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Jimmie Johnson had the dominant car, starting from the pole at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and leading the most laps, but a tire issue derailed Johnson’s chance at a season sweep at the Tricky Triangle. Flying high with a special paint scheme featuring “Disney’s Planes” Johnson looked to be the car to beat before a tire went down, sending Johnson into the wall, forcing him and the No. 48 Lowe’s crew to adjust on the car for the remainder of the race. Johnson battled back and salvaged a 13th-place finish, allowing him to actually increase his points lead. He is 77 points ahead of second-place Clint Bowyer.
Johnson seemed on track to pull off his second sweep of a track this season (Daytona) and his second at Pocono. The five-time champ had few complaints with his Lowe’s/Planes Chevy but pit strategy mixed the running order up and on lap 65 he was 13th, reporting that it was hard to pass in traffic.
During green-flag stops on lap 75, he took the lead again but a few laps later he would hit the wall when a tire went down. Despite repeated trips to pit road, Team Lowe’s Racing allowed Johnson to stay on the lead lap. The remainder of the race, Johnson and crew worked to keep Johnson from losing a lap. Despite a wounded race car he was able to pull off a 13th-place finish.
“Yeah, my day kept needing to be calibrated as the day went on at first,” said Johnson who won in June and swept the events at Pocono in 204. “I really felt like we had a shot to win, unfortunately blew a tire off of turn one and ended those hopes there. We worked on the car and got it better. Then I hit the wall so hard that it knocked a spark plug wire off the spark plug. They were able to find the right plug and get everything hooked back up and the engine took off. Off we went and salvaged a very nice finish.”
Kasey Kahne won the GoBowling.com 400 to score his 16th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Pocono.
Jeff Gordon finished 1.392 seconds behind Kahne in the runner-up spot, while Kurt Busch, Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Stewart and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 35 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the 160-lap race.
With round 21 of 36 complete, Johnson continues to lead the Hendrick Motorsports contingent and the rest of the NASCAR field in the championship point standings. His 772 points place him 77 ahead of second-place Clint Bowyer and 178 ahead of 11th-place Tony Stewart. Earnhardt is fifth with 656 points, 116 out of first; 62 ahead of 11th. Kahne is ninth with 612 points, 160 out of first; 18 ahead of 11th. Gordon is 10th with 602 points, 170 out of first; eight ahead of 11th.
Five races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the 355k at The Glen on Sunday, Aug. 11 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at noon.