Earnhardt win completes season sweep at Pocono
LONG POND, Pennsylvania (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead off the final restart with three laps left and won Sunday to complete a season sweep at Pocono Raceway.
Earnhardt held off the hard-charging Kevin Harvick to win for the third time this season. Earnhardt is the first driver to sweep both races at the track since Denny Hamlin in 2006.
He tweeted “Lookin for a broom” when he landed in Pocono. He could use one in Victory Lane.
Earnhardt also became the fifth straight Hendrick Motorsports driver to win at Pocono. His third win, he also won the Daytona 500, ties him for the most in Sprint Cup this season.
Harvick was second, followed by Joey Logano, Clint Boywer and Greg Biffle.
Earnhardt has his most wins since he won six times in 2004.
“I can’t believe we swept Pocono,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt said before the race his No. 88 Chevrolet was better than his winner in June. They were both fast enough to reach Victory Lane.
Earnhardt is enjoying a career renaissance in the final season for crew chief Steve Letarte. Hendrick Motorsports named Greg Ives the crew chief for next season once Letarte heads to the broadcast booth.
Earnhardt’s three wins are one shy of his combined total from 2005-2013.
“We had a fast car all day,” Earnhardt said. “Steve’s strategy was perfect at the end. I don’t know if anyone knew what was going on there, but it was pretty awesome.”
He had few cars left to hold off on the lead lap after several potential contenders got knocked out.
Hamlin triggered a 13-car wreck with 43 laps after he got sideways coming out of a turn. Brian Vickers tried to avoid Hamlin and slammed into Matt Kenseth to send cars all over the track. The pileup looked like a “Big One” straight out of Talladega or Daytona, with smoking, dented and destroyed cars littering the track. Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet rested atop Paul Menard’s No. 27 Chevy.
“I can’t drive it because my car is on top of the other car,” Stewart said over the radio.
Stewart, Vickers, Menard and Matt Kenseth all visited the NASCAR care center.
“Big wrecks are always frustrating when you’re in it,” Kenseth said.
Aric Almirola said he slammed on the breaks as hard as he could, but still got “creamed from behind and pushed into the wreck.”
Hamlin was able to straighten himself out and stayed out.
Kyle Busch topped the lengthy list of stars with an early exit when the No. 18 needed a push to the garage with a variety of issues. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson finished outside the top 10 for the fourth straight race. He fell a lap down after his rear right tire smacked the wall, rebounded to run fifth, then a second blown tire forced him to the garage.
“It wasn’t the best weekend but we still gave ourselves a chance at a win, if not a top five, today and came up a little short,” Johnson said.