Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in position to pounce Sunday, all but punching his ticket to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by winning his second race this season and his first-ever at Pocono Raceway.
It took a little racing luck.
Runner-up Brad Keselowski was terrific in clean air. What he lacked was a clean grille.
When Keselowski's car began to overheat due to a piece of trash on his front end, Earnhardt roared by, becoming the fourth consecutive Hendrick Motorsports driver to put a Chevrolet in Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway.
|Dale Earnhardt leads at Pocono. (Photo: Getty Images/NASCAR)|
Earnhardt's triumph in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Pocono 400 gave him two victories this season, his first multiple-win campaign since 2004 when he won six times. He has seen and appreciated the gradual-but-steady strides his team has made.
Keselowski led 95 of Sunday's 160 laps and led Earnhardt by more than one second when his engine temperature forced him to take decisive action with five laps to go. Keselowski tucked in behind the lapped car of Danica Patrick, hoping to draw the debris off his grille. It did not work.
Kurt Busch finished third, polesitter Denny Hamlin fourth and rookie Kyle Larson took fifth. Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson, winner of the previous two Sprint Cup races, started 20th, overcame a pit road collision with Marcos Ambrose that dropped him as far back as 31st, and wound up sixth.