For the first time in a decade, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins two races in one season, adding to his season-opening victory another first place finish, this time at Pocono, finishing ahead of Brad Keselowski, who had the victory in his hands but decided to make a foolish mistake that cost him the top spot for a second straight time.
Earnhardt, rising to third in the standings and joining Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick as the only drivers with two wins this season, hasn’t had a multi-win season since 2004. His victory means three straight for Hendricks Motorsports followed the streak from Johnson, who finished sixth with a pit road accident taking too much time for him to be any kind of factor in the finish.
Thanks to the second win this season and 29th in his career, Earnhardt now is shoe in for the chase, as he led three Hendricks drivers in the top 10, as Jeff Gordon finished eighth. Behind Keselowski came in Kurt Busch followed by Denny Hamlin who had the pole position at the beginning of the race. Keselowski got his second consecutive runner-up finish, despite leading for the most laps on the day.
What made this loss so infuriating for him? This wasn’t a wild chase like last week. Keselowski had the win sewn up and delivered, but he gave up the lead with five laps to go as he tried to clear debris from his grille and cool his overheated engine. He made a dangerous gamble which backfired on him – he couldn’t get the necessary draft from the lapped traffic to clear his car and make one final pass at Earnhardt. He finished the race, barely, but gave up what would have been his second win of the season.
It was definitely a mistake because the engine made it. It probably shouldn’t have. They were still within good reason to stand on it and give it hell.
When Dale Junior wins races the track is different. He gets mobbed more than anyone else, and social media erupts. There are more successful drivers than him out there, but not one of them generates the kind of reaction from the fans like Earnhardt does, as for the first time in years he seems to be in contention and relevant this deep in the season, finally having some wins to back him up. Winning early in the season probably took off a lot of pressure when it comes to simply racing instead of chasing points.
Johnson was looking to win for a third straight time, but he connected on pit road with Marcos Ambrose. He was fifth when he pitted under yellow. He hit Ambrose, spun 180 degrees which forced him to stop for more repairs, needing two tires, had right-front damage and dropped to 29th on the restart.
It was a rough day for Stewart-Haas Racing drivers, despite Kurt Busch finishing in the top 10 for the first time in nine races, since his win at Martinsville. Tony Stewart held the lead until he was busted for speeding on the pit road, dropping to 31st. Kevin Harvick had tire trouble, as the two finished 13th and 14th respectively. Danica Patrick finished 37th after crashing into the wall with 22 laps to go.