Junior Has Transmission Issues at Pocono

Point’s leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy car had a transmission issue on lap 51. Earnhardt Jr. finished the race in the 32nd postion, but remains the point’s leader by 5 over second-place (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, GETTY IMAGES SPORT).

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon turned the bad luck he has experienced all season into good luck when he steered by an incident involving the front runners to take the lead just before the yellow flag waved on Lap 98. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car drove around the track under caution until rain ended Race 20 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16-18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

"The way our year has gone, we'll definitely take it," Gordon said.

Pole sitter and South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya and Denny Hamlin exchanged the lead several times in the opening laps before Hendrick Motorsports took control of the race on Lap 15.

NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for Lap 20, but Kyle Busch brought out the caution a lap early. The yellow flag didn't wave again until Kurt Busch hit the wall on Lap 86. On the ensuing restart, Gordon took advantage of a multi-car accident and timely rainfall at Pocono to drive to victory lane for the first time this season. 

Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driving the No. 48 car, inadvertently gave Gordon the break he needed when Johnson had a right-rear tire go down on the final restart. Johnson's car got loose and caused Matt Kenseth to hit the wall. The chaos that followed opened a hole in traffic, which enabled Gordon to power to the lead.

"I'd never seen the sea part like that," Gordon said.

The win puts Gordon into wild-card contention in the Chase For The Sprint Cup. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Despite transmission woes Sunday, NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., retained the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points lead with a 32nd-place finish. Earnhardt developed transmission problems 50 laps into the race. However, the late-race accident between Johnson and Kenseth enabled the driver of No. 88 car to retain a five-point advantage over Kenseth in the standings.

Earnhardt entered the weekend with a 14-point lead over Kenseth. In NASCAR's stop at Indianapolis last week, Junior had tied eventual Pocono race winner Jeff Gordon's record for completing 21 consecutive races on the lead lap and was set to break the record on Sunday. But Earnhardt finished 32nd, 18 laps off the pace.

“It’s tough,” Earnhardt said. “We had a good run going. The Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet was pretty fast. Jimmie (Johnson's) the quickest car out there, but we felt like we might have been able to work on ours — we were tight — I thought we could make it better than what we were.”

Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is Watkins Glen on Sunday, August 12 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN, MRN Radio) — en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

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