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Sunday, August 3
Pit Strategy Spurs Edwards To Pocono Win
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
LONG POND, Pa. (August 3, 2008) — During a rain delay that stopped the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 for 41 minutes, driver Carl Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne argued loudly about who made the call to come to the pits after an afternoon thunderstorm began to soak Pocono International Raceway.
In retrospect, both should be willing to take the credit, because the strategy earned Edwards his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the year and the 11th of his career. Tony Stewart came home second, 3.858 seconds back. Polesitter Jimmie Johnson was third, coasting across the finish line at the 2.5-mile triangular track after running out of fuel in the final corner.
Kevin Harvick rallied from a first-lap spin to finish fourth. David Ragan was fifth, followed by Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon.
Edwards’ chances of winning hinged on the race resuming after the rain delay, which came on lap 131. Edwards, Johnson and Stewart were among those who had come to the pits on Lap 128, while 19 other cars remained on the track.
When the race resumed, however, those 19 cars had to make two pit stops to one for those drivers who already had come to pit road. That proved to be the difference.
Martin, Edwards and Johnson dominated the first two-thirds of the race, leading 53, 36 and 33 of the first 131 laps, respectively, but only Martin, who did not pit on Lap 128, was among the frontrunners when NASCAR red-flagged the race.
“Bob and I were really arguing,” Edwards said. “I was really nervous that we made the wrong call there. But Bob Osborne is just real smart. I’m really proud of him for the strategy. Bob did a really good job—but I wasn’t so sure when we were yelling at each other about halfway through.
“I think we were both about 51 percent for coming (to the pits), but after it started raining harder, we started blaming each other for making the call.”
Osborne, on the other hand, said it was Edwards’ premonition that the rain would end that gave him the confidence to call for the pit stop.
“Kudos to Carl Edwards,” Osborne said. “That’s what teamwork is all about.”
Stewart was elated with his runner-up finish, his best result since running second at Atlanta in the fourth race of the season.
“I’m really happy with the way it ended up, obviously,” Stewart said. “I mean, for us, that’s a win. It seemed like our car was an eighth-to-10th-place car the majority of the day. I think the track tightened up a lot during the red. Seemed like our car got better from that point on. We were too loose up to that point.”
When Edwards and Johnson came to pit road in the rain on Lap 128, Kahne inherited the lead, followed by Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle and Martin. The winner of the June race at Pocono, Kahne didn’t want to see the race resume after the stoppage.
“I think it will probably go green again—maybe not—but (crew chief) Kenny (Francis) said to stay out,” Kahne said during the delay. “I’d just rather call it a day. I think we’re a second-place car to Carl Edwards right now.”
As it turned out, the race resumed, and Kahne was half right. Edwards was indeed the class of the field, but the one extra pit stop Kahne was forced to make dropped him to seventh at the finish.
The race wasn’t a lap old when Joe Nemechek spun Kevin Harvick in the Tunnel Turn (Turn 2), but Harvick warded off the potential damage to his attempt to reenter the top 12 in the championship standings by climbing back to fourth by the end of the race. Havick is 11th in the point standings now.
Kenseth, who finished 11th Sunday, dropped to 13th in the championship standings, 11 points behind Bowyer in 12th.
Notes: Ragan held 14th place in the standings but moved to 46 points behind Bowyer in 12th . ... Johnson posted his ninth top-10 finish in 14 races at Pocono. … With a 12th-place run, Dale Earnhardt Jr. trimmed the points lead of 36th-place finisher Kyle Busch to 176. With two laps left, Busch was assessed a pass-through penalty for a commitment line violation.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Point Standings click here
NASCAR Newscast - Race Recap click here
The Race: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500
The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Track: 2.5-mile triangle
The Distance: 500 miles/200 laps
TV: ESPN & TSN, pre-race at 1 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite.
2007 Winner: Kurt Busch
2007 Polesitter: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Pre-Race Schedule (local track time/ET): Friday- Practice, noon-1:30 p.m. Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday – Practice - 10-10:45 a.m. and 11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.
Year-To-Date Race Results & Driver Point Standings click here
Broadcast Times - AT*
Practice: Friday, Aug 1 (SPEED at 1 p.m.)
Qualifying: Friday, Aug 1 (ESPN2 at 11 a.m.)
Practice: Saturday, Aug 2 (ESPN2 at 11 a.m.)
Final Practice: Saturday, Aug 2 (ESPN2 at 12:30 p.m.)
RaceDay: Sunday, Aug 3 (SPEED at Noon p.m.)
Pre-Race: Sunday, Aug 3 (ESPN & TSN at 2 p.m.)
Race: Sunday, Aug 3 (ESPN & TSN at 3 p.m.)
*AT is one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Rain washed out both rounds of practice at Pocono Saturday...
Jimmie Johnson (left) talks with series point leader Kyle Busch after Johnson won the Coors Light Pole Award for the
Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 with a lap of 53.503 seconds, 168.215 mph. Busch will start 27th.
Complete Starting Lineup click here
- This is his 16th pole in 240 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
- This is his third pole and 16th top-10 start in 2008.
- This is his second pole in 14 races at Pocono Raceway.
- Mark Martin (second) posted his ninth top-10 start of 2008 and his 30th in 44 races at Pocono
- David Gilliland (third) posted his first top-10 start at Pocono Raceway. It is his first in 21 races this
- Sam Hornish Jr. (26th) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Drivers that failed to qualify: Chad Chaffin.
- Johnson Back In The Winning Mix...One win doesn't launch a trend, but Jimmie Johnson's (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) victory last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway might be considered a salvo.
The reigning and two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion heads into this week's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway on a mini-surge — one that might boost his seeding status for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
That, in turn, could boost Johnson's quest for a third consecutive series title.
Now with two victories in 2008, Johnson is fourth in the series standings and in a three-way tie in the Chase bonus points battle. And if last year's numbers repeat, he'll improve both those statistics.
In the 2007 Race to the Chase - the 10-race stretch preceding the Chase - Johnson won two events and posted an average finish of 12.5.
Drivers get 10 bonus points for each win in the first 26 races, and Chase seeding is done according to bonus-point totals. Which means a total of 60 bonus points remain until the '08 Chase - or six events, beginning this weekend in Pocono.
Standings leader Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota) holds the top spot with seven wins - 70 bonus points - but in Johnson's last two races, he finished as runner-up to Busch at Chicagoland Speedway before winning at Indy.
He's also won at three of the remaining six tracks in the Race to the Chase and swept Pocono in 2004.
- Race To The Chase: Sixty Bonus Points Remain...With 60 bonus points available before the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Race to the Chase means winning is paramount.
Standings leader Kyle Busch has the inside track with seven wins (70 bonus points).
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) are tied for second place with 20 bonus points. Kahne and Johnson each have two wins; Edwards has three, but forfeited 10 bonus points after his car didn't pass post-race inspection at Las Vegas in March.
Based on tiebreakers, Edwards would be seeded second if the Chase started now, followed by Johnson and Kahne. Four other drivers currently in the top 12 have one win thus far in '08 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet), Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) and Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Wireless Chevrolet) - and will look to gain ground on the top four this Sunday at Pocono.
Earnhardt, Bowyer, Hamlin and Burton would be seeded fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
- Two-Time Pocono Winner Denny Hamlin To Make 100th Series Start On Sunday...He's a Richmond, Va.-area native who claims Richmond International Raceway as his home track, but if any driver boasts a "home away from home", Pocono Raceway is it for Denny Hamlin.
He won there the first time he saw the place, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' eventual Raybestos Rookie of the Year in 2006.
From the pole.
Not only that, Hamlin swept Pocono's second event that season.
Again, from the pole.
So, fitting that his 100th series start comes in Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500.
"I've had the benefit of great equipment, having the same crew chief and crew for three years and having FedEx as a sponsor from the beginning," Hamlin said. "As a young driver coming into the series, I know I have been really fortunate to have that consistency all around me."
Certainly Pocono's 2.5-mile triangular layout has rewarded Hamlin over the past two seasons.
In five starts there, he has two poles, two wins, five top-10 finishes and an overall average finish of 2.8.
Perhaps even more significant: Hamlin's Pocono prowess jump-started what's been a successful career to date: He has 51 top-10 finishes in his first 99 starts and was a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contender in '06 and '07.
Back to Pocono, where Hamlin dominates NASCAR's pre-race Loop Data statistics for the track. He leads four categories - Driver Rating (130.4), Average Running Position (5.6). Average Green Flag Speed (160.024 mph) and Laps in the Top 15 (839).
He's second in Fastest Laps Run (193) and fifth-best in Quality Passes (192).
- Teammates Battle For 12th-Place Spot...When the Race to the Chase started at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) was two points out of 12th place and the final berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Four races later, Harvick finds himself right back where he started, on the wrong end of the bubble by two points.
The difference is that this time Harvick is trailing Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer. Harvick's 37th-place finish in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, coupled with Bowyer's 19th-place finish, dropped him from ninth back to 13th.
Kenseth, who was 12th going into New Hampshire, hasn't moved much himself. He's currently 11th, six points ahead of Harvick.
The pattern doesn't seem to be breaking anytime soon. With six races remaining until the Chase cutoff (after the 26th race of the season, at Richmond International Raceway), competition for the last Chase berth is as tight as it has been.
"Wide open," said two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson on the Chase battle. "A hundred percent, it is wide open."
The numbers confirm Johnson's statement.
Apart from the six points that separate 11th and 13th place, 14th-place David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford) is 56 points out of 12th, 15th-place Brian Vickers is 132 points back and 16th-place Ryan Newman (No. 12 Avis Dodge) is 144 points back.
The battle is just as tight on the "right" side of the bubble.
Tenth-place Tony Stewart only enjoys a 39-point cushion over Harvick, ninth-place Kasey Kahne leads Harvick by 81 points, eighth-place Denny Hamlin by 93 points and seventh-place Greg Biffle is only 100 points above the Chase bubble.
As Harvick can attest after Indianapolis, nobody can feel confident they are in a safe Chase position.
- The Top 35: Riggs In 35th, McDowell and Allmendinger Not Far Behind...It's a big week for AJ Allmendinger, whose 12th-place finish in the June event at Pocono marked a major steppingstone in the second-year driver's stock-car education. Now, he has momentum behind him as he returns.
Last week's 10th-place effort at Indianapolis is Allmendinger's new career-high finish, and his No. 84 Team Red Bull Toyota owned by Dietrich Mateschitz is only 63 points out of 35th place in the series owner standings.
Each week's top 35 are guaranteed starting spots; those outside 35th must qualify on time.
"If we keep doing the same things we've been doing, then the points will take care of themselves," Allmendinger said.
He's rebounded nicely from a trying start to the season, when he failed to qualify for the first three events and was asked to step aside for five races for veteran driver Mike Skinner.
The addition of crew chief Jimmy Elledge three weeks ago is the latest move. The duo combined for a 13th-place finish at Chicagoland prior to Indy.
Since returning in the season's ninth event, Allmendinger and his team have jumped from 51st in the owner standings to 37th.
They're currently only 49 points behind 36th and the No. 00 Champion Mortgage Toyota driven by Michael McDowell and owned by Rob Kauffman.
"Last time in Pocono, we ran in the top five to top 10 the whole race, but strategy didn't play in our favor," Allmendinger said. "We ended up taking home a 12th-place finish, when I think we could have finished in the top 10.
"Strategy is where Jimmy Elledge shines, though. He's just good at knowing the right strategy at the right times, good at knowing how to get your car up front, and once you get up front, it's a lot easier to stay there."
- Double Duty Calls...Five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will hopscotch between tracks this week, alternating primary duties at Pocono with the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Greg Biffle (No. 16 DISH Turbo HD Ford) and David Reutimann (No. 44 UPS Toyota) all will compete in Saturday's event north of the border as well as Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500.
Another NASCAR Sprint Cup driver - Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate and Montreal native Patrick Carpentier - will concentrate on the NASCAR Nationwide Series event in his hometown for Gillett Evernham Motorsports.
Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte will drive Carpentier's No. 10 Charter Dodge at Pocono.
"I wish Patrick good luck at the race in Montreal," Labonte said. "There's a really good possibility that he'll get his first victory up there. I've been watching him and this Charter team through the year and they've had some impressive runs. We'll be looking to add to that streak this weekend."
- Petty Enterprises' No. 45 Driver Lineup...Three drivers will split time at the wheel of Petty Enterprises' No. 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge for the next three events.
Chad McCumbee, 23, will attempt to qualify the car at Pocono, followed by regular driver Kyle Petty at Watkins Glen International and Labonte at Michigan International Speedway.
Heading to Pocono, the No. 45 is 41st in the series owner standings. The top 35 in those standings are guaranteed starting berths each week. All others must qualify on time.
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