Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Completing the sweep at Pocono with a win of the GoBowling.com 400 is nice, but the big thing about Dale Earnhardt Jr. picking up his third win of the 2014 Sprint Car race is him getting closer to entering the chase in the lead, with his first NASCAR title, finally, looking a more realistic possibility than it ever was.

Right now he holds the no.1 seed in the chase for the Sprint Cup title, in a season that has been somewhat of a career renewal for the most popular driver in NASCAR who has always been more shrouded in fame and adoration than actual success. Now, he is also the first driver to win at Pocono twice since Denny Hamlin in 2006, also making it five in a row for Hendrick Motorsports on the track.

Earnhardt has won more before: He finished 2004 with six wins, not that it helped him win the title. From 2005 to 2013, he won a total of four races. He is only one shy of that now. With three laps left in the race when the final restart happened, Earnhardt rushed forward ahead of the pack in his no. 88, who he is convinced is better than it was in June, when he won his previous race, leading through the final 14 laps.

Kevin Harvick made it a difficult race for a time before finishing second, clinching his spot in the chase, while being trailed by Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle. Jeff Gordon finished sixth a week after his win in the Brickyard, leading the race for 63 laps, more than anyone else. He has more points than Earnhardt (757 to 740), but has won less races which puts him in the inferior position going into the chase.

Hamlin was the cause for a big 13-car wreck, although he himself avoided getting hurt or stopped. He came out sideways from a turn, leading to Brian Vickers trying to avoid him, slamming into Matt Kenseth and causing the chain reaction that made people think of Daytona or Talladega, with Tony Stewart also taken out of the race, finding his car on top of Paul Menard’s, as Kyle Busch also failed to finish the race.

Jimmie Johnson was outside the top ten for a fourth straight time, this time blown tires getting in his way of competing. Earnhardt carried the flag for their team with his third win of the season, and maybe finally looking like someone who should be taken seriously for his ability to remain consistent, showing some substance behind the fame and all of the fans, that often seemed like it came for reasons that had nothing to do with racing.