by Garrett Horton
Pocono was the first race this year were the current top-4 in points, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Jimmie Johnson, all failed to finish in the top-10.
Rick Hendrick drivers have won the last three races: Kasey Kahne at Loudon, Jimmie Johnson at Indy, and Jeff Gordon at Pocono. This is the second time this year they have done won three in a row.
Jeff Gordon won his sixth race at Pocono on Sunday, which is a track record. It is the fifth venue where Gordon has won six or more races at, joining Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, and Darlington, where the latter two he owns seven victories apiece. Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte are the only other active full-time drivers to have at least six wins at any track.
Jeff Gordon has gained nine positions since the first Pocono race in June, going from 22nd to 13th in points and now occupies the second wildcard spot. No one has scored more points than Gordon during this eight race span.
If it wasn’t for restrictor plates, Jimmie Johnson would easily be this year’s dominant driver. His 14th-place finish in the rain shortened Pennsylvania 400 was his worst result in a non-restrictor plate race all year.
Kyle Busch is quickly seeing his Chase hopes fading. In the last nine races, he ranks just 20th among total points scored and has more DNF’s (3), than top-10’s (2) in that span.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. saw his streak of 21 consecutive lead lap finishes come to an end on Sunday, after he had to go behind the wall with transmission issues and ultimately finished 18 laps off the pace, the first time since Phoenix last fall that he hasn’t ended the race on the lead lap.
It was a 1-2 finish for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday, the first time in 24 races that any team has swept the first two positions. Richard Childress Racing was the last team to do so, when Clint Bowyer barely beat then-teammate Jeff Burton at Talladega last fall. Coincidentally, the most recent time before that was 31 races ago at Atlanta, which had been Gordon’s last win. There, he beat teammate Jimmie Johnson in a thrilling duel to the finish.
Regan Smith recorded his first top-10 in nearly a year, coming home in ninth-place. His last top-10 outing had been at Loudon last September, 28 races ago.
Denny Hamlin was relegated to a 29th-place result after getting caught-up in the Matt Kenseth-Jimmie Johnson incident on the final restart. While it’s not his worst finish at the Tricky Triangle, it marked his first DNF in 14 starts there.
Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. combined to lead 61 of the 98 laps run in the rain shortened Pocono event. However, it was the other teammates, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, who together led a total of only nine circuits, that finished 1-2.
With Earnhardt’s problems this past Sunday, Greg Biffle now has completed more laps than any other driver this year with 5,744 out of a possible 5,746. The two races he didn’t finish on the lead lap were Martinsville and Kentucky.
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