Pocono II: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Hamlin Sweeps Pocono Again Second Consecutive Rough Weekend for Bud Team Denny Hamlin took everything possible this year at Pocono Raceway, winning two Bud Pole Awards, then leading the most laps to win both races at the 2.5-mile triangle track.

Hamlin Sweeps Pocono Again Second Consecutive Rough Weekend for Bud Team

Denny Hamlin took everything possible this year at Pocono Raceway, winning two Bud Pole Awards, then leading the most laps to win both races at the 2.5-mile triangle track. Hamlin's victory Sunday afternoon launches him to eighth place in the Nextel Cup point standings. Kurt Busch was second while Jeff Gordon finished in third-place. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team saw what started as a promising run go sour on lap 88 when they were hit from behind and crashed into the wall before turn two. The team made repairs and sent Dale Jr. back on track, but an overheating engine eventually expired after completing 116 laps. It is only the sixth 43rd-place finish of the team's Cup career, and the second in two weeks. After starting the race last week in 3rd place in points, the two last-place finishes have dropped Dale Jr. four spots each week, and is now 11th in Nextel Cup point standings with six races remaining before the Chase for the Cup begins. Dale Jr. is 15 points behind Tony Stewart, who is 10th in points.

Key Moments:

Dale Jr., starting 26th, methodically moved forward through the field, taking the first 62 laps to move into the top-10. The Bud car seemed to be improving until a lap 67 yellow flag period. After the pit stop on lap 68, Dale Jr. restarted mid-pack and began struggling with the handling of the car, not able to turn coming off each of Pocono's three unique turns. The struggles became much worse on lap 88, when he was hit from behind coming off of the first corner, sending him into the wall. The Bud team was able to repair much of the damage - but returned to the track 46 laps behind the leaders. The engine began overheating after returning to the track, and following a pit stop to replace a flat right front tire, the engine finally decided enough was enough and expired after completing 116 laps.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"I don't know what happened on the crash. I got hit on the straightway, but the car was really pushing - it just wouldn't turn - so I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in the way the car performed and how we were running at the time. We were getting better and better and then all of a sudden, it got worse and worse. It's a shame. We need to focus on these next six races and do what we can to get into the Chase. We're a good team, and if we do what we're capable of doing, we'll be alright."

Best Radio Chatter:

Dale Jr. likes to know what's happening with other cars and drivers around the track. Here was an exchange during a yellow flag period that began on lap 67.

Steve Hmiel: (spotter): "Junior, the 99 (C. Edwards) is being penalized. They're gonna hold him a lap. He was in that deal earlier with the 20 (T. Stewart), so he spun him out on pit lane."

Dale Jr: "WOW!"

Hmiel: "Yeah, you miss a lot being behind the wheel."

Dale Jr: "Hah. Thanks for tellin' me. That's pretty cool.... Ya heard that the 99 went up to the 20 after the race a few races back. Said he was gonna kick his ass."

Hmiel: "If physical conditioning means anything, I'd have to go with Carl."

Dale Jr: "Hah. Yeah if it gets to the seventh or eighth round. But it'd be interesting for the first few rounds."

***

After hitting the wall on lap 88.

Dale Jr.: "We got crashed."

Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "Crank it up. Can you get it back here to the pits?"

Dale Jr.: "I got hit way down the straightaway. I got crashed. It won't crank."

Tony Jr: "I was watching it on your in-car (camera). It looked like you had the death wobble, so you did a good job there to keep it off the wall as long as you did."

-dei

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Series NASCAR-CUP