After starting on the pole in the Party in the Poconos NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., on Sunday, Jimmie Johnson lost two positions on lap one, getting passed by Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth. But that wasn’t the sign of the race to come, as Johnson retook the lead on lap 10 and dominated the race, leading 128 laps of the scheduled 160-lap distance en route to the win — his third at Pocono and his third of the season.
“That’s the best car I’ve had in a long, long, long time,” Johnson said in victory lane. “What a race car. Not just a race car, but also engine.”
Greg Biffle finished second, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third.
“We’ve been running good all year and just had troubles,” Earnhardt said. “It’s good to be running good again. . . . If we can keep getting close, we’re going to get one (win).”
Johnson led the way, with the exception of a few laps during a cycle of green-flag pit stops, until Ryan Newman opted to stay out when the first caution of the race came out on lap 65. But as soon as the race went back to green, Johnson was back in the lead.
Newman ran second to Johnson until having to make an early green-flag stop on lap 91, as a result of staying out during the previous caution. Others cycled through green flag pit stops around lap 100 and Newman moved back into the lead.
Newman ran up front until Johnson reclaimed the top spot with 47 laps to go. Again, on a different pit sequence, Newman made a green-flag stop on lap 122. The yellow flag waved a few laps later — with 35 to go — and everyone else made their stops under caution. Having pitted a few laps prior, Newman stayed out and, once again, inherited the lead.
But like before, Johnson retook the spot as soon as the race went back to green. The yellow flag waved four more times in the final 30 laps, allowing everyone to stretch fuel mileage enough to go the rest of the way without pitting for fuel again.
Earnhardt and Kyle Busch both got by Newman on a restart that followed a 23-laps-to-go caution. They then ran second and third until Biffle raced from fourth two second on the restart that followed the sixth and final caution of the race with six laps to go.
“I didn’t really have anything for Jimmie,” Biffle said. “I just wanted to get up to his bumper and ruffle him up a little bit.”
Earnhardt held his ground in third, while Busch slipped back to sixth in the closing laps. Tony Stewart finished fourth, and Newman rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch finished just behind his brother in seventh, Denny Hamlin was eighth, Kevin Harvick ninth, and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR