Long Pond, PA - Bill Elliott won the Pennsylvania 500 today at Pocono Raceway. Elliott, who started his Evernham Racing Dodge from the pole position, passed Sterling Marlin on lap 156 (of 175) for the fifth Pocono win of his career. Marlin's...
Long Pond, PA - Bill Elliott won the Pennsylvania 500 today at Pocono Raceway. Elliott, who started his Evernham Racing Dodge from the pole position, passed Sterling Marlin on lap 156 (of 175) for the fifth Pocono win of his career. Marlin's Ganassi Racing Dodge had dominated the middle stages of the race, including a long period of green flag racing, but Elliott drove around the outside of Marlin's car going into turn one just two laps after the race's final restart and finished the pass as the two cars approached turn 2 side by side. On the next lap, Kurt Busch also passed Marlin to take second position, which he held to the finish.
The race was shortened from the scheduled race distance of 200 laps or 500 miles as darkness approached at the unlighted track in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. Even with the shorter distance, 425 miles, the race took nearly seven hours to complete, thanks to two long red flag delays early in the going.
The first delay was caused by a spectacular crash on the approach to turn 2 on the very first lap. Rusty Wallace's Ford was turned into the outside wall when he tried to slide in front of Steve Park's Chevrolet without enough room. Wallace would continue, but Park went careening toward Pocono's infield, pushing teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s car that direction too. Park's car slammed hard into the guardrail barrier with Earnhardt's car pushing on the other side, then rolled spectacularly several times and landed on its side. Fortunately, the drivers were uninjured, but the race was red-flagged for over an hour to replace the stretch of damaged guardrail. Earnhardt would continue many laps down after repairs, but Park's car was a write-off. Wallace also spent many laps in the garage repairing damage from his impact with the wall.
Ricky Rudd and Elliott traded the lead after the restart, but only 25 laps were in the books when the red waved again, this time for rain showers. This time the Winston Cup cars were idled for over two hours before the rain would stop and the track crew could dry the surface for another restart.
When the race got underway again, Marlin had the fastest car on the track and led effortlessly through several cycles of green flag pit stops. The yellow flag didn't appear again until lap 110 when Mike Skinner ran out of gas and stalled on the access lane. Marlin led again away from the next restart with Elliott having no challenge for him. At this point, the Yates Racing Fords of Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd and two of Jack Roush's Fords, driven by Jeff Burton and Busch, looked like the strongest challengers to the two leading Dodges. Burton's run had been especially impressive, a steady charge from 33rd starting position.
After the announcement was made shortening the race distance, the final round of pit stops began on lap 135. Before all the teams could make their stops, Jerry Nadeau tapped the rear of Elliott's teammate Jeremy Mayfield and sent him hard into the inside wall at turn 3. Nadeau and Jimmy Spencer (whose car was grazed by Mayfield's in the crash) continued, but Mayfield's race was over. Within two laps after the restart from that crash, Nadeau had a hard crash himself, backing into the turn 2 wall after cutting a rear tire on debris. On the same lap, Burton's good race was spoiled when he also had a deflating rear tire. Burton was able to come around to change his tire, thanks to the caution period to clean up Nadeau's Petty Enterprises Dodge. Burton would finish in 16th place, one lap down.
On the final restart, Elliott didn't let Marlin get away as he had on previous restarts, and made the pass for the lead two laps later. The win was Elliott's first of the season and moved him ahead of Matt Kenseth into ninth in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings. Marlin, despite his third place finish, nearly doubled his points advantage over Mark Martin, and now leads by 106 points. Busch's second place finish moved him from eighth to fifth place in the points.