Pocono isn’t usually known for great finishes but Sunday’s race was filled with late-race drama. There were several different pit strategies and a late caution wiped all that out and resulted in a 19-lap dash to the finish. Brad Keselowski dominated the day and had the lead on the restart with 19 to go and held the lead as Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards got together one lap later to bring out the seventh and final caution of the day. Keselowski continued to hold the lead on the ensuing restart but trouble found the 2 team.
A piece of debris got caught on the grill of Keselowski’s car, causing the temperatures to rise in the engine. Keselowski felt the engine going sour and looked to find another car to help remove the debris from his grill. He found another car, but he slowed so much that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. caught and passed him with only four laps remaining. Keselowski attempted to catch and pass Earnhardt Jr. but couldn’t do it and Earnhardt Jr. picked up his second win of the season and his first at Pocono. With the win, not only does Earnhardt Jr. lock himself into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it was his first multi-win season in a decade.
Fun Fact: It was the fourth straight win at Pocono for team owner Rick Hendrick and Earnhardt Jr. became the fourth different driver to take him to Victory Lane in that span. Hendrick Motorsports becomes the first organization to win four straight races at Pocono.
Now the series moves to Michigan International Speedway, the site of the only two points-paying wins for Earnhardt Jr. since moving to Hendrick Motorsports prior to this season.
Michigan opened in 1968 and is a 2.0-mile track that allows for three- and four-wide racing all around the track. With the track located close to Detroit, the car manufacturers put a little bit more pressure on all the drivers to win and claim bragging rights for their manufacturer.
Cale Yarborough won the inaugural race at Michigan beating out LeeRoy Yarbrough for the win. The track went into bankruptcy in the early 1970s before car owner Roger Penske bought the deed to the track and began to make wholesale changes to the property, including increasing the number of seats, adding more garages and building more suites. Penske was bought out by International Speedway Corporation in 1999, but not before Penske had designed and built another 2.0-mile track in southern California that was modeled after Michigan International Speedway that is known today as Auto Club Speedway.
Most wins among active drivers: Greg Biffle (4)
Defending Winner: Greg Biffle picked up his lone win of the 2013 season and his fourth career win at Michigan last year after running away from the field on a late restart. Biffle’s win gave Ford its 1,000th win across NASCAR’s top three series. Jimmie Johnson remained snake-bit at Michigan as he blew a tire while running second with two laps to go. Michigan remained one of four tracks Johnson has yet to win on.
Prediction: Greg Biffle. The Biff has struggled for the most part this year on the 1.5-mile and 2.0-mile tracks but he enters Michigan as the defending winner and with four wins under his belt, he knows how to get the job done here. If he is to make a serious run for the title this year, he has to improve on the intermediate tracks. He’s 14th in the points and a win would almost assuredly lock him into the Chase. It also would give his team a boost in confidence and give Ford more bragging rights at Michigan. I think Biffle will turn things around and be challenging for the win on Sunday.
David Barr is a graduate of Daniel Boone HS and Mansfield U.