finished under yellow, but two laps later, the race was red-flagged for the second time.
The race resumed after about 20 minutes under the red flag. Greg Biffle grabbed the lead from Sam Hornish and then extended it to win by about four seconds over second place Tony Stewart.
The second hot-button issue was actually a non-player in determining the outcome of this race, even though there was one “debris” caution in which nothing could be found as a reason for the caution flag to be thrown.
One would have thought , for sure, that Pierre Debris would have made an appearance within the last 10-12 laps, but with Greg Biffle in the lead, Jack Roush escaping death in a plane crash earlier in the week, and Ford not having a win yet this year, anyone could see that barring a catastrophic accident no yellow would be seen flying on what would be a sentimental win for Roush Racing.
Points leader Kevin Harvick had another decent run to maintain his points lead. Denny Hamlin, with cooler temperatures, bounced back to a fifth place finish, and Jeff Gordon followed in sixth after re-starting in 13th place after the final set of pit stops.
The rest of the field finished in this order (unofficially):
Car No. / Mfg.
#16 / Ford
#14 / Chevrolet
#99 / Ford
#29 / Chevrolet
#11 / Toyota
#24 / Chevrolet
#5 / Chevrolet
#31 / Chevrolet
#56 / Toyota
#48 / Chevrolet
#77 / Dodge
#39 / Chevrolet
#98 / Ford
#6 / Ford
#33 / Chevrolet
#42 / Chevrolet
#00 / Toyota
#17 / Ford
#9 / Ford
#12 / Dodge
#78 / Chevrolet
#1 / Chevrolet
#18 / Toyota
#43 / Ford
#20 / Toyota
#82 / Toyota
#88 / Chevrolet
#71 / Chevrolet
#38 / Ford
#37 / Ford
#34 / Ford
#83 / Toyota
#2 / Dodge
#19 / Ford
#7 / Toyota
#36 / Chevrolet
#164 / Toyota
#46 / Dodge
#47 / Toyota
#87 / Toyota
#09 / Chevrolet
#66 / Toyota
#55 / Toyota