LONG POND, Pa., (June 7, 2009) The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series headed to the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania for this weekends Pocono 500. The 14th of 36 races on the Sprint Cups regular-season points schedule, Pocono is one of the most physically demanding and mentally stressful tracks on the Cup circuit.
With rain washing away the 90-minute practice session and qualifying on Friday, Cup teams were relegated to two Saturday practice sessions to dial in their race cars for a long, grueling 200-lap marathon on the tricky 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped asphalt surface.
Hard-charging Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) led the seven-car Dodge contingent, earning his third top-10 finish of the season. Despite not breaking into the top 12 until lap 130, the Ohio native used patience and fuel strategy to maneuver his way up through the field.
We started off the race pretty good, but then we lost the handle on the car a bit, Hornish said. We got it back, got some grip and track position, and then we had to come in late to top-off (for fuel) and try to make it to the end (of the race).
For the second-year veteran, the 10th-place finish represents the maturity of not only driver, but race crew. Since Richmond four races ago, Hornish has jumped seven positions in the driver standings and now sits 23rd, only 63 points outside of the top 20.
It was another great points day for us, said Hornish. Weve had a great month or so and all the hard work is starting to show in our results. Were 23rd (in points), now we have our eye on the top 20.
Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) started fourth and chased an ill-handling race car most of the race. Despite running in the top-10 for the first 100 laps, Busch encountered a broken water pump that sent the Penske Racing veteran to the garage for repairs, resulting in a loss of 17 laps to the race leaders. Busch finished 37th and now sits fifth in the NSCS driver point standings.
It was just a bad day for our Miller Lite Dodge team; a bad day in this race and bad for the big picture too, said Busch. We fought a tight condition for most of the first half of the race. We had a spring rubber pop out of the right rear. We kept working on it, but it just wanted to plow into the wall. Then (on Lap 129) I heard something just blow off…a loud poof. I hit pit road immediately. It was a broken water pump and we sheered the pulley. We had to go to the garage to fix it and also changed a shock while there. We got back out there and the rains came. The shock change had us running decent, but it was too little too late just a bad day all around.
Defending Pocono 500 winner Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) has been on the move in recent weeks with a seventh in the Coca-Cola 600 and a sixth at Dover. Starting 14th, Kahne had an extended pit stop on lap two due to a loose throttle cable that dropped the Kenny Francis-tuned Dodge to 41st. The Richard Petty Motorsports veteran used patience to drive his way up to fourth by lap 167. Chasing down the leaders, Kahne moved within striking distance to third with 18 laps to go, gaining nearly one-tenth-of-a-second on the leaders each lap. Kahnes run would fall short as a green-flag pit stop for fuel late in the race pushed him down the leader board to 15th at the checkered flag.
We had a really good Budweiser Dodge today, Kahne said. To start up front, have a throttle cable issue early in the race, fall back to 41st and race our way all the way up to third was awesome. I cant tell you how great of a job that Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and the Budweiser guys did in the pits all day. We knew that everybody was chasing fuel mileage late in the race and so were we. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it.
Richard Petty Motorsports teammate AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Stanley Dodge) started 30th and had worked inside the top-12 by lap 50. By gaining track position early in the race, Allmendinger used a well-balanced race car to methodically move towards the front of the field. He was sixth by lap 120. Racing in 11th with 10 laps to go, Allmendinger fell on the short-side of fuel mileage strategy. He ran out of gas on lap 199 and finished 30th.
Tony Stewart led 39 laps en route to the event win.
THE DODGE BOYS RESULTS – POCONO 400 POCONO RACEWAY
Driver Team Finished
Sam Hornish Jr. No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger 10th
Kasey Kahne No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger 15th
Reed Sorenson No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger 20th
Elliott Sadler No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger 25th
AJ Allmendinger No. 44 Stanley Dodge Charger 30th
David Stremme No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger 34th
Kurt Busch No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger 37th
Driver Rank Starts Points Behind Wins Poles T5s T10s
Kurt Busch 5 14 1819 -224 1 0 4 7
Kasey Kahne 14 14 1619 -424 0 0 1 4
Sam Hornish Jr. 23 14 1371 -672 0 0 0 3
Reed Sorenson 24 14 1362 -681 0 0 0 1
Elliott Sadler 27 14 1309 -734 0 0 1 1
AJ Allmendinger 29 14 1275 -768 0 0 1 2
David Stremme 30 14 1267 -776 0 0 0 0
NASCAR Sprint Cup
(after 14 of 36 races)
1. Tony Stewart 2, 043
2. Jeff Gordon -71
3. Jimmie Johnson -103
4. Ryan Newman -203
5. Kurt Busch – 224
6. Carl Edwards -281
7. Greg Biffle -290
8. Matt Kenseth -298
9. Kyle Busch -312
10. Jeff Burton -318
11. David Reutimann -342
12. Denny Hamlin -364
13. Mark Martin -365
14. Kasey Kahne -424
15. Juan Pablo Montoya -426
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan next weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The green-flag drops at approximately 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, June 13.
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