After winning the last five races at Pocono, there's a new Chevy in Victory Lane.
Hendrick Motorsports domination ended at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
While the Axalta 400 continued to be a Chevy show, it wasn’t the Axalta Chevy of Jeff Gordon’s — or any other Hendrick powered SS in Victory Lane.
That honor went to Martin Truex Jr., who earned his first victory with Furniture Row Racing since joining the team at the start of the 2014 season.
The class of the Hendrick field was Jimmie Johnson. Last week’s winner at Dover finished third. Despite climbing from ninth to fourth on Lap 56 following the first caution, Johnson cut a left front tire on Lap 87 and had to battle back from 26th after the incident to earn his ninth top-five finish of the season and his 11th top-five result at Pocono.
To be leading that next group of cars with a car with its right-side knocked off and splitter missing up front, it was a good result.
“I’ve never given up, I guess,” said Johnson, who sustained damaged to the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy after hitting the wall in Turn 3. “This is a great race team and a great race car. I think the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) had more pace than anyone else. But, to be leading that next group of cars with a car with its right-side knocked off and splitter missing up front, it was a good result.
“There were plenty of challenges today for our Lowe’s team…Third is not the end of the world and so, we’ll take it and go on to the next one.”
The strength of Hendrick engines
While Johnson’s teammates struggled at the end, the Hendrick-powered cars of Kevin Harvick (second), Kurt Busch (fifth), Jamie McMurray (seventh) and Kyle Larson (eighth) had solid results.
The next Hendrick Motorsports car in the running was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who fought back to an 11th-place finish after bouncing off of Brad Keselowski and his teammate Kasey Kahne, who finished 13th.
It’s not as if Earnhardt didn’t an opportunity at earning his third consecutive victory at the Tricky Triangle. After the No. 88 Chevy started the race 20th, Earnhardt raced his way to second by Lap 75.
You can’t give up anything. I had a lot of race car and I was trying to use it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“We had a lot of fun out there passing a lot of cars,” Earnhardt said. “I made a mistake or, I don’t know what really happened on the back straightaway. The No. 2 (Keselowski) came off the wall like he almost hit it. I yanked it to the left and I run into him and hit the No. 5 (Kahne).
“Just racing hard. You’ve got to get everything you can get. You can’t give up anything. I had a lot of race car and I was trying to use it.”
Gordon brought up the rear for the Hendrick contingent with a 14th-place result.
It will be an interesting team meeting at Richard Childress Racing this week.
While technical alliances are great in racing, relationships can come with headaches — as is the case with any extended family.
Ryan Newman, currently the veteran driver at Richard Childress Racing, wrecked his the No. 31 car after contact with AJ Allmendinger in the No. 47 car. He finished 39th. Prior to the accident, Allmendinger and Newman were running seventh and ninth, respectively.
When Newman was asked what happened he replied, “It’s pretty obvious what happened. The No. 47 just ran out of talent. He has got one coming now.”
Allmendinger, who finished 38th, drives for JTG Daugherty Racing, which partnered with the Childress group last year. On the bright side, Pocono winner Martin Truex Jr. was powered to the finish in a Childress engine.