Gordon Wins Condensed Run at Pocono, Dale Jr. 12th Bud Team Gambles with Fuel-Only Stop Jeff Gordon won Sunday's rain-delayed and then rain-shortened Pocono 500, getting the victory as rain fell following 106 of the scheduled 200-lap distance....
Gordon Wins Condensed Run at Pocono, Dale Jr. 12th
Bud Team Gambles with Fuel-Only Stop
Jeff Gordon won Sunday's rain-delayed and then rain-shortened Pocono 500, getting the victory as rain fell following 106 of the scheduled 200-lap distance. The start of the race was delayed by rain for more than two and a half hours. Bud Pole winner Ryan Newman was second while Martin Truex Jr., last week's victor, finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No, 8 Budweiser team spent 101 of those laps among the top-15 spots, and ran as high as fifth-place early in the going until making a fuel-only stop on lap 65. The decision to opt for only fuel was made to try and take advantage of an incoming storm, but the rain stayed away long enough for the rest of the field to cycle through stops for tires and gas. The rains began to fall along the back section of the odd Pocono triangle-shaped track mere moments after the race passed the 100-lap mark, and was red-flagged on lap 106.
Dale Jr., starting 13th, moved up early, needing only 10 laps to move into seventh position. The Bud team remained among the top six positions through several pit stops, and then made a quick strategic call to take fuel-only on lap 65, hoping the impending rains would soon fall and give them strong track position when the race was restarted later Sunday evening or Monday afternoon. However, the small storm remained away from the track surface until after the 100-lap mark and the Bud car suffered from the lack of fresh tires and dropped out of the top-10. Because the race had surpassed the halfway mark of its scheduled distance, it was deemed officially over after the red flag on lap 106.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"It's hard to say too much when you have such a strange, short race. We were really good early on, but the car got tighter and tighter as the day wore on. The nose would get to bouncing like a spring over the bumps going into turn one and the tunnel turn (turn two) and it just wouldn't turn. Early in the race, I could get underneath someone and make a pass, but that became more and more of a struggle as each run continued. We would end up kind of getting strung out and just stay in the same position for lap after lap.
"The guys made the decision to take fuel-only because we thought the rain was going fall much sooner. You take the gamble. We're here trying to win the thing, so you do what you think gives you a shot at it. If it rained before halfway, we would have had to come back Monday to finish the full distance and we would have been in pretty good shape. But, you can never tell with those things, and we'd been here so long already it's cool to head to the house tonight. There have been so many rainouts this season, the crews have been away from home even more than usual, and it's hard on everyone. The schedule is a real grind anyway without making everyone spend an extra day at the track each week, and I'm sure it's been tough for the fans too."
Best Radio Chatter:
Interim crew chief Tony Gibson attempted to keep Dale Jr. informed of his lap times and progress through the field while Dale Jr. occasionally provided feedback of his own.
Dale Jr. (on lap eight, after moving up five spots) "This motor is (expletive deletd) awesome!"
Gibson (on lap 22): "Real good lap right there, whatever line it was."
Dale Jr: "I can't tell ya... I think I made it through the tunnel turn right for once."
Gibson (on lap 40): "Real good lap there, Hot Rod, real good... (lap 41) "real real good... the fastest thing out there... (lap 42) "another good lap..."
Dale Jr. (several laps later after several circuits of silence) "Are ya gonna tell me every time?! Hahahahah!"
Gibson: "Just trying to help ya on your line."
Dale Jr: "I know when I (expletive-deleted)-up. It gets to bouncing down in turn one."