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Posts Tagged ‘Pocono Raceway’

Johnson’s Pocono finish may be telling

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

It’s days like Monday afternoon at Pocono that prove Jimmie Johnsoncan win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title.

Johnson was three laps down late in the race. He was 36th with 40 laps to go and 34th with 30 laps left. He had an engine problem the team couldn’t figure out.

And after all that, Johnson finished 13th in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, an astonishing comeback to make a respectable showing off a horrible situation.

That’s how you win championships.

“For us to salvage a 13th-place finish means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “I think we are going in the right direction. It shows me what my team is capable of and what I’m capable of going into the Chase.”

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

Johnson ran first or second in the first 100 laps of the 200-lap event before his engine started to sputter. He didn’t know what was wrong.

“OK buddy, check your switches,” crew chief Chad Knaus said calmly over the radio.

No help. Johnson had to pit. The 48 Chevy team lifted the hood, looking for a loose spark plug wire. No luck.

Johnson went back out and tried to stay on the lead lap until he could pit under caution, but Kasey Kahne quickly put Johnson a lap down.

The crew still was searching for answers. Johnson came in again and they changed the carburetor. Didn’t work. Another caution flew and they changed some of the spark plugs.


“After that, it ran,” Johnson said. “I knew we were about out of stuff to try. We lost another lap because it’s a time-consuming process and we could only get to a few [plugs]. I was hoping the problem was in one of the few we were able to reach. Luckily, it was.”

Five cautions in the last 50 laps enabled Johnson to get back on the lead lap with the lucky dog rule, but he raced his way past a gaggle of cars at the end.

Johnson was 25th on the final restart with 13 laps to go. His finish enabled Johnson to remain second in the Cup standings, 197 points behind leader Tony Stewart and two points ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon.

Speaking of making the most out of a bad day, Stewart finished 10th after starting in the back in his backup car. He was 28th after 80 laps.

“We were just really loose at the beginning,” Stewart said. “It was going to take big steps to fix. We finally just made a huge change and we got it closer, but we never got it right. We made the best of a bad situation.”

A good lesson for everyone with championship hopes.


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Reutimann still angry about Pocono wreck

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 6, 2009

David Reutimann is not ready to forgive Denny Hamlin for the accident at Pocono Raceway that essentially ended his championship hopes.

“I’m not happy. I’m aggravated. I’m mad as heck,” Reutimann said Wednesday during an appearance for Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

“I’m not sugarcoating any of that. I’m still really, really aggravated. Maybe we can get things sorted out.”

Hamlin had dominated much of Monday’s race, but late pit strategy had shuffled him back to 13th when he ran into Reutimann in his charge back to the front. He shoved Reutimann, who was running ninth, through the turn. The contact caused Reutimann to lose control of his car, bounce off the wall and into teammate Marcos Ambrose.

Hamlin went on to win the race, while Reutimann finished 29th and dropped three spots in the standings to 16th — 121 points out — with five races remaining before the Chase field is set. He entered Pocono in 13th place, just 68 points out of the top 12.

The two have not spoken, although Reutimann said Hamlin texted him an apology after the race that didn’t make him feel any better.

“We can talk about it and I can get his take on it,” Reutimann said. “If he tells me he made a mistake and he’s sorry, then that’s the way it is. It doesn’t make you less aggravated or anything like that.”

Asked if it upset him further that Hamlin went on to win the race, Reutimann said “that didn’t help.”

Hamlin gave a detailed explanation of the incident following his win, taking blame for the contact but explaining how hard he was racing for the victory. He wanted the win, his first of the season, to honor his late grandmother, who had passed away three days before the race.

“It was a lot of emotion. I got guys in my mirror that I know that I’ve got to race for the win,” Hamlin said. “I’m racing for a win on a particular weekend where it means more than any other weekend. I think emotion was probably part of it.”

Reutimann said he’s not writing off the Chase yet, but knows it will be difficult to earn a berth after the Pocono accident. Next up is the road course at Watkins Glen, where he was 33rd in his only previous appearance and said he looks forward to “as much as a root canal.”

Still, it’s been a breakthrough season for the journeyman driver, who has helped legitimize Michael WaltripRacing. He was in legitimate Chase contention for 20 weeks and won the first Sprint Cup Series race of his career at Lowe’s in May.

He also made the cover of industry magazine NASCAR Scene for the first time in his career this week, under the headline “Why Not Me?” Some team personnel have joked the Aug. 6 edition was much like the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

“I am not a big believer in stuff like that, but my team, those guys are super superstitious about things like that,” he said.

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Not even adversity stops Johnson

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 6, 2009

The Pennsylvania 500 separated the Chasers from the boys.

With time running out to squeeze in one of just 12 positions, Denny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne showed they didn’t want to be left behind when the Sprint Cup Series postseason begins five races from now.

Hamlin won Monday, Montoya and Kahne finished second and fifth, respectively, but it was three-time champion Jimmie Johnson who proved he was primed for defending his title after coming from three laps down to finish 13th and maintain second-place in the point standings, two markers ahead of his teammate Jeff Gordon and 197 points behind leader Tony Stewart.

If Johnson was nervous when a spark plug failed on Lap 105, he didn’t show it. Johnson stayed as calm behind the wheel as if he was lounging poolside with a cold one in his hand. Johnson’s composure remained intact as he carefully described the power draining from the No. 48 Chevrolet after he had led 22 laps early in the race.

Methodically, the team ran down the checklist of gremlins to address. After multiple pit stops, Johnson fell to 38th, three laps off the lead, on Lap 111 of 200. But he never wavered. Even as crew chief Chad Knaus became testy as NASCAR threatened to black-flag his driver for running under the minimum speed limit, Johnson never lost sight of the finish.

And luck was on Johnson’s side as multiple cautions allowed him to continue to pit for adjustments and regain laps through the free-pass rule. After the 10th caution on Lap 180, which was triggered when David Ragan ran into Bobby Labonte, Johnson was mired at 29th but on the lead lap. It took just 10 laps for him to climb 16 positions. Had Johnson not slipped into the Turn 2 wall with five laps to go, he believes he would have posted his 15th top 10 of the season.

Once again, Johnson salvaged what could have been a disastrous finish. Despite finishing 13th, he said his team’s effort “means a lot” to him.

“When we leave here and the dust settles, there’s a lot to be proud of,” Johnson said. “What I was hoping to see from the No. 48 team is coming around right now. This is what we need going into the Chase.

“I think we are going in the right direction and it shows to me what my team is capable of and I know what I’m capable of going into the Chase. Just a lot of fight in this race team. I’m very proud of them.”

Game changer

Denny Hamlin’s crew chief Mike Ford’s decision to take four tires on the last pit stop after the No. 11 Toyota slipped back on two tires made the difference Monday at Pocono Raceway.

Even when he was in sixth place with 15 laps to go, Hamlin predicted that he would win his third Pocono race. Sure enough, Hamlin passed race leader Clint Bowyer with 10 laps remaining and was then able to extend his lead as the cars behind him jockeyed for position.

Certainly, without a Hendrick-powered car running among the top five at the time, Hamlin knew he had an opportunity to display the gains Joe Gibbs Racing has made in the last six races.

“This is what we didn’t get to show last week at the Brickyard, what we didn’t get to show the first lap here in the summer race in June,” Hamlin said. “I think our race team has been really good the last couple months. I feel like we’ve been the closest car to Hendricks.

“I feel like we’re the best car other than the Hendrick cars. We’ve slowly but surely been working on it in the race shop and on pit road. We’ve been getting there slowly but surely.”

Hamlin’s first victory of the season broke a 50-race winless streak and enabled him to swap positions in the point standings with Carl Edwards again, to take over fifth place. He is currently 475 points out of first place and 251 points within the Chase Zone.

Say what?

Race winner Denny Hamlin made no excuses for dumping David Reutimann on Lap 174 when the No. 00 was running eighth. Hamlin, on fresh tires, obviously wanted the position.

“I was driving over my head, I had so many emotions,” Hamlin said in the postrace broadcast. “The race was halfway on my mind with the family stuff that’s going on … I tried to push him hoping he would straighten up. I kept foot in it and spun him out and ended up hurtin his Chase chances. I hate that.

Reutimann entered Pocono 13th in the point standings, just 68 points outside the top 12. If Reutimann was dreading Watkins Glen before Pocono, now that he’s dropped to 16th in the standings, 121 points out of the Chase, the No. 00 Toyota is in a world of hurt.

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Rain delays Monday’s White House event for NASCAR

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 4, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House meeting between No. 44 and No. 48 will have to wait a few weeks, thanks to turf problems elsewhere.

Three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was among a group of NASCAR drivers who were to be honored by President Barack Obama at the White House Monday. But steady rain postponed Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania and that event was rescheduled for Monday.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the meeting with Obama has been rescheduled for Aug. 19.

Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet was going to be parked at the White House.

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Johnson Overcomes Setback

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 4, 2009

Monday’s rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Pocono Raceway was full of setbacks for Hendrick MotorsportsJimmie Johnson.

Jimmie Johnson's pit crew works on his car during the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania

Jimmie Johnson's pit crew works on his car during the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania

But as he does so often, the defending three-time Cup champion found a way to bounce back.

Johnson fell three laps down in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 only to get all three back courtesy of the free pass and finish 13th, on the lead lap.

“We dealt with a lot today,” Johnson said. “I have to thank my guys for working so hard and troubleshooting some different things. … We were three laps down and able to get some cautions there at the end. For a while there I thought we would get a top-10, but I pounded the wall off [Turn] 2 and tore up the right side of the car and lost a couple of spots. Just a lot of fight in this race team. I’m very proud of them.”

Johnson led the race’s opening 22 laps and continued to have one of the fastest cars on the track before coming to pit road for an unscheduled green-flag stop just past the midway point of the 200-lap race.

The team first worked to see if Johnson’s car had a plug-wire issue, but after making a change that turned out to not be the case. The team later changed the carburetor and a spark plug on subsequent stops, losing significant time during the visits to pit road as the group attempted to diagnose the problem.

The spark plugs ultimately appeared to be the source of what ailed Johnson, as he immediately began moving forward again once some of those had been replaced.

“I assume it was a spark-plug issue,” Johnson said. “That’s the last thing we started changing. The car started running better, so it’s just crazy how sometimes a little part like that can go wrong. I know our guys will lookclosely at it to make sure that something like that doesn’t happen again. I’m just so proud of the fight this race team has.

“For us to come back from three laps down and get back on the lead lap and salvage a 13th-place finish means a lot to me. I think we are going in the right direction, and it shows to me what my team is capable of and I know what I’m capable of going into the Chase [For The Sprint Cup].”

Johnson got back on the lead lap under the race’s ninth caution with under 30 laps to go and lined up 25th for the final restart with 13 to go. He gained eight positions on the first lap under green.

Although Johnson failed pick off many more spots, he was still pleased with his team’s ability to make the most of a tough situation.

Teammate Jeff Gordon was among those who took notice of the group’s effort.

“These guys, you can never count them out and that’s what makes them a championship-caliber team, and Jimmie’s a great driver,” Gordon said. “So, it’s unfortunate that they had a car that was probably capable of winning, or at least battling up there for the win, that it kind of took them out of it there. But they fought back and still had a pretty decent day out of it.”


Yesterday’s  performance was incredible by Jimmie and his crew. To end up 13th after being 3 laps down at one point is just incredible. Sure luck had a little bit to do with it but the way his team pulled together and didn’t give up is a testament to the dedication of this team. They could have pulled it into the garage but instead they used the time cautions gave to systematically check one thing after another until they finally found the likely culprit of a bad spark plug or plugs. When it first happened I was so mad I felt like not watching the rest of the race but I’m sure glad I did because the last 20 laps made my day.

When Johnson made it back to the lead lap and quickly moved from 25th to 10th and one point and finished out with a solid 13th keeping his place of 2nd in the points when it could have been a disastrous day.

This just shows what an AWESOME job the team does as a whole….from driver to crew to chief!! Even the way Chad had the crew “fix” their pit area; shows they are 100% in it and that’s why they are champions!!!! (Hope the guy that fell changing the tire is ok)

Today increased my confidence that my favorite driver will hopefully be heading for championship number 4!

HMS Point Standings after Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500.

2nd-Jimmie Johnson-48
3rd-Jeff Gordon-24
10th-Mark Martin-5
23rd-Dale Earnhardt Jr.-88

HMS Results-Sunoco Red Cross Pennslyvania 500.

7th-Mark Martin-5
9th-Jeff Gordon-24
13th-Jimmie Johnson-48
28th-Dale Earnhardt Jr.-88

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Denny Hamlin wins Pocono but at what cost?

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 4, 2009

Denny Hamlin may have gained a few fans Monday, but he no doubt garnered some enemies on the track as well.

Chief among them was David Reutimann who saw his hopes to make this years Chase for the Sprint Cup take a serious hit caused by a tangle with Hamlin.

During Hamlin’s relentless pursuit of the win in Monday’s rescheduled Pennsylvania 500, he was fighting his way back through traffic when on lap 174 he got behind Reutimann pushing his Toyota hard enough to spin Reutimann around and into his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Marcos Ambrose.

“I got to him coming off turn one. I drove into turn two, got to him, nudged him actually in the middle of the corner. I let go of him,” Hamlin said. He pulled away about a car length, but then he slammed on the brakes obviously to let me know he was upset.”

I plowed him off of two really hard. I said, ‘Man, all right, I understand, I get it.’ In turn three, I got to him again. He got really loose off four. When I got to him and pushed him, I was hoping he was just going to come off the corner, straighten up, I was going to push him down the straightaway. Instead, kept my throttle on him, and when I did I spun him into his teammate.

It was a lot of emotion. I got guys in my mirror that I know I got to race for the win. I’m racing for a win on a particular weekend where it means more than any other weekend. I think emotion was probably part of it. But I got to make it up to those guys somehow, cut them some breaks on the track or something.”

Hamlin went on to win, Reutimann finished 29th while Ambrose finished 34th.

Perhaps the worst news for Reutimann though is the point’s loss. He came into the day in 13th place with a legitimate shot to make the top 12 and earn a spot in the Chase for the Championship. He lost three spots and is now 16th.

“Not sure what happened there,” Ambrose said. “We were running in the top-10 and all of a sudden David (Reutimann) got turned by the 11 (Denny Hamlin) car and I had nowhere to go. That pretty much ended our day.”


Denny Hamlin did not want to be at Pocono. His grandmother died and he was very emotional. Now here’s here’s where I sound like a cold heartless bastard. SUCK IT UP! Denny many of us aren’t where we want to be, or have to do something and can’t be where we want and or are needed; and yes I do inculde when a family member has died.

I was serving my country in a far away land and couldn’t go home for the funeral. I didn’t want to be where I was, but there I was. I had a job to do. I couldn’t be where I wanted to be, however nonetheless there I was. There are plenty of individuals both military and civilian who face this issue and or others like it. You are not an exception nor special because of it or the issue.

I had a lot of respect for you and in fact your one of my top ten drivers, however due to how you decided to race due to the fact you were where you didn’t want to be and decided to run over people and didn’t give one shit about it or how you won has made me decide to drop you from said list. I lost all respect for you when you went out there and decided to be an asshole and do anything to anyone to win just because you HAD to be there, like millions of us have to do day in and day out.

I am ashamed of you Denny and I’m sorry but I don’t feel your loss excuses your tactics used to win a race.

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Johnson Hopes for Good Things in Pocono for Team 48

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 30, 2009

Less than a week after making history as the only driver to win back-to-back NASCAR events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson must now turn his focus to the next track – 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway.

Johnson has 15 starts at the Long Pond, Pa. venue and has posted two wins, five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. With a little momentum behind the Lowe’s team, Johnson believes they keep things going in the right direction.

“Pocono’s been tough on us since we won in 2004,” said Johnson. “We’ve been getting closer to winning a race again though.  I think the spring race we were in contention and running second at the end, ran out of gas.  So I’m excited coming off of Indy.  Those tracks are somewhat similar.  We’ll see how it works.”

But despite the similarities between Indianapolis and Pocono, Johnson confesses he and crew chief Chad Knaus will hold on to their race-winning Kobalt Tools Impala that visited Victory Lane last weekend.

“We’re going to hang on to that car and use it in the Chase,” said Johnson. “It worked out where it debuted at Indy.  We know it’s a good car.  We’re going to hang on to it for the Chase.”

Sunday’s 160-lap, 400-mile race will be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

Pocono Raceway

  • Johnson has made 15 Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono Raceway, posting two wins, five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.
  • The three-time champion has completed 99.7% (2876 of 2885) of competition laps at the 2.5-mile tri-oval and has led 399.
  • Johnson has an average start and finish of 7.1 and 9.6.


  • Johnson will pilot chassis No. 534 in Sunday’s race. He last drove it to a seventh-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June.
  • The backup chassis, No. 504, was last driven to a 13th-place result at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May.
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Jimmie Johnson’s Record at Pocono

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 30, 2009

JJ Pocono

Johnson Finishes 7th in Pocono; Maintains 3rd in Point Standings

LONG POND, Penn. (June 7, 2009) —  Jimmie Johnson was slated to start third in Sunday’s Sprint Cup event at Pocono Raceway after Friday’s qualifying session was canceled due to rain.

But when pole-sitter and points-leader Tony Stewart wrecked his primary racecar in Saturday’s practice session, Johnson’s inside row moved up, allowing him to start from the top spot.

Johnson led 31 of the first 38 laps before falling victim to Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. The Lowe’s Chevrolet continued to run in the top-five for the next 65 laps.

On Lap 104 of 200, as Johnson was entering pit road for a green-flag stop, the caution flag came out for debris. Johnson continued to his pit stall and took four tires and fuel but as a penalty for pitting too soon was forced to start at the tail end of the longest line when the green flag waved.
“It was an exciting race,” said Johnson. “We were in a great position and unfortunately, coming to pit road to pit and the caution came out and I couldn’t see a flagman or lights or anything. But luckily, we rebounded from that and had a great car and drove up to the top five.”

Johnson restarted 25th, but quickly drove through the field, reentering the top-10 by Lap 123 of 200.

By Lap 170, Johnson had moved to third-place, just 1.5-seconds behind leader Stewart. Biffle was running second. By Lap 190, most of the top five cars slowed their lap speeds in order to save fuel, including Stewart, second-place Edwards, and Johnson.

“At the end we were just playing a fuel game,” explained Johnson. “I didn’t play it well enough. I had to run too hard at the start of that run to stay ahead and I just used up too much gas and I ran out coming into the tunnel turn.”

On Lap 199 of 200, Johnson caught Edwards for second place, but ran out of fuel in Turn 3, dropping to the bottom of the track. Johnson coasted to the finish line and was credited with a seventh-place finish. Stewart won the race.

“I tried,” said Johnson “And it was funny. I was just kind of riding and wondering who was going to go and when because everybody was about half-throttle. I was trying to get to the end on gas and I thought Carl (Edwards) ran out on the front so I got in the gas and got by him and I went down through (Turn) one and came down the backstretch and I ran out. And I’m like, oh yeah. Figures. So it was one of those days. But a big congratulations to Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing. Those guys have been doing a great job.”

The result allowed the three-time Champion to maintain the third spot in the driver standings, 103 points behind leader Stewart. Jeff Gordon is still second, 71 points back. Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch round out the top-five.

The top five-finishers at Pocono were: Stewart, Edwards, David Reutimann, Gordon and Newman.

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Race and Commercial Breakdown for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 28, 2009

Total number of commercials: 107

Total number of companies or entities advertised: 56

Total number of brief promos of products/services during the race broadcast: 24

Total number of companies or entities advertised in brief promos or crawlers: 15 (companies: Golden Corral; Hanes; UPS; Taco Bell; Holiday Inn;;; AT&T ‘Fastest Pit Crew of the Year Award’ text to 2258; GoodYear; Baseball on ESPN; ESPN 360;; NHRANASCAR Now’ on ESPN; next weekend’s race at Pocono on ESPN)

Total amount of time these brief promos take during broadcast: app. 3 min. 40 sec.

Also, there are the following race statistics during the broadcast, sponsored by companies:

NASCAR on ESPN ‘Race Reporter’
NASCAR on ESPN ‘Track Facts’
Old Spice ‘In Car’
Shell-Pennzoil ‘In-Car’
AT&T ‘Fastest Pit Crew of the Year Award’
AFLAC ‘Trivia Question’
Craftsman ‘Tech Garage’
UPS ‘How to be the Maximum Driver’
AMP Energy ‘In-Car’
McDonald’s ‘Race Rundown’
Degree V12 edition ‘Full Throttle’
Home Depot ‘In-Car’

Start time to record race/commercial periods: 2:03 PM
End time to record race/commercial periods: 5:12 PM

Total minutes: 189

Minutes of race broadcast: 147
Minutes of commercials: 42

Number of missed restarts: 0

Number of mystery cautions (no debris shown): 0

Number of Driver Introductions seen in its entirety: 1 Nice touch!

Number of Speedway Chairpersons to give the call to start the engines: 1 Mari Hulman George

Number of extra pace laps, due to debris from opening ceremonies: 1

Number of department store CEOs present at the race: 1 Gregg Steinhafel, from Target

Number of male enhancement ads: 1 many fans find these ads very offensive

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An easy fix to a pit road problem

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 10, 2009

A few weeks ago at Pocono, the 48 team was penalized coming down pit road when it was closed. The problem is, he was a split-second before crossing the commitment line when the red light came on. It was physically impossible for him to avoid coming down pit road when the light came on.

This has plagued other drivers in the past — I want to say Boris Said at Sonoma within the past few years…and I’m sure it has happened many other times.

There is a REALLY simple solution for this.

Based on the track size and pit road speed, you create a “buffer zone” before the commitment line and that zone becomes the “point of no return”. Once a driver has entered it, even if the pit road light comes on, the driver can still opt to come down without penalty.

Easy fix. Just an extra line on the pavement. A driver knows where the commitment line is and can adjust accordingly. He cannot, however, know when the light is going to come on…it’s not fair if it does so when he’s mere inches from the line.

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