By: Billy Tewes
The Party at the Pocono’s will continue in victory lane for Jimmie Johnson dominated another race this year. This time, Johnson was able to avoid any restart penalties as he completely covered the field this afternoon to win the Party At the Poconos 400. Johnson led all but 32 of the 160 laps as he took home his 63rd career victory and third at Pocono.
The pole for the tricky triangle was awarded to Jimmie Johnson due to qualifying being rained out and Johnson would prove that the pole award was the only thing handed to him. The first lap of the race saw Kasey Kahne fall way off the pace and this was due to a drivetrain issue. Kahne would eventually make his way back to the track but would finish 36th and 19 laps down.
The first set of laps would see Johnson’s only hiccup of the day as Carl Edwards would take the lead from second. However, it would not take Johnson long to regain the lead and run away from the field.
Throughout the race and especially early on, drivers complained of extremely loose race cars. Drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle slightly fell back because of extremely loose race cars. The first few sets of pit stops would come under green until debris brought out the first caution. For majority of the second half of the race, the 39 car of Ryan Newman was off pit cycle from the leaders. At first this appeared to be a bad deal for Newman as most of the leaders had to make only one final pitstop and Newman had to make two. But a series of late cautions aided Newman’s fuel mileage gamble and he would end up finishing 5th, his second top five of the year.
The first accident of the day came when Matt Kenseth began to slide back. In the tunnel turn (turn 2), Juan Pablo Montoya tried to take advantage of the slower Kenseth, but got loose and washed up into Kenseth, taking out both. Kenseth would never be the same and went on to finish 25th, Montoya would finish a respectable 14th. A similar situation happened with Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart. On a restart, in the exact same tunnel turn, Keselowski slid up into Tony Stewart but both drivers had awesome saves. Tony Stewart would race on to finish in the top 5 whereas Keselowski slid back to finish 16th.
Johnson’s domination overshadows great runs by Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr and as I mentioned earlier, the fuel strategy run by Ryan Newman. These drivers had a shot at challenging Johnson for the lead on restarts, but that was about the only time they could come close to the back bumper of Johnson’s car.
Race fans its the time of the year for Nascar to head to Brooklyn, Michigan, the site of the 2 mile oval and first stop at the Michigan International Speedway. Another track that cracks the 200 MPH mark and one that always turns out classic finishes. The first Michigan race of 2002 was one of my favorite races as Dale Jarrett nearly passed the field in trying to chase Matt Kenseth down for the win. Kenseth would hold off Dale Jarrett but it was really amazing to see what fresh tires can do. My pick for the Quicken Loans 400 is going to be Jimmie Johnson. He is going to win back to back races and show the Hendrick Motorsports has a firm grip on producing great cars with this new gen six package.
Michigan International Speedway. Beautiful, but an absolute pain to get out of after the race!