Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rating the Pennsylvania 400: 1 Stars *

A Sunday afternoon destined to be cut short by rain ended in tragedy with a big thunderstorm at Pocono Raceway. Jeff Gordon happened to sit in first place as the rains came, but the final race of the year at Pocono gets a 1 Star Rating.
The race really doesn’t matter following the death of a fan and injuries to nine others who were struck by lightning at the racetrack after officials ended the race on lap 98, and there is no way it could get a higher rating amid such a devastating event.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what happened before the storm Sunday at Pocono.
After a season filled with about every different type of disappointment imaginable, Gordon made a withdrawal from the luck bank when Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and the rest of the frontrunners tried to make it through Turn 1 sideways on the final restart.
Sure, Gordon and his team worked hard to get him in position to sneak through for a win, but he still caught one heck of a lucky break.
The same thing happened for Ryan Newman at Martinsville when Clint Bowyer took out Johnson and Gordon in Turn 1 on the final restart. Now Newman and Gordon are tied for the final wild-card spot, with Gordon winning the tiebreaker because he has more top-five finishes.
Maybe the final wild-card spot should be renamed the lucky card if one of those two drivers makes the Chase based on their lone win.
Sunday’s race actually had a fair amount of action for a rain-shortened event at Pocono. Yes, Johnson jumped out and paced the field by four seconds or so for a while, but the leaders stayed close during several runs, especially compared to most races at Pocono or most of the races this season.
Perhaps it’s fitting a Hendrick Motorsports car won the race because that organization again dominated the day. Dale Earnhardt Jr. charged to the front early in the race and would’ve been in strong contention for the win if his transmission hadn’t broke. Kasey Kahne had the second-best car at the start of the race and then Johnson made his usual run to the front.
Hendrick Motorsports could have placed four cars in the top five if not for bad Johnson and Earnhardt Jr.’s problems.
With all of the crazy issues throughout the day, Kyle Busch came out as the biggest loser. A problem with the back of his car sent him into the Turn 1 wall on lap 19 and he finished 33rd. More importantly, he scored just 11 points and now sits 15th in the points standings with one win. He came into the race 11th in the points and in position for the second wild card. He is now 12 points behind Gordan and Newman for that spot.
Either way, a big-name driver is going to miss the Chase this year.
Next up for the Sprint Cup Series is the road course of Watkins Glen. Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya will likely receive all sorts of attention and people will say they have a chance to make the Chase if they can win that race.
Well, technically they would have a chance, but neither car is running well enough these days to pose a real threat to the drivers currently in the wild-card positions. It would be great for Ambrose or Montoya to get a win, but let’s not push the issue too far.
Kahne, Gordon, Newman or Busch will be the wild-card drivers this year. Even Carl Edwards would have to mount a charge in an incredibly short amount of time to make the Chase.
He likely won’t win next week at Watkins Glen, so that means he has just Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond to make the Chase. He could catch fire and win two of those three races, but there is little reason to think that will happen based on his performance so far this season.
Anyway, have a great week and pray for those who were affected by the lightning strike at Pocono.


  1. There are 4 races between Watkins Glen and the start of the Chase. Michigan is after The Glen and before the Bristol night race.

  2. And, as a "btw", Carl's record at Michigan is pretty darn good: 2 wins, 9 top 5's, and 12 top 10's in 16 races, with an average finish of 8.4. If he's gonna make a move, that's where it'll have to start. He's also got 5 total wins in his career at Atlanta and Bristol, in 30 combined races. So anything's possible.