No Honeymoon in the Poconos

It’s getting to be about that time of year — either get into the top 10 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup

Series points standings or have a couple of victories in the bag to snag one of the Chase’s two wild-card spots.

The June race at Pocono starts the summer stretch that can propel a team into NASCAR’s playoffs. Entering Sunday’s Pocono 500, 13 races remained before the Chase begins Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway. No. 4 driver Kasey Kahne ranked 18th in the standings before Sunday. No. 83 driver Brian Vickers sat 26th.

Now, 12 races remain — and the Red Bull Toyotas gained only minimal ground.

Kahne finished 12th and Vickers 22nd in a Pocono 500 defined by debris, long green-flag runs, a No. 4 Red Bull Toyota that wouldn’t turn too well on the front end and two speeding penalties on pit road for the No. 83.

+ As for debris, all four yellow flags waved for that, prompting plenty of long runs and green-flag pit stops that made Pocono unusually tidy. Time of race: 3 hours, 26 minutes, 21 seconds.

+ As for the No. 4, Kahne struggled with the car, as the front-end tires wouldn’t help it turn to his liking. Still, he hung on to the top 10 most of the day, even climbing to as high as fifth after a lap 112 pit stop. But he slipped in traffic during the ensuing stint and rallied to 12th at the finish. “The pit crew was great today,” Kahne said.

“We gained some spots in the pits and the strategy worked for us some of the times. The handling was slightly off but we managed and will continue to gain in the points.”

+ As for the penalties, Vickers was assessed with two — on laps 95 and 98 — for speeding while exiting the pits.

Taking two wave-arounds helped the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota stay on, or at least within striking distance, of the lead lap. He never could gain any amount of track position as the leaders set a furious pace far up ahead while, as he put it, “the biggest problem is waiting on the front tires in turn three and drive off in turn one.” And turn three, as they say, is the launching pad for NASCAR’s longest straightaway. The best Vickers could do at the checkered flag was 22nd.

+ And as for points, Kahne picked up a spot in the driver standings to 17th. Winless this season, he’s 46 out of 10th. Vickers remained 26th in points — 44 out of 20th.

Red Bull Racing PR