Four-time Champion Triumphs at Pocono

Junior Has Another Strong Run

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth at Pocono for his eighth Top 10 finish in 14 races and holds down the third spot in the NASCAR Chase For The Championship standings which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20 (photo courtesy: Jason Smith, Getty Images Sport)

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon drove to victory at Pocono for his second race win of 2011. With the victory, Gordon scored his fifth Top 10 finish, moving into 11th place in the NASCAR Race to the Chase standings with 14 races of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in the record books. After Race 26, the Top 10 drivers plus two wild cards not in the Top 10 who score the highest number of victories will contend for NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup Championship “playoff” system—the winner of which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend for a 10th consecutive season this fall. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Gordon sits just six points behind Ryan Newman, who holds down 10th place. Said Gordon, "I had a great race car and great pit stops. We had good restarts, and I was so caught up in it that I didn't know about the 84th win until the television people told me. I can't even express in words what it means to tie Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison with 84 wins. I just never thought it would ever happen, and it is pretty amazing."

Leading three times for 39 of the 200-lap race, he piloted his No. 24 car to Victory Lane for a record-tying fifth time at the track known as the "Tricky Triangle". Starting from the inside of row two, Gordon was never out of the sight of the leaders throughout the race. Gordon took the lead for the final time on Lap 182 and took the checkered flag with a 2.965 margin of victory. Gordon’s 84th career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory put him in a three-way tie with racing legends Darrell Waltrip and Miami native Bobby Allison for third in career Sprint Cup Series wins. The win marked the first time Gordon has scored multiple victories in a season since 2007 and came 11 races since his last triumph at Phoenix International Raceway in February.

“It feels good to say the least,” Gordon said. “We’ve had some success here in the past and this team gave me such a great car today. We’ve had some challenges lately but this is what we’ve been working so hard for.”

The victory puts Gordon square in the hunt for one of the two Wild Card berths available in this year’s Chase playoff hunt but he’s leery of making any kind of assumptions. The two wild cards will be drivers not in the Top 10 who score the highest number of victories will contend for NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup Championship “playoff” system—the winner of which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend for a 10th consecutive season this fall. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

“There’s way too much racing left before we start counting on anything,” Gordon said. “I feel a lot better about it, that’s for darn sure. We’ll just keep racing hard and trying to win and let all of that take care of itself.”

Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson scored a Top 5 finish in Pennsylvania. With his fourth-place finish, Gordon’s teammate Johnson pulled within six points of the current series point leader and defending Ford 400 race winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway Carl Edwards. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Last year’s third-place finisher in the NASCAR Championship standings, Kevin Harvick, finished fifth. Harvick remains fourth in points, just 11 points behind Edwards and one point out of third. He has three wins so far this season, the most of all the competitors in the Race to the Chase—the winner of which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend for a 10th consecutive season this fall. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

The third-place Championship points position is held by NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Junior was sixth at the checkered flag, his eighth Top 10 finish of the year after coming from 21st to sixth, running near the front throughout most of the race.

Following post-race inspection Kyle Busch's car was found to be 1/16th of an inch too low. Asked about an early-race joust with rival Harvick that prompted NASCAR officials to warn the two competitors, Busch stated, "I was running my own race, and it seemed like he was trying to make it difficult for me, so I just backed off. It just kinds of shows his character, who he is and how he feels he needs to race. It is not my fight; he's just trying to turn it into one."

It wasn’t a good day for Edwards, who came into the weekend on top of the Sprint Cup Series point standings. Edwards suffered an early race engine problem and was knocked from contention before the race hit the quarter mark. He continues as the point leader but with only a six-point margin over Johnson. Third through the seventh positions are unchanged with Earnhardt, Harvick, Kyle and Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth occupying these spots.

"One of the valves got in an argument with something in the engine and lost," said Edwards, who maintained the series points lead after fourteen races. "We broke one valve. We don't think it is from an over rev or anything, we just think it was a parts failure."

Edwards was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson this fall when NASCAR crowns a Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Another pre-race favorite had his hopes thwarted when last year’s NASCAR Championship runner-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Denny Hamlin, suffered a variety of problems. Hamlin was shooting for a fifth career Pocono win but despite leading a stretch was kept out of contention for a victory by pit road issues as well as a flat tire.

“We were a little out of sequence [on pit road],” said Hamlin who finished 19th. “When we left pit road and had a flat tire, it was just a slew of problems.”

After Race 26, the Top 10 drivers plus two wild cards not in the Top 10 who score the highest number of victories will contend for NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup Championship “playoff” system—the winner of which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend for a 10th consecutive season this fall. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 19 (Noon ET, TNT, MRN). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Miami’s Montoya NabsTop 10 Finish at Pocono

JPM Climbs Aboard His Chevy

South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya finished seventh at Pocono to sit 13th in the points standings in his Chase for a Sprint Cup Championship on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20.

Montoya aboard the No. 42 Target car, was the seventh-place finisher after starting 16th in the 43-car field. He was credited for leading three times for 38 laps and moved up two positions in the standings to 13th place.

“We had a really good car all day,” said Montoya. “With like 25 laps to go I lost third gear. It was kind of weird. It was a good thing we didn’t have another caution because we would have been completely done. We’ve had some problems with the gear box and things lately but I don’t know.”

Montoya has two Top 6 finishes in four races in 2011, a good sign for the Miami resident looking to be racing for the Sprint Cup Championship on his home track Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway are on sale now. For ticket information, click HERE or call (866) 409-RACE.

Next up for Montoya and NASCAR’s best is Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 19 (Noon ET, TNT, MRN Radio)—Race 15 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18-20).

Follow Montoya on Twitter:

@JPMontoya

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@HomesteadMiami

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