Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrik crew members definitely enjoyed the Pocono party as they landed their third win of the 2013 season.
The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson dominated the Party in the Poconos 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Long Pond, Pa., on Sunday, leading 128 of the 160 laps that made up the race en route to his third-career win at Pocono and his third victory of the season.
"That's the best car I've had in a long, long, long time," Johnson said. What a race car. Not just a race car, but also engine."
The No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Greg Biffle was second, while the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. took third.
"We've been running good all year and just had troubles," Earnhardt said. "It's good to be running good again. If we can keep getting close, we're going to get one (win)."
Johnson started on the pole, but dropped back to third on the first lap when he was passed by the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Matt Kenseth. Aside from when the field cycled through green-flag pit stops, which would be the lowest Johnson would be in the running order the entire race. By lap 10 he retook the lead.
The No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman assumed the lead during the first caution of the race that came out on lap 65 by staying out while everyone else headed down pit road. He wasn't up front for long, though, as Johnson reassumed the top spot on the restart.
Newman was able to stay close to the front, though, but had to make a green-flag pit stop under green on lap 91. The rest of the field cycled through green-flag stops several laps later, heading down pit road around lap 100.
Once everyone pitted, Newman was back up front, benefitting from making his stop earlier and having newer tires for more laps. Johnson retook the lead with 47 laps to go, and Newman assumed the second spot. Newman held on to second until he made a green-flag stop on lap 122. A few laps later, though, the yellow flag waved, allowing everyone else to pit under caution.
Given Pocono's large size, Newman had stayed on the lead lap, despite pitting under green, and when the caution came out, he stayed out and inherited the lead. But as soon as the race returned to green, Johnson was back up front.
"Fortunately, I was able to get out in the lead at the end," Johnson said.
Four more cautions in the final 30 laps of the race allowed everyone, including Newman, to stretch fuel mileage enough to stay out on the race track the rest of the way. Earnhardt and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch got by Newman for second and third on a restart that followed a caution that came out with 23 laps to go, sending Newman back a couple of positions.
Earnhardt and Busch continued to run second and third until Biffle went from fourth to second on the final restart of the race that followed a caution with just six laps remaining.
"I didn't really have anything for Jimmie," Biffle said. "I just wanted to get up to his bumper and ruffle him up a little bit."
Newman's SHR teammate, Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet, finished fourth, just ahead of Newman in fifth. Busch fell back to sixth by the end of the race, finishing just one spot ahead of his brother Kurt Busch in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet.
The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Denny Hamlin finished eighth, the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick was ninth, and Joey Logano drove the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford to a 10th-place finish, joining Biffle as the only Ford drivers to finish in the top-10.