In 2004 Dale Earnhardt, Jr had the best season of his Sprint Cup series career, winning six races. But in the ten years since, Junior has four races, leading many to question if he would ever live up to expectations.
On Sunday Earnhardt completed the season sweep at the Pocono Raceway. It is his third win of the season and moves him to the top of Chase for the Championship grid.
The race at Pocono was wild, with eight cautions, including a 10 car pile-up on lap 121.
“The 11 car (Denny Hamlin) just got loose in front of us and was spinning,” said Brian Vickers, who was one of the cars caught up in the accident. “I tried to go low to miss him and then got loose and I don't know if someone got me in the back or not, but as soon as I tried to avoid the 11 we spun and then got in a crash. One thing led to another.”
"It was during that caution that the 88 team put into motion the strategy that would get him the track position to ultimately win the race, pitting for tires then and then just 10 laps later Junior was able to take just the fuel he needed to get to the end.
“We had a fast car all day,” said Earnhardt. “(Crew Chief) Steve (Latarte)’s strategy was perfect at the end. I don’t know if anybody knew what was going on then, but that was pretty awesome. It takes a really, really smart guy to understand what to do to take those gambles. Sometimes they pay off, sometimes they don’t."
Kansas native Clint Bowyer continues to creep closer to a win this season. The 15 had another strong run in Pocono he Bowyer would finish fourth.
"We had a good car all weekend long and we unloaded good,” said Bowyer. “We had a crazy loose set of tires that we qualified on as you saw. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. Obviously there's some things that we need to work on -- some areas that we need to work on to get a top-five on a track like this with these long straightaways and everything. “
Bowyer is now ninth in the regular points standings, but as he is still searching for his first win of the season, he remains 14th on the Chase grid.