Pocono: Dale Earnhardt Jr race report

Denny Hamlin Gains First Cup Win at Pocono Bud Team 14th at Finish of 500 Miles Rookie Denny Hamlin, winner of the season-opening Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, grabbed the first points-paying victory of his Nextel Cup career with a dominating...

Denny Hamlin Gains First Cup Win at Pocono
Bud Team 14th at Finish of 500 Miles

Rookie Denny Hamlin, winner of the season-opening Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, grabbed the first points-paying victory of his Nextel Cup career with a dominating win at the Pocono 500 Sunday. Hamlin, who also won the Bud Pole Award Friday, led the first quarter of the race before blowing a left-rear tire and spinning wildly down the backstretch but not making contact with the wall. After many pit stops and significant repairs by his crew, Hamlin remained on the lead lap and eventually took command again late in the race. The victory moves Hamlin to 10th place in the point standings after 14 races. Kurt Busch was second while Tony Stewart finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team ran among the top-five for much of the afternoon, but struggled as the race reached the later stages, dropping to 14th-place at the finish. The finish drops Dale Jr. two positions in the Nextel Cup point standings, falling from fourth to sixth place. Dale Jr. remains more than 100 points ahead of seventh place and more than 200 points ahead of the 11th place driver.

Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 11th, moved into the top-10 after seven laps and stayed among the leaders as pit strategy began playing into the hands of the Bud team. By opting not to pit during a yellow flag period on lap 70, Dale Jr. moved into fourth place. By using a slightly different strategy than many of the other lead-lap teams, the No. 8 Bud car remained among the top-five (other than several laps making green-flag pit stops) for the next 70 laps. However, a restart on lap 146 (of 200), proved to be critical, as Dale Jr. slid out of the groove in the tunnel turn (turn two of three at the triangular Pocono track), falling back to 12th position. A late race red-flag stopped the action with less than 10 laps remaining, and the Bud team made a final pit stop on lap 192, dropping to 17th place. When the green flag fell with five laps remaining, Dale Jr. gained three spots to finish 14th.

Dale Jr. Quotes:

"We got worse as the day went on. You use so much brakes here, we struggled with the front springs bouncing and handling all of that weight. The car was really tight - it was hard to get it to turn consistently through the corner, and that meant I couldn't really be aggressive. The car just wouldn't go where I wanted it to. The bumps going into turn one are so bad, I was just bouncing through there trying not to crash. We had a really good car yesterday in practice, so I'm disappointed and so are the guys. We'll need to be better than that in the Chase (for the Cup), and we know it."

"Congratulations to Denny (Hamlin) and his guys. They had an awesome car and pretty much whupped everybody's butts this weekend."

Best Radio Chatter:

The Bud team climbed from tenth to third on lap 70 when they opted not to make a pit stop with many of the other lead lap cars under yellow...

Tony Eury Jr: (crew chief): "How does it feel?"
Dale Jr: "It feels good. A little snug...
"Eury Jr: "OK, we're staying out. Staying out. Staying out!"
Dale Jr. (after making a fake toward pit lane) "Heh.., Dang! I was trying to get Carl (Edwards) to pit!"
Eury Jr: "S'OK. We'll be good. The 20 car is taking four tires and the rest of the guys are only taking two."

***

The Bud team spent much of the next 100 laps among the top-five until a lap 146 restart. Running on slightly older tires, Dale Jr. had his hands full on the restart.

Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Whoa. Clear low. Clear high. Pretty move."
A lap later, Dale Jr. slid high in turn two, and dropped all the way back to 12th place.
Dale Jr: (sounding dejected): "I ran over something. It turned me sideways over there."

-dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Denny Hamlin