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Pocono 500 News and Notes

Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

Driver Updates -- Pocono
June 9, 2007
By Micah Roberts 

Top 5 drivers after all practice and qualifying sessions:
1) Denny Hamlin
2) Tony Stewart
3) Jimmie Johnson
4) Martin Truex Jr
5) Ryan Newman

Best longshots with legitimate shot at winning:
1) Casey Mears 30 to 1 or higher
2) Dale Earnhardt Jr 18 to 1 or higher
3) Martin Truex Jr 18 to 1 or higher
4) Ryan Newman 20 to 1 or higher
5) J.J. Yeley 40 to 1 or higher

Top favorites to bet against:
1) Jeff Burton
2) Jeff Gordon
3) Mark Martin

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Fords need Pocono power pill

LONG POND, Pa. -- David Gilliland was in an upbeat mood when he arrived at The Edelweiss for dinner Friday night.

After all, the Robert Yates Racing driver had the fastest Ford in qualifying for the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.

The only problem? Gilliland will start 16th in Sunday's race, and his qualifying time of 53.918 seconds was a whopping 0.96 seconds off Dodge driver Ryan Newman's pole lap of 52.922 seconds.

Ten Chevrolets, three Dodges and two Toyotas comprise the top 15 qualifiers for Sunday's race. The next best Ford behind Gilliland's No. 38 is the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth, who is fighting to hold on to third place in the Nextel Cup points standings. Kenseth will start 24th Sunday.

Chevrolet's new R07 engine might account for some of the disparity at the top, but not all Chevy teams are running the new power plant. Kenseth has the only non-Chevrolet win of 2007 -- in the season's second race, at California Speedway -- and Ford's performance of late suggests the carmaker needs a boost in power.

Chevrolet drivers dominated Saturday's Happy Hour (final practice) at Pocono, posting the seven fastest times. Denny Hamlin, who won both Pocono races from the pole last year, paced the field with a lap at 165.770 mph in his No. 11 Chevy.

Kenseth had the quickest Ford in final practice; he turned a fast lap of 164.408 mph, good for 11th overall.

Second lap may have saved Riggs' season

The line of demarcation between success and failure can be razor thin.

Scott Riggs, whose No. 10 Evernham Motorsports Dodge is 36th in points, needed a heroic effort on his second qualifying lap Friday to salvage a starting spot in Sunday's Pocono 500.

One of 13 drivers who had to make the field on qualifying time, Riggs ran the first of his two qualifying laps at the 2.5-mile track in 54.660 seconds -- not fast enough to make the race. An improvement of .35 seconds on his second lap, however, was good enough to earn Riggs the 31st starting position.

Riggs was the only driver among the 49 who made qualifying runs whose second lap was faster than his first. By making the field, Riggs gave himself a chance to overtake Johnny Sauter, whom he trails by 86 points, for the 35th position in points. Sauter will start 40th Sunday.

Missing the race would have locked Riggs out of the top 35 for at least one race and perhaps for the rest of the season. The top 35 in owner points are guaranteed starting positions, regardless of qualifying speed.

McCumbee likes Pocono track

Chad McCumbee is subbing for Kyle Petty this weekend, as Petty, the regular driver of the No. 45 Dodge, moves to the broadcast booth with TNT. Though Pocono is a difficult track for his NASCAR Nextel Cup debut, McCumbee, who will start 35th Sunday, approves of the choice for his first Cup start.

"I'm sure there may be easier tracks, but for me, I'd rather come here," said the 22-year-old Craftsman Truck Series regular from Supply, N.C. "If it's a little difficult, it's just going to help my learning curve even more.

"The harder the track, the more I'm going to learn. When you go with it in that mind-set, it's probably one of the better choices."

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Pocono 500: Three Turns And A Cloud Of Dust
by Brian Gabrielle

Ah, Pocono.

Crazy tri-cornered monstrosity out in the Pennsylvania woods. Home of a too-long race with too few passes and too weird turns. Home of a nutty half-mile front straightaway that for some reason ends in a turn shallower than Paris Hilton.

Yes, Pocono is my least favorite track. Hendrick is often good here. Gibbs, too. But this is one of your more painful races to watch on television. I recommend a strong TiVo remote with lots of hard drive space and a nimble fast-forward finger.

Let's take a look at the week's best bets.

Last Week: Jimmie Johnson was looking good for a mighty long time at Dover, but he blew a tire late, and any chance we had of nailing a straight-up bet went with him. However, we won with our head-to-head selection of Jeff Gordon over Tony Stewart, which gave us a weekly win of 0.27 net units on 1.5 units wagered (an 18% return). For the season, we're up a positive 2.65 units on 19.5 units wagered (a 13.6% return). (Note that if you'd eschewed the conservative betting scheme we outline below, and simply bet one unit per wager on everything we recommend, you'd have lost 2.23 units last weekend, but you'd still be up a net positive 10.85 units on 52 units wagered for the year, a return of 20.9%.)

Take Denny Hamlin (+340), 1/6th unit. Not, I repeat not, an adventurous bet. Hamlin won his only two career Cup victories at this track last year, taking both Pocono events in blowout fashion. Then he came back this weekend, qualified second behind Ryan Newman (+1125), and was the fastest car in Saturday's Happy Hour. He's the prohibitive favorite until someone else proves otherwise.

Take Tony Stewart (+600), 1/6th unit. I was all set to pick Kurt Busch (+1800) in this spot before he (a) lost 100 points because if his run-in with Stewart at Dover last week, and (b) crashed his primary car during Friday's qualifying run, forcing him to a backup car. Stewart has a win at Pocono (in the spring of '03), finished third and seventh here last year, and when he doesn't wreck (as he did with Carl Edwards (+2500) last fall) is a good bet to be near his teammate Hamlin's bumper.

Take Brian Vickers (+6000), 1/6th unit. I'm doing something I hardly ever do in NASCAR events: picking a serious, serious long shot. Vickers wasn't even a lock to make the field, since he still sits outside the top 35 in owner points, but he qualified ninth on Friday, securing his space on the merits of his own four wheels. When he drove for Hendrick over the past couple seasons, Vickers finished second, 14th, fourth and fourth at Pocono, and honestly had a chance to win two of those events outright. I grant you: Vickers practiced terribly on Saturday, so any speed I thought he had might be long gone and hard to find, and this bet could wind up looking foolish in a hurry. But I can't help it: I think these odds are way off, and where I see huge value like this, I'm going to take a chance.

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Green Flag: Pocono 500
By Dan Beaver

Pocono Raceway has always been difficult on first-time drivers. Other than Denny Hamlin last year and Jeremy Mayfield in 1998, no driver has recorded his first career victory on this track. Carl Edwards won in his first attempt here—which was his second NASCAR Nextel Cup victory after winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier in 2005—but they are the exception to the rule, and very few other active drivers have recorded a top-10 in their inaugural trip to the Pocono triangle.

It is notable, however, that all three of these milestones were recorded in the first Pocono race of the season, as June is developing a reputation for being kinder than July.

Tier One
It is impossible to overlook Denny Hamlin at Pocono. His mastery of this place last year bordered on legendary, and while perfect streaks are hard to come by, much stranger things have occurred during the history of NASCAR. If he misses, his overall flat track record suggests he is still good for a top-five finish, which more than makes him worth the while in this Tier. If you have been paying attention, you've save allocations for him for the flat courses, and now is the time to use them.

Hendrick Motorsports has been strong with every one of their drivers at Pocono, which means that both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have to be viewed as favorites to win as well. Between the two, we are going to give the slight edge to Gordon for one reason from the track and one from off it. His final result in this race last year was a DNF caused by brake failure, but he was running at the head of the pack before then and would have likely earned a top-10 if not for the failure. Off the track, his wife is about to give birth to their first daughter, and Gordon would like to have a big enough points' lead to be able to skip the Infineon Raceway event if needed to attend the delivery. This will ensure he goes flat out.

Kurt Busch will race this weekend, but he has been docked points and placed on probation for his bone-headed move in the pits at Dover International Speedway when he swerved into the side of Tony Stewart's car while a crewman was working on it. He should be relieved that he was not suspended—and one is left to wonder just who has to get killed in order to actually draw that kind of penalty from NASCAR—but he should at least be chagrined and embarrassed in the car, which might put him off his game.

Tier Two
Edwards won in his first attempt here and like Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr., he is coming off a recent victory. His win came in the NASCAR Prelude to the Dream late model dirt charity race at Eldora Speedway in a rare appearance in that type of car. That shows car control and momentum, which are two things that will help him into the top five this week.

Mears has a dark horse chance to win this week. He has not been overly impressive at Pocono in the past because of the equipment he's been in, but Hendrick has placed every one of their drivers in the top 10 at some point in their careers, and most of these have also earned top-fives. Moreover, he had a much better than anticipated run on the high banks of Dover last week, which allows him to maintain his momentum. If circumstances fall the right way, he is even capable of winning outright, which would take him from the doghouse to the penthouse in a very short time after he struggled during the first one-third of the season.

The drivers to avoid in tiers two, three and four all belong to the same owner. Chip Ganassi Racing has had a terrible time on this triangular track in the past few years, and in 2006 none of their drivers cracked the top 25. That kind of consistent misjudgment of the handling characteristics of a track means they have absolutely no notes from which to work, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme and Juan Montoya can wait for another day.

Montoya gets a yellow flag instead of a red one this week, however, because this track is often kind to road racing stars. The flat corners require a driver to slow before entering them, and Montoya might be able to crack the top 20 with a little luck.

Tier Three
This tier does not reveal too many great options, which requires you to watch Saturday's practice sessions closely. Whichever driver has the best average speeds over the long run will become your dark horse contender and the best you can do for the moment is to decide which men to give the most attention.

Experience counts at Pocono, so Bobby Labonte and Elliott Sadler should be two of these drivers watched. Petty Enterprises has been vastly improved for the past two years, and Pocono is as good a venue for them to strut as any. Ray Evernham Motorsports will eventually get their ship righted, and it could come this week as well. There are no guarantees, however, so expect Tier Three to be challenging.

J.J. Yeley had luck and speed on his side a couple of weeks ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway and that momentum should still be with him. If you want to save the veterans for later in the season, give the driver of the No. 18 a long look on Saturday, but if he does not achieve fast times in practice, avoid him nonetheless.

Tier Four

The Wood Bros. are much better than their results show, and in the last couple of races, we've been waiting for Bill Elliott to break out. Since Pocono is so kind to veterans, this could be the week for that to happen. Oh yeah, and he has five career victories to his credit already on this tricky old track, which puts him at the top of the list.

Brian Vickers finished fourth in both events last year, and while he was in much better equipment in the No. 25, his Toyota has taken on a different look in the past few weeks. Pocono has different demands on the engine than the unrestricted, intermediate speedways or the high banks, but his speed on both types of tracks in the last two weeks suggests that the manufacturer and teams are starting to work well together to find the right combination.

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Gordon uses risky call to win rain-shortened race at Pocono
June 10, 2007

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) -Even with his brakes failing and the rain falling, Jeff Gordon showed that nothing could slow him down on the way to his fourth victory of the season.

Gordon held off a charging Ryan Newman to win the rain-shortened race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday night and give Hendrick Motorsports its 10th win in the last 12 Nextel Cup races.

The race was red flagged after 106 laps of the scheduled 200-lap, 500-mile race. With darkness falling, the cars went back to pit road and never came back after a final attempt to dry the track.

Newman finished second, extending his miserable run of having no wins to show for all his poles. He seemed poised to catch Gordon right before the caution came out and instead stretched his winless drought to 59 races.

The race was delayed three hours by rain, starting close to the time the race usually ends.

With dark clouds closing in and Gordon's brakes on the fritz, crew chief Steve Letarte called the car into the pits for an early service call. Gordon relinquished the lead on the stop, but Letarte figured his driver would cycle back to the front after everyone else made their scheduled stops.

And he assumed it would start raining while Gordon was leading. It was a gamble, because the earlier pit stop had put Gordon off sequence with the rest of the field. If it didn't rain quickly, he'd have to pit much earlier than everyone else and would fall deep into the field after the stop.

But if it did rain in that short window, they'd be out front and inherit the win when the race was called.

It worked perfectly, as the sky opened seconds before Newman closed in on Gordon and NASCAR stopped the race. They still had to wait about 35 minutes for NASCAR to call the event, handing Gordon his fourth win at Pocono and first since 1998.

``Steve Letarte, he won this race today,'' Gordon said. ``We had a great race car, but without track position and without a great risky call like that ... I can't believe we just won this race.''

Drivers had to wait again after last week's race at Dover was pushed back a day because of rain. The Pocono 500 became a race to the 101st lap to make it official, leading to some hard and frantic racing early on a track more known for some leisurely stretches in the first half.

Martin Truex Jr. was third and Casey Mears fourth in the first Nextel Cup race since former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. died on Monday. A moment of silence was held before the green flag dropped and a prayer was said at the end of the driver's meeting to ``remember the France family and continue to comfort them.''

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. Hamlin swept both races on the 2.5-mile triangle track last season and failed in his bid to become only the third driver to win three straight here.

Kurt Busch, docked 100 points for his pit road run-in with Stewart at Dover, was eighth.

Jimmie Johnson, who entered second in the points standings, blew his left front tire 91 laps into the race causing his No. 48 Chevrolet to spark and smoke into pit road. Johnson, who swept Pocono in 2004, took his car to the garage and he finished 42nd.

Gordon won for the fourth time in the last seven races to go along with Victory Lane celebrations at Phoenix, Talladega and Darlington.

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Re: Pocono 500 News and Notes

What a dumb and boring race this turned out to be.  :-","xx

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Becca's Big Six : Pocono Edition
Becca Gladden
Monday June 11, 2007

Who … gets my shout-out of the race?

Ryan Newman and the No. 12 Alltel Team. Had the red flag been thrown a few seconds later, Newman would’ve passed the No. 24 for the win, as Gordon complained that his tires were gone. Nonetheless, Newman’s second place finish moved him up two spots in the standings to 13th; he now sits just 22 points behind Mark Martin, who is running a partial Cup schedule, for the final slot in the Chase. But talk about improvement! In the first seven races of ’07, Newman had one Top 10 and an average finish of 23.7. In the next seven races, he’s had five Top 10s and average finish of 14.3. Newman, a four-time winner of the Annual Bud Pole Award, has four poles so far this year, twice as many as he won in all of 2006.

What … else can be said about Bill France, Jr., that hasn’t already been said?

Not much, but every one of us with a connection to NASCAR, whether as your job, your passion, or just your passing interest, owes a debt of thanks to Mr. France. I think Kyle Petty said it best when he explained that while Bill France, Sr., planted the first NASCAR seeds, it was Bill France, Jr., who watered them, nourished them, and shaped them into the trees that bear the mature fruit of which we all happily partake today.

Where … is Mother Nature going to strike next?

A lot of race fans and drivers were sorely disappointed with the early termination of Sunday’s race after just 106 of the 200 scheduled laps. The 2007 NASCAR season has been marred by a number of weather challenges, including last Sunday’s Dover race which had to be postponed until Monday. When rain is a factor, it’s always a tough call for NASCAR officials, who really do try to balance the interests of the drivers, teams, owners, and fans. But no matter what the eventual call is, someone is going to be unhappy, as Pocono proved. Happily, the long-term forecast for Michigan is not calling for rain – yet.

When … is NASCAR going to get a handle on the testing controversy?

In 2006, NASCAR instituted a new testing policy, which limited teams to seven Goodyear-sanctioned test dates at pre-selected Cup tracks. The idea was to level the playing field for underfunded teams which could not afford unlimited testing like their megacounterparts. But the big boys have found all kinds of ways to skirt the testing rules. For one thing, NASCAR does not prohibit testing on non-Cup tracks with non-Goodyear tires – so the playing field is still decidedly tilted in favor of big money. SpeedTV reported today that a number of Nextel Cup teams are interested in purchasing vehicles from the Craftsman Truck Series for testing, since there are similarities between the trucks and the Car of Tomorrow, which the Cup series will race exclusively in 2008. This would give yet another advantage to teams who can afford to spend more for all the resources required to conduct extensive tests. If NASCAR really wants to help the smaller teams as they claim, they need to get a handle on all of the existing loopholes in the testing rules.

Why … is Dale Earnhardt sometimes referred to as “Saint Dale”?

Well, it seems that title might be more fitting for the King, Richard Petty, at least based on an observation by young Chad McCumbee this weekend. McCumbee won the Pocono 200 ARCA/REMAX series race on Saturday in his first start for Petty Enterprises, and one of the first people to congratulate Chad in Victory Lane was Richard Petty himself. “When he was there, it seems like a light centers around him,” said McCumbee. By the way, McCumbee, a Truck Series regular, made his first Cup start Sunday, filling in for Kyle Petty who was broadcasting the race on TNT. He finished 25th from a 35th-place start in the No. 45 car.
How … big a deal are NASCAR’s new bonus points going to be when the Chase starts?

So far, this year’s regular season racing doesn’t seem noticeably different from the past few seasons. But make no mistake about it – the new 10-point bonus that will be awarded to Chase drivers per regular season win are going to have a huge impact on this year’s title hunt. Just ask crew chief Steve LeTarte, whose driver Jeff Gordon already has four wins and will start the Chase with a 40-point bonus over drivers with no wins. “We are just shooting for wins. That is the goal here – that is, 10 more points for the Chase – to get as many bonus points as we can for the Chase. We just want to make this Chase and have as many bonus points as possible when we get there.”

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Pocono 500
Matt McLaughlin
Monday June 11, 2007

The Key Moment: Rain began pelting the third turn just as Ryan Newman was setting up Jeff Gordon to take the lead.

In a Nutshell: The No. 24 had no brakes, no tires, and no fuel… but all the luck they needed.

Dramatic Moment: On fresher tires and seeing rain on his windshield, Ryan Newman drove his heart out trying to complete the pass for the lead just as the yellow flag flew. Had the race lasted another ten laps, the finishing order would have been radically rearranged.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

How surprised was Jeff Gordon to win? He failed to mention a single sponsor in the first three sentences of his victory celebration.

Remember when NASCAR used to talk about “parity”? With one team winning ten races and one manufacturer winning thirteen of fourteen, “parity” has become a parody. Also of note, ten of the twelve drivers currently in contention for the Chase drive Chevrolets.

What is it with races and rain all of a sudden? This is getting frustrating. Are teams going to start adding meteorologists to the crews and begin launching their own low orbit weather satellites?

During the big “mystery debris caution” debate after Phoenix NASCAR officials repeatedly said they would always “err on the side of caution” when deciding when to throw the yellow. So how come while the 48 car was chugging around the track on a flat left front tire, throwing molten metal debris everywhere, the race wound up staying green?

Hey, wasn’t TNT’s stretch of coverage supposed to be commercial free? (Like the Side-by-Side coverage the IRL gets).

Editor’s Note : That’s actually still partially correct. One TNT race IS scheduled to run commercial free; the Pepsi 400 on July 7th. Titled “Wide Open Coverage,” a revolutionary new way to cover the sport will fit promotional materials in the lower 3rd of the screen so that the race fans never miss a part of the action. If that experiment is successful, we could see this idea implemented more in future years.

It might have been because of the rain, but TNT’s initial offering of the 2007 season was marred by a surprising number of video and audio problems that would have embarrassed a local access channel.

To all those folks calling for the 500 mile races at Pocono to be decreased (by design, not rain) are we talking about an attendant drop in ticket prices? The price to get into the Pocono infield, the Wild Wild West of NASCAR, is highway robbery.

Should NASCAR have suspended Kurt Busch? It’s beginning to look like a driver throwing a tantrum is going to have to kill a pit crew member before NASCAR gets serious about policing pit road. Maybe we could get Paris Hilton’s judge to reconsider NASCAR’s decision?

Sounds like Dale Jarrett is looking hard for a way to jump ship at Michael Waltrip Racing, and that’s pretty wise. There’s going to be a lot of rats looking for a way off that Ship of Fools soon. Toyota may be trying to help DJ find a new ride with another Camry team, supposedly an existing team that will switch to Toyotas next year. Some folks are saying Joe Gibbs Racing (DJ drove for Gibbs in the past), but the railbirds are citing Chip Ganassi’s struggling organization. After all, Juan Pablo Montoya used to drive Toyota-powered CART entries for Ganassi.

Another brilliant programming move by SPEED TV: They decided to move the Pocono ARCA race, which ran Saturday afternoon, to a time slot where it ran against the Nashville Busch race on ESPN2. I’m going to guess the live Busch race edged out a ratings victory against a tape delayed ARCA race. And that both beat the ratings for the Canadian GP (which ran against the Pocono race) by a comfortable margin.

Speaking of F1, did anyone else see Robert Kubica’s crash in Canada? It’s a stone miracle he walked away.

Damn. Carl Edwards is leading the Busch points standings by 662 points fifteen races into the season. At this point last season, Kevin Harvick was only 272 points ahead of the second place driver. (Carl Edwards, incidentally.) Any more questions why NASCAR is apparently struggling to find a new title sponsor for the Busch Series?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Denny Hamlin clearly had the fastest car on Sunday, but the rain-inspired game of musical chairs in the pits didn’t fall his way.

The race only went half the distance, but Dave Blaney ended up taking half a car to the pits.

Greg Biffle’s Ford was just flat out horrible all weekend. Don’t expect Blaney to feel sorry for him, though.

Jimmie Johnson was among the Hendrick juggernaut running up front until a flat left front tire permanently derailed his chances at a good finish.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

The string of events that converged to give Jeff Gordon a win was practically cosmic.

Martin Truex had a pretty good week with a win on Monday at Dover and a third place finish at Pocono on Sunday.

Like his teammate Gordon, Casey Mears couldn’t have gone much further on fuel were it not for the timely intervention of Mother Nature.

Worth Noting

* Today’s was the shortest event ever run at Pocono, as the race was called 265 miles in. The previous shortest race at this track was in 1986, when Tim Richmond drove to Victory Lane after just 375 miles.

* Rick Hendrick-owned teams have won eleven of fourteen races run this season. Both Gordon and Johnson have each won four races apiece.

* Jeff Gordon has won four of the last seven races, and has finished first or second in half of this season’s fourteen points events.

* Ryan Newman finished second for the second consecutive race and has Top 10 finishes in five of the last six races. Maybe he could lend teammate Kurt Busch some points?

* Martin Truex, Jr. has back-to-back Top 10 finishes for the first time in his career.

* Casey Mears has Top 10 finishes in two of the last three races.

* Tony Stewart has Top 10 finishes in four of the last five races.

* Denny Hamlin has Top 10 finishes in the last five races and in eight of the last nine events.

* Kyle Busch enjoyed his first Top 10 finish since Richmond. Kevin Harvick in eleventh also had his best finish since Richmond.

* Jeff Burton has just one Top 10 finish in the last seven races. He started the year with six Top 10 results in the first seven races.

* Matt Kenseth has Top 10 finishes in four of the last five races.

* Joe Nemechek had his best finish since Fontana.

* Juan Pablo Montoya had his best finish since Texas.

* Eight of the Top 10 finishers at Pocono drove Chevys. The Bow-Tie Party was spoiled only by Dodge’s Ryan Newman in second and Ford’s Matt Kenseth in ninth.

* The top finishing rookie was Juan Pablo Montoya in 20th.

What’s the Points?

Jeff Gordon remains in first, opening his lead to 242 over new second place man Matt Kenseth. Kenseth and third place Denny Hamlin each move up a spot, with Jimmie Johnson dropping two spots to fourth after his troubles. Jeff Burton rounds out the Top 5.

Further back, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards swapped sixth and seventh place, with Stewart now holding the advantage. The rest of the Top 10 held serve : Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch. Martin Truex, Jr. and Mark Martin round out this week’s version of the Chase Top 12.

Drivers gaining spots after Pocono include Casey Mears (up four spots to 23rd), Ryan Newman (up two spots to 13th), and Juan Montoya (up a spot to 21st.)

Drivers riding the downbound train include Jamie McMurray (down two spots to 15th), Sterling Marlin (down three spots to 27th), and Greg Biffle (down a spot to 19th.)

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – We’ll give this one two cans of rainwater diluted Schlitz. There’s one thing more frustrating than competition interruptus…but it wouldn’t be polite to discuss.

Next Up: It’s off to Michigan on Father’s Day for one boring mother of a race.

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RacingOne Rewind: Pocono

A look back at Jeff Gordon's 79th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway including news, notes and observations by the RacingOne staff.

Inside Line
After rain delayed the start of the event by nearly three hours, it was a race to halfway for the NEXTEL Cup competitors as another shower closed in on the Pocono’s. Rain finally began to fall four laps after the event became official, just as Ryan Newman pulled alongside Jeff Gordon.

Keys to Victory Lane
Steve Letarte called Jeff Gordon in for a green-flag pit stop while leading on lap 82 - while most of his competitors elected to stay out and wait for rain. The lead cycled back to Gordon when the other contenders had to pit just shy of the halfway mark. Gordon regained the lead on lap 99, and held on until rain began to fall on lap 104.

Zero to Hero
Mark Martin started 34th. He moved up to run in contention, lead a lap and finished seventh. Martin missed his pit during caution flag stops on lap 51 that cost him track position.

Hero to Zero
Jimmie Johnson cut down a tire and made a trip to the garage. He finished 42nd and fell from second to fourth in the NEXTEL Cup Series points.

Rookie of the Race
Juan Pablo Montoya finished 20th, six positions ahead of David Ragan. Montoya, making his first visit to Pocono, ran as high as third during the final round of green flag pit stops.

Denny Hamlin had the car to beat through much of the event. Seeking his third Pocono victory in his third start on the unique tri-oval, he led the opening 25 laps. He led five times for a race-high 49 laps. He finished sixth, one position behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart, who shadowed him throughout much of the early going.

Pit Stops
* Jeff Gordon captured his 79th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in his 487th start. The victory was also his fourth at Pocono. Detailed Active Driver Wins

* Gordon won the 159th race for car owner Rick Hendrick. Detailed Active Car Owner Wins

* Gordon became the first driver to win at Pocono from the 18th starting spot. He also became the 15th driver overall to win a race from that position. Starting Position Facts

* Gordon led two times for 26 laps. Lap Summary

* Gordon won the 13th race of the season for Chevrolet. It was also the 609th overall win for the manufacturer. All-Time Manufacturer Wins

* Ryan Newman recorded his second consecutive runner-up finish and third top five this season.

* Martin Truex Jr. lowered his average finish this season to 18.1 with his third place result.

* Casey Mears has jumped from 35th to 23rd in the NEXTEL Cup standings in the last three races with finishes of first, 13th and fourth respectively.

* Tony Stewart recorded his fourth consecutive top-10 finish at Pocono Raceway.

* Denny Hamlin's average finish at Pocono increased to 2.7 with his sixth-place finish.

* Mark Martin scored his seventh top-10 finish in his 11 starts this season.

* Kyle Busch's eighth place result was his best finish at Pocono since his fourth in June, 2005.

* Matt Kenseth continued his streak of 13 consecutive top-15 finishes.

* Clint Bowyer recorded his first top-10 finish at Pocono Raceway in three visits.

* The 106-lap race saw 15 lead changes among eight drivers and an average speed of 135.608 mph.

* Four caution flags were thrown for 10 laps.

* The Pocono 500 lasted 1 hours, 57 minutes, 15 seconds.

Lug Nuts
* It's cool when strategy and crew chiefs play a role in wins from time-to-time, but we're a little bit overdosed the last few weeks. How about some real racing please?

* Martin Truex, Jr. looks like he's growing comfortably into that leadership role at DEI, doesn't he?

* Kurt Busch may just as well been suspended for Sunday's race, since he was a non-factor anyway.

* No sponsor, no Greg Biffle at Roush next year.

* Penske and RCR now talking about adding more cars to the stable next year, which will make Fridays even more stressful in 2008 if NASCAR doesn't change the Top 35 rule.

* Not sure why NASCAR waited as long as they did to finally call the race because there was no way with rain and dark around the track things could have restarted. It cost TNT at least two episodes of "Law and Order."

Garage Talk
* "If it had been (Dale Earnhardt) Junior, we would have an issue. I was hoping they'd throw stuff at me so they could call the race for that reason. Any thing that showered down on this track today would have been fine by me. We've definitely had some dramatic wins this year, for sure." Jeff Gordon on the timing of the final caution

* "We've won this way and we've lost this way. I won my first race this way, so I can't complain about any part of it. The lap before the caution I got the rain on the back straightaway, so I knew it was going to be raining harder yet. Jeff didn't get it so he checked ujp and I got a good run at him." Ryan Newman on the timing of the final caution

* Saturday gave me a lot of confidence, and I think we did what we set out to do in our first Cup race." Chad McCumbee, after finishing 25th in his NEXTEL Cup Series debut, subbing for TNT commentator Kyle Petty.

* "We've had good pit stops all year when we were running like a dog, and today we were running pretty good, and got caught up in the pits." Ricky Rudd, who was up to second but finished 27th.

* "I took this place for granted a little bit. I thought I could fall in and be ready to go, but this place is a lot harder than I thought. I should have brought an old ARCA car or played on some video game back home." David Ragan, who finished 26th

RacingOne Rating
On a scale of one to ten bride's bouquets from the land of honeymoons, we'll give Sunday's Pocono 400 a six. Rain really screwed things up and we once again had a strategy-filled affair, short on real racing. But there was some excitement in that chess match at the end and we won't complain about a race not 500 miles long at Pocono, quite frankly how they all should be. But after Wednesday's "Prelude to a Dream," we were ready for some real racing. Hopefully it'll be on display next weekend in Michigan.

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