Johnson Earns "Pocono Sweep" No. 8 Budweiser team finishes 25th behind Earnhardt/Andretti effort NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point-leader Jimmie Johnson led 124 of 200 laps to win Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. Mark Martin finished second...
Johnson Earns "Pocono Sweep"
No. 8 Budweiser team finishes 25th behind Earnhardt/Andretti effort
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point-leader Jimmie Johnson led 124 of 200 laps to win Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. Mark Martin finished second and Kasey Kahne third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team struggled with an unruly car from the start, losing many positions and falling a lap down early in the event. Still nursing injuries suffered in a sports-car accident two weeks ago, Dale Jr. completed only 53 laps before numbness in his legs forced him to hand over the Bud car to substitute driver John Andretti. Andretti's 140-lap stint wasn't without mechanical woes of its own, but he still brought the red No. 8 home in 25th place (-7 laps). By starting the event, Dale Jr. earned the points for the finish but still slipped to third in the championship standings (-267 behind Johnson and -35 behind Jeff Gordon.)
Key Moments: A severe loose condition in the opening stages dropped the Budweiser Chevrolet from its 16th starting position to 36th in just 13 laps. Hoping to drive the full 500 miles, Dale Jr. experienced no major complications from his injuries, but numbness in his legs made it difficult to operate the ill-handling car through Pocono's tricky corners. Already a lap down to the leaders and with no real advantage of staying in the car, Dale Jr. opted out during the second caution on lap 53, as Andretti hurriedly climbed into the red No. 8 in a driver-switch that took 1 minute, 22 seconds. Andretti's day was equally as frustrating, as a missing sway bar bolt made the car nearly impossible to drive. A quick visit to the garage on lap 80 fixed the problem, and race attrition enabled Andretti to clip off 10 positions before race's end.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"The car was real bad, and we were going backwards. We had John standing there, and I thought if we were gonna make a change, let's make it then. I could've run the rest of the way, but the car was so bad there wasn't really any use for me to be in there wasting my time when I could be out of the car trying to get better. Hopefully I'll be able to go to next week's race without any problem. We had a terrible race car today, so there wasn't any use for me being in there flying around in it."
On his injuries:
"I felt fine. The bumps (from the burns on his neck and legs) hurt a little bit. But my foot was going to sleep. I haven't been using it a lot; haven't been standing on it much. It just goes to sleep and cramps up real easy. I'm just real disappointed that things are going like they're going. I wish this thing would heal up a little faster. It just takes time I guess."
On the emotional difficulty getting out of the No. 8 car:
"Depends on how good it's driving. It was driving pretty bad this week and last week. I hated more giving it to the guy I was giving it to than getting out of it. Throwing John in there, he hadn't had a lap this weekend, and the sway bar bolt was missing, and the car was rolling over and spinning out on him. I just hate it for him. I hated putting Martin (Truex) in that situation last week. The car wasn't that great. But I just didn't have any business trying to run it. Hopefully we'll come to Indy and be able to go through it."
Best Radio Chatter:
Chatter was kept to a minimum today, especially during the early stages when the Bud car struggled to keep pace:
Dale Jr.: "I think I got a tire going down. I'm really, really loose."
In 33rd position (one lap down) and without much feeling in his legs when the second yellow flew on lap 51, Dale Jr. elected for a driver-switch with Andretti:
Stevie Reeves (spotter): "Caution's out ... tunnel turn."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Alright, what do ya wanna do? You wanna stay in or what?"
Dale Jr.: "My leg's asleep ... If we're gonna change, now would be the time. I can't feel my leg."
Tony Jr. (to the crew): "Let's get John ready. Let's go; let's get him going. We're the third car in (the lap-down) line right there, pitting the second time by."
Dale Jr.: "Car's real tight through the center and the tunnel. It just got tighter and tighter, but those changes were helping. I mean, I ran OK for a couple laps, but then it started pushing real bad. (Pause) I can stay in here, but I can't feel my foot down there mashing the brake. I could stay in, but if we're gonna change, this would be the time."
Tony Jr. (to the crew): "Don't worry about nothing else but getting your driver out, just like last week (at New Hampshire, where Martin Truex Jr. relieved Dale Jr. after 61 laps). Everything will be cool. Junior, have your window net down. Loosen your belts up and have them off when you get here. Go ahead and unhook your helmet hose."
On lap 74:
Andretti: "I think something's broken ... I can't even run this thing by myself."
Tony Jr.: "You gotta understand, you weigh 140 and Junior weighs 180. That may be what you're feeling."