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Engine trouble at Pocono Raceway cost Greg Biffle the overal points lead in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as the 11-week leader fell from first to third, behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. and fellow Rousch-owned car Matt Kenseth, who finished seventh overall in the race. Kenseth has been a steady climber is recent weeks, finishing in the top 11 in ten out of his last 11 races.
Georgia native David Ragan is sitting at 29th, currently, the only drive from the state in the Top 30.
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Joey Logano "won" his second-career race at Pocono Raceway Sunday, knocking Mark Martin across the first turn with fewer than five laps remaining and pulling away to score the win. Martin finished second ahead of Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin.
Clint Bowyer finished sixth, ahead of Matt Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his best race in years, leading 36 laps, but was unable to gain the track position lost when he pitted for fuel on the next-to-last caution of the race. Rounding out the top-10 were Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.
Logano's cheap move on Mark Martin follows up an incident at Darlington a few weeks ago when he put Elliott Sadler -a championship challenger in that series - into the wall on a restart. Logano won that race as well. The victory may raise his stock with Joe Gibbs Racing - he's been rumored to be out of the No. 20 Toyota nearly as long as he's been in it - but long-time fans will think little of his race-"winning" move on the beloved veteran.
Kasey Kahne's streak of seven top-10 finishes will likely not be extended to eight today. The Hendrick Motorsports driver blew the right-front tire entering the tunnel turn and slapped the wall on lap 136 to draw the sixth yellow flag of the race. Kahne's tire likely went down as a result of contact made with Denny Hamlin as they raced for position in the third turn on the most-recent restart.
The yellow flag means the race will restart with fewer than 25 laps remaining in the Pocono 400. The fuel-mileage game is in full force, as leaders Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, and Matt Kenseth are trying to make it to the finish without pitting. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has had one of the fastest cars all day long, pitted to make sure he will be able to make it to the finish on fuel.
Amid all the fuel discussion, championship leader Greg Biffle's day has gone south. He dropped a cylinder on his Roush-Fenway Racing Ford and will almost certainly lose the lead to Kenseth or Earnhardt Jr., with whichever one that finishes better in the race taking over the top spot.
For the second week in a row, Kyle Busch's Toyota has gone to the garage in a plume of smoke. He blew up at Dover last weekend, and now his Joe Gibbs Racing engine has failed after 76 laps in the Pocono 400. The DNF last week ended a streak of four-consecutive top-five finishes including a win at Richmond, and Busch will drop deeper in the standings with another poor finish.
The engine failure this week occurred while the field was under caution for debris. A flat tire by David Ragan of Unadilla drew the yellow flag, which was a major break for Jimmie Johnson. The five-time champ was one of fifteen drivers ticketed for speeding on pit road thus far in the afternoon and was actually caught twice - once on his pit stop, the second time while serving his penalty - and fell off the lead lap. He took the wave-around during the caution for a crash by A.J. Allmendinger to get onto the tail-end of the field, then pitted for fuel just after the restart. Ragan's tire failure drew the caution, cycling Johnson around to the lead lap.
Greg Biffle holds the lead under the extended caution for Busch's engine failure, followed by Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth.
Several drivers, including five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champ Jeff Gordon, August 2011 Pocono winner Brad Keselowski, perennial championship contenders Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, and David Reutimann in a substitute role for the suspended Kurt Busch, have been tagged for speeding on pit road at the Pocono 400 on this latest cycle of green flag pit stops.
Drivers are complaining that the scoring lines along pit road are placed incorrectly in one timing section of pit lane, making them appear to be driving faster through that section than they actually are. With the competitive nature of big time stock car racing, drivers push their pit road speed to the absolute limit - a five-mile-per-hour tolerance granted by NASCAR over the posted speed limit.
Harvick in particular was reported by his team as saying that all the lights on his tachometer - stock cars use RPMs rather than miles per hour to guage their speed - were green, indicating that he was well within the limit of his pit road speed all the way down the pit lane. The mass confusion has drivers and teams scrambling to figure out what speed they can run through the pit lane without being nailed for speeding on pit road.
Among the confusion, Denny Hamlin - a four-time Pocono winner - has assumed the race lead after 55 laps. He leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. by just over two seconds. Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, and Joey Logano round out the top-five.
One of the two Georgia natives in Sunday's Pocono 400 will not be around for the finish.
Reed Sorenson spun in the third turn on lap 13 and slammed the wall hard, doing heavy damage to the right side of his No. 32 FAS Lane Motorsports Ford. Dave Blaney and J.J. Yeley also slid up into the outside wall, battering the nose of Yeley's Toyota and doing damage to Blaney's Chevrolet as well.
Polesitter Joey Logano has dominated the opening laps of the race, taking the lead on the initial start and holding it through the restart from a multi-car accident in turn three on lap one. Paul Menard runs second, ahead of Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As expected, the newly repaved track has proved treacherous. The third turn has particularly been calamity corner, seeing both three-car wrecks in the first few laps of the race take place when a car - Landon Cassill on lap one, Sorenson on lap 13 - got loose and spun in the middle of the turn.
It didn't take too long for things to break loose at Pocono Raceway. All of two corners, in fact, were complete before Landon Cassill got loose on the outside of the turn three and spun, collecting Martin Truex Jr. before slamming the outside wall. A.J. Allmendinger also spun in the incident.
Cassill took his Toyota straight to the garage, while the entire right-side door of Truex's car - including the energy-absorbing foam that sits behind the sheetmetal - was ripped away by the contact with Cassill.
The trouble nearly broke loose on the very first corner when Denny Hamlin dove under Carl Edwards for the second position. He slid up the hill into Edwards, knocking both cars sideways and flattening the left-rear quarter panel against the tire on Edwards' car. Edwards would have no doubt had to pit as his Ford was throwing up plumes of smoke from the tire rubbing. He avoided the melee and was able to get to pit road and get the tire changed with only the penalty of having to start at the rear of the field. Seeing as he would have been there anyway, the 2005 and 2008 Pocono winner effectively starts over from the back of the field and will try to work his way forward.
So you're getting ready to sit down and watch 400 miles of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing from the Pocono Raceway, right? You're going to get yourself an ice cold Coca-Cola and a snack of some sort, grab the remote, and kick back for some terrific stock car racing action, right? And to watch it, you're going to tune into Fox Sports like you have for the first 13 races of the season, right?
Starting this afternoon, TNT takes over coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, kicking off its six-week "Summer Series." The other races that Turner Sports - entering its 30th season as a NASCAR partner - will carry this year are next week's 400-miler at the Michigan International Speedway, the first road course race of the year at Sonoma, the second-annual race at the Kentucky Speedway, the Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway, and the 301-lapper at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
TNT's broadcast team features longtime MRN Radio pit reporter Adam Alexander on play-by-play. Former Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr. serve as analysts. Pit reporters include Marty Snider, Matt Yocum, Ralph Shaheen, and Chris Neville. Alexander will host the pre-race show with Petty and Larry McReynolds, who also served as analyst on the Fox broadcasts.
Georgia's favorite sporting son, the legendary Bill Elliott, will play a role in TNT's pre-race broadcasts as part of the "NASCAR Generations" roundtable discussion. Other participants are NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, two-time Daytona 500-winning crew chief Larry McReynolds, and Petty, the third generation of NASCAR's most famous family and an eight-time race winner in the Sprint Cup Series.
Be sure to check your listings to find out where TNT is on your provider. Before this week, I could simply say "Tune into Fox 5 Atlanta" for those of us in and around the metro area, but for every TV provider there is a different lineup of cable channels.
Coverage of today's Pocono 400 begins at 12 p.m. and is the first of six races that will be televised on TNT. The green flag is scheduled to drop at around 1:19 p.m. so if you are looking to skip the pre-race banter tune in then. Weather for today's race looks good with temperatures in the 80s with a very slight chance of rain.
There will be a couple of firsts starting with today's race as live web streaming returns for the 2012 season coinciding with TNT taking over the broadcast. Those wishing to watch online can navigate to Nascar.com's RaceBuddy site for a live webcast. Also Twitter is launching a specific race day page to assist fans in following today's race.
Race Date/Time: Sunday, June 10, 12 p.m. ET
Location: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Live Streaming: Nascar.com RaceBuddy
Joey Logano will lead 43 cars to the green flag on Sunday after posting a track-record speed of 179.598 mph during qualifying. Pocono's reconfigured track surface led to much faster qualifying numbers as the top 36 racers that qualified all broke the old track record.
Carl Edwards qualified second and is joined by Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts eighth and points leader Greg Biffle starts back in the 13th position.
Jimmie Johnson's win in the FedEx 400 all but guaranteed that he will make a run at his sixth championship this fall. With two wins, he is an almost certainty to at the very worst take one of the wild card spots. Johnson's gap of 53 points on 11th would take quite the collapse to overcome.
Kevin Harvick, second at Dover and seventh in the standings, doesn't have a win in 2012 but he has climbed to 40 points ahead of 11th. That gap can be erased in one race, but Harvick's hallmark consistency should allow him to be in the hunt come September.
In fact, the top seven drivers - Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., and Harvick - seem well on their way to being in the Chase. With that, we turn our attention to those on the bubble.
Tony Stewart's Dover day effectively lasted nine laps, and Kyle Busch's engine blew at halfway. Both drivers should have taken a hit in the Chase standings, but they wound up only flip-flopping positions. Stewart climbed to seventh, seven points to the good, while Busch dropped to eighth and six points ahead of 11th.
That is because the big loser of the day was Carl Edwards. The Roush-Fenway Racing driver was running in the top-five and climbing towards the front of the field when he blew a right front tire and slapped the wall. Edwards lost two spots in the standings, dropping from 10th to 12th. Without a victory, last year's championship runner up is effectively outside the Chase with 13 races left before Richmond.
Displacing Edwards was Clint Bowyer, who claimed his first top-five finish since Bristol and jumped two places into 10th. Bowyer joined his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr., currently sixth in the standings, in the provisional Chase field. After not placing a single car in the Chase in its five-year existence, Waltrip's team seems almost certain to at least have one driver and possibly both of its full-time drivers racing for the title this season. Bowyer holds a five-point edge on Brad Keselowski - sure to make the Chase with his two wins this season - and 15 points on Edwards.
Jeff Gordon seemed well on his way to breaking through with his first win of 2012, but a loose wheel left him 13th. Instead of jumping into the top-20 in points, Gordon gained just one spot to 21st. Worse, he remains winless, and at 94 points out of 10th place, his only hope to make the Chase is the Wild Card. The saving grace for the 24 team has been its speed, as Gordon has been a contender most of the year before being felled by bad luck. It is well within reason to think that the four-time champion can and will win at least two and possibly three races between now and Richmond.
As things stand, Keselowski and Ryan Newman hold the wild card spots. Newman has to get going, however, as red-hot Kasey Kahne is just one point behind him.
NASCAR heads to the Pocono Raceway with a new 400-mile race distance and a brand new track surface. Jeff Gordon won last June at the Tricky Triangle.
With Sunday's FedEx 400 at Dover in the books, everything got a little tighter at the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. On top is still Greg Biffle, but he leads Matt Kenseth by just one point.
Rounding out the top-five are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.
The most intriguing race, though, might be for the second Wild Card spot. After Sunday's results, Kasey Kahne trails Ryan Newman by one point.
Here are the full standings:
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