LONG POND, Pa. – Ignoring rising engine temperatures, Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed Brad Keselowski with four of 160 laps remaining on Sunday to win the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.
It was the second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season for Earnhardt, who had not had a multiple-win season in eight years. Earnhardt won the season-opening Daytona 500.
Both Keselowski and Earnhardt were racing at the finish Sunday with debris covering the grilles of their respective cars, spiking the engine temps. Both cars made it to the end.
Keselowski yielded the lead in a desperate attempt to clear the debris. His gamble backfired — he couldn’t get the draft needed from the lapped traffic to clear his car and make a final pass attempt.
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Keselowski noted “it was definitely a mistake” but also said, “I had to make some kind of move or the car wasn’t going to make it. The car was starting to blow up. It was going to break or I was going to get passed because we were really down on power in the straightaway. I took a shot to clear it off and not lose time, but I misjudged it.”
Earnhardt shook off the rising red gauges in the No. 88 car.
“They were still within good reason to stand on it and give it hell,” Earnhardt said.
Kurt Busch finished third, pole-winner Denny Hamlin placed fourth and rookie Kyle Larson was fifth.
Earnhardt gave the Hendrick Motorsports team four straight victories.
Owner Rick Hendrick texted Earnhardt before the race to let him know he would not attend and would see him later this week in Michigan. Earnhardt told him, “I’ll drink one for you after it’s over.”
Earnhardt stuck to his end of the deal, spraying all types of beverages in a jubilant victory lane.
“I don’t have much to do tomorrow,” Earnhardt said, grinning. “Tonight’s going to be a long one.”
On Lap 143, Kyle Busch made contact with Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw and ignited a multicar wreck that also collected Carl Edwards and saw Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., run over some of the debris on the track.
Biffle finished 16th and Kahne was 42nd of 43.
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The Red Bull driver earned his first F1 victory and the first this year for any driver other than Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.