Jeff Gordon takes record win in truncated Pocono NASCAR Sprint Cup race after late drama for dominant Jimmie Johnson
|By Diego Mejia||Sunday, August 5th 2012, 22:18 GMT|
Jeff Gordon claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the season at Pocono after inheriting the lead on a wild final restart where a hitherto dominant Jimmie Johnson lost a clear shot at back-to-back wins.
Four-time champion Gordon finally got a break in a season plagued with bad luck, moving up from 27th on the grid to claim a record sixth win at the track known as the 'Tricky Triangle'.
Although he was nowhere near as close to the battle for victory as last week at Indianapolis, this time Gordon was sitting in the right place, at the right time, to pick up a victory served on a plate by Johnson. The five-time champion was dominant again, leading 44 of the 98 laps run before rain halted proceedings, looking on course for a crushing victory.
That was until Johnson got loose on the inside of Matt Kenseth entering Turn 1 on what turned out to be the final restart of the race, where Gordon held his inside line as action unfolded up on the banking.
The rain that had delayed the start of the race by nearly two hours was always expected to return before the cars reached the scheduled 400 miles, and eventually a storm arrived during the third caution, following the Johnson-Kenseth incident.
Officials did not take long to declare the race officially over, with Gordon taking a crucial victory that now places him as the second wildcard entry into this year's Chase, with five races still to go before the play-off field is set.
"It's never over until it's over," said Gordon. "I've won races like this here before. The way our year has gone we'll definitely take it like this. Man, I've never seen the seas part quite like that before like they did going down into [Turn] 1.
"I got a great restart and was able to dive to the inside in front of Kasey [Kahne] and I saw the #48 [Johnson] get sideways and it just took them all out."
Despite the late disaster for Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr finishing down the order following a transmission failure after fighting at the front, the day turned out pretty well for Hendrick Motorsports.
Kahne rolled to second place with a punctured right-rear tyre following some transmission worries and Earnhardt held on to the points lead despite his 32nd place finish.
Johnson suggested after the race that a damaged tyre contributed to his clash with Kenseth.
"I must have hit some debris under caution because I had a soft right rear tyre for the restart. I didn't know until Turn 1 and things got exciting," Johnson wrote on his Twitter feed.
Kenseth was sceptical about Johnson's explanation of the incident, which happened as he was putting the pressure on the Hendrick driver on the outside at Turn 1.
Johnson's car slid sideways and up the banking, taking Kenseth with him. The #17 Roush Fenway Ford spun and was then collected head on by Denny Hamlin's Toyota.
"I don't think he had a flat, did he? I don't think so," Kenseth said. "I am not mad at him, it is just that you race for the win and I thought I gave enough room down there. He drove in hard because he is racing for the win too."
Before the the final caution another two had waved, first for Kyle Busch, whose Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota suffered a mechanical failure that caused him to end up hitting the wall. Later his brother Kurt also visited the barriers due to an apparent puncture on his Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.
Polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya led for the first seven laps but then dropped down the order with handling issues and crossed the finish line in 20th.
Results - 98 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 1h45m34.000s 2. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 1.371s 3. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 2.843s 4. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 3.398s 5. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 5.166s 6. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 6.261s 7. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 7.425s 8. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 8.228s 9. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 9.519s 10. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 11.084s 11. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 12.571s 12. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 14.198s 13. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 15.923s 14. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 17.236s 15. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 18.104s 16. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 19.406s 17. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 21.331s 18. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 24.853s 19. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge + 26.479s 20. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 45.223s 21. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 49.679s 22. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 53.243s 23. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 54.440s 24. David Reutimann Badldwin Chevrolet + 1 lap 25. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 1 lap 26. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 1 lap 27. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 2 laps 28. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 2 laps Retirements: Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 90 laps Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 84 laps Jason White FAS Lane Ford 81 laps Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 80 laps* Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 74 laps David Stremme Inception Toyota 43 laps Casey Mears Germain Ford 40 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 37 laps Josh Wise Front Row Ford 34 laps Tony Raines Baldwin Chevrolet 31 laps Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 29 laps JJ Yeley Max Q Chevrolet 27 laps Mike Skinner Parsons Ford 26 laps Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Ford 10 laps Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 9 laps * Running again at finish