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NASCAR At Pocono Update: Broken Transmission Sidelines Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson Leads

Sprint Cup point leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. charged from eighth to first in the opening laps of the Pennsylvania 400 and looked strong through the first 49 laps of the race. Unfortunately, the 50th was his undoing.

The transmission in Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet broke as he exited the first turn, leaving him without third and fourth gear as he coasted helplessly to the garage area. He had led 17 laps - a race-high since eclipsed by teammate Jimmie Johnson - and seemed destined to at least maintain his point lead if not extend it. Now, he seems almost certain to lose the top spot he held for just one week.

Earnhardt's issue also bring to an end his streak of laps completed. Earnhardt had finished on the lead lap in every race thus far in 2012, his 21-consecutive such finishes tying Jeff Gordon's record.

While Earnhardt has fallen by the wayside, Johnson seems intent on repeating his performance last Sunday at Indianapolis. With less than 15 laps remaining before the race's midpoint, Johnson holds a sizable lead - over three seconds - on Matt Kenseth. Kasey Kahne runs third, followed by Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon.

Completing the top-10 are Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, and Clint Bowyer.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.