After winning two races early in the year, Kevin Harvick has been on a winless streak for over six month. On Saturday evening, the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet drove back into Victory Lane at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Bank of America 500.
Leading a race-high 162 laps, Harvick was able to hold off Jeff Gordon on a restart with just a pair of laps remaining in the race to score his third victory of the season. With the triumph, he has now clinched his way into the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“Everybody on our team has just continued to build better race cars and we know that we’ve had the cars to run up front and lead laps and do the things that we need to do,” said Harvick on his win. “Things just haven’t gone right and we’ve made some mistakes; things haven’t gone right ore than not. Oh, we came here and tested thinking that this was going to be the hardest round to get through because of Talladega. There’s so much that you can’t control there. We wanted to try to control the things that we could control. We felt like Kansas and here (Charlotte) were playing to our strengths; and just see where it fell after that once we get to the next round.”
Following the race, Brad Keselowski had an on-track altercation with Denny Hamlin on the cool down lap. The No. 2 car finished 16th, and was racing tightly with Hamlin through the final laps. However, Hamlin brake checked Keselowski on the cool down lap. Simultaneously, he spun Hamlin in Turn 3 and then hit Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet as he was waiting in line to go into the garage on pit road.
“Through the whole sequence of events – I think the 20 car got in back of me on one of the restarts, it was just a racing deal and I wasn’t mad at him,” said Keselowski following the incident. But when the last yellow came out he got the wave around and when he came by he swung at my car and tore the whole right-front off of it. That gave us a big Chase hurt, which is unfortunate, and then for some reason after the race the 11 stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight. I don’t know what that was all about and he swung and hit at my car, so I figured if we’re gonna play car wars under yellow and after the race I’ll join too.”
“I rubbed into the 20 and I think he gassed up and ran into Tony, and don’t think Tony knew what was going on so he’s probably upset and he has every right to be,” he continued. “His car got tore up, but there was a whole lot of other stuff going on and I’m sure when he sees the whole situation he’ll understand.”
Following a confrontation with Hamlin, Keselowski was walking back to his hauler when Matt Kenseth jumped on his back. The No. 20 and No. 2 crews began to have a brawl, but they were separated within a few seconds. However, several drivers are calling for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to have a fine for what they believe was a dangerous move in the garage area.
Jimmie Johnson was running inside of the top-10 after struggling early on in the 500-mile race. The No. 48 team finished 17th after pitting during the final caution. Leading up to Talladega, he unofficially sits 12th in points; 26 markers behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne for the final position to advance to the Eliminator Round. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 20th after going a lap down with a shifter knob issue during the race. He was never able to get back on the lead lap and is tied with Johnson in the standings.
Kyle Larson was battling Harvick for the lead prior to the final round of green flag pit stops, but slipped back to the sixth position. The No. 42 Chevrolet led six laps prior to sliding into the wall, which made him drop back a few spots. Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Jamie McMurray came home in the third position after taking two tires on a late-race pit stop to gain track position and was able to contend for the win
Both Michael Waltrip Racing vehicles experienced engine issues on Saturday evening. Clint Bowyer’s engine let go on Lap 95 following a top-15 run. Meanwhile, Brian Vickers’ engine blew up with seven laps remaining in the race.
There were eight cautions that lasted 39 laps during the 334-lap event. During the race, there were 32 lead changes.
Heading into Talladega, Joey Logano and Harvick are automatically locked into the next round of the Chase with victories. However, there are 10 other drivers vying for six remaining spots. Kyle Busch is the highest ranked driver without a victory, but is just 26 points ahead of Kenseth, who is the first driver on the outside looking in. Keselowski, Johnson and Earnhardt, Jr. are the four drivers that are currently outside of the top-eight.
In a wreck-filled Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Joey Logano was able to come out on top for the fourth time in the 2014 season for Team Penske. The Connecticut-native, who won his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Loudon, has now locked himself into the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
During the Sylvania 300, there were 15 cautions as nine of the 16 drivers in the Chase were involved in incidents. However, Logano was able to survive after taking four tires during his final pit stop as his No. 22 Ford worked through traffic as five yellow flags were thrown within the final 50 laps. The victory marks the seventh in 211 career starts for the 24-year-old. Combined with his teammate Brad Keselowski, the Team Penske organization now has eight wins on the year; the first time they have amassed that many triumphs since Ryan Newman won eight races in 2003.
"This is my home race track, the coolest place to win for me," Logano said. "I could never pick a better race track to win. I watched my first Cup race here when I was five and I won that other Cup race here, but I just felt like I had to win one the right way here, and this means so much. I’ve got to thank all the boys at Team Penske. We’re doing what we’ve got to do to win this thing right now – both teams are – and I’m proud of that. This is my home track so it means so much to me.”
Keselowski had the fastest car throughout the race, and led the first 37 laps after starting from the pole. However, during the competition caution period, crew chief Paul Wolfe and he elected to take four tires – contrary to what everyone else did inside of the top 15. Keselowski dropped to 15th on the restart, and fell as far back as 22nd. With a drop more than 100 laps remaining, Matt Kenseth and he got together. Keselowski spun, but didn’t sustain any damage to his car. On Lap 228, the No. 2 Ford was back out front until Lap 268, but wasn’t able to hold onto the lead with a hard-charging Kevin Harvick taking over for a few laps until Logano set sail as he led the final 29 laps.
Jeff Gordon, who was in position to lock himself into Round 2 of the Chase, blew a tire with nine laps remaining in the race. The orange-soaked No. 24 Chevrolet raced inside of the top five throughout the 300-lap event, but finished the day with a 26th-place result. He now sits seventh in points, but is ahead of 12th-place driver Kasey Kahne by 15 markers.
Denny Hamlin finished 37th in the No. 11 Toyota after a wild day for Joe Gibbs Racing. His car was experiencing trouble getting his fuel tank full. During the caution flag on Lap 104, he brought his car down pit road to get the issue fixed. With a lack of comprehension for what was occurring, Hamlin began to scream at his crew chief Darian Grubb. He ended up getting collected in a multi-car wreck on Lap 179, which collected Cole Whitt, Martin Truex Jr. and David Ragan.
Kyle Larson finished in the runner-up position for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. He came on strong late in the race after running outside of the top 20 during the first half of the event. Larson recorded his seventh top-five finish of 2014. His teammate Jamie McMurray had a strong showing at Loudon. The No. 1 car was inside of the top five for the duration of the Sylvania 300. Although he was not able to lead a lap, McMurray was the strongest non-Chase driver in the race. Larson currently holds a 39-point advantage over McMurray for the 17th position in the standings, which is the highest a driver can finish if they did not make the Chase.
Aric Almirola closed the gap to 12th-place in points with a sixth-place result in the No. 43 Ford. He is just 10 points behind Kahne, and is within four markers of the three drivers in front of him. Kurt Busch fell to 15th in the standings as he blew a tire on Lap 221. The finish dropped him back from ninth in points and is now behind Hamlin and Greg Biffle, who finished 16th after being multiple laps down on Sunday afternoon.
Five of the 16 drivers in the Chase finished outside of the top 20. Harvick is now locked into Round 2 of the Chase after finishing in third-place. He is 45 points ahead of Kahne, which is more than a full race advantage.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Sprint Cup has finally arrived. However, things are quite different this year.
In a move to have more drama to NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, there will be four drivers eliminated after every three races. At the end of the season, four drivers will battle it out for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway for a one-of-a-kind duel.
With no way to know what to expect, the 16 drivers in the Chase will be gunning it out to make sure they don’t get eliminated. If a driver is out of contention, they can only contend for a position in points within the group they were eliminated with. But this is going to making things eccentric for the sport over the final 10 weeks of the season.
The 16 drivers in the Chase are now set. Here are my expectations for those drivers:
- Brad Keselowski: Keselowski should make it to the final round in the championship. He is on a tear as of late, especially in qualifying. Through just 26 races, he has led a career-high 1,278 laps; that’s more than 17 percent of all laps that he has completed. However, he has to make sure the team is not only contending for wins, but that they are also consistently up front in case someone else gets into trouble.
- Jeff Gordon: Gordon is having his best season in quite some time. There is something different about the driver of the No. 24 this year. He has developed an unbelievable relationship with crew chief Alan Gustafson. Throughout the year, he has been one of the five quickest cars at just about every single event. If he can take the momentum he had from pacing the Sprint Cup Series during the regular season to the Chase, he will undoubtedly become a five-time champion.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.: He has had a good season, but that’s to his standards – not to Hendrick Motorsports standards. There is no doubt that he is one of the most consistent drivers in the Chase as he has a 10.9 average finish. However, it seems like he races inside of the top 10 for approximately two to four races at a time, and then has something go wrong that causes a setback. Expect him to be right on the border of making it to the final round at Homestead, but he might make it as Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix are each strong tracks for him.
- Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has not been known as the clear favorite this year. It’s likely because of the annual summer drought that the No. 48 team has gone through. However, this team is going to be just as strong in the Chase. Over the past four races, he has four top-10 finishes. A key to winning the title in this format will be consistently running up front, and Johnson did just that last year with just one finish worse than ninth. But Chad Knaus and he have had some awful luck at Homestead. If he can stay out of trouble at Homestead, he will probably be crowned the champion once again.
- Joey Logano: By far, 2014 has been the best year of this young man’s career. It’s hard to believe he is just 24 with six full-time seasons in the Cup Series. However, with his first multi-win season, he has begun to learn how to be a factor for wins on a weekly basis. The intermediate tracks have been insanely strong for the No. 22 Ford. He has never been in a position to win a championship like he is this year, and that could hurt him down the road as he deals with pressure against the veterans. With Team Penske’s speed this year, there is no reason why Logano can’t battle for his first career title.
- Kevin Harvick: This week, Harvick swapped pit crews with his owner, Tony Stewart. The move will likely take away the No. 4 team’s inconsistency on pit road, which has taken away valuable track position for the team throughout the season. Even though he only has two victories this year, Harvick has been in position to win about seven races. If he can have luck on his side for once, he will be right there with Johnson, Gordon and Keselowski at Homestead.
- Carl Edwards: Even though switching teams after the season is completed is not a distraction for the No. 99 team, the entire Roush Fenway Racing organization is going through some blatantly obvious struggles. However, he has been the strongest driver with the team, and with some solid results – he will be there for the Eliminator Round. After that, it’ll be tough for him to make it to the final round, especially with Martinsville and Texas; two tracks he somewhat struggled with this year.
- Kyle Busch: It has been a roller coaster year for all of Joe Gibbs Racing. Clearly, Busch can win a few races given the right circumstances. Things are cleared up with Dave Rogers and he. However, with just nine top 10s this year, he hasn’t shown this is going to be a championship caliber season. With Loudon and Dover in the Challenger Round, Busch can easily make his way into the Contender Round. It’ll be quite the challenge to get past that round, but if he can come out of Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega with a top 10 in each race, he’ll be able to advance.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been extremely inconsistent all year. However, he has been running rather well lately. If he can have some luck in the Chase, he can get rather far. He had a rough start to the season, but with 11 top 10s to this point, there is hope that Hamlin can at least get by the first round.
- Kurt Busch: Busch finally returned to Victory Lane this year and has shown speed nearly every week. In the Chase, there are a few tracks that he has struggled at. He should race his way into the second round, but beyond that is unlikely with a season full of inconsistency as he has just seven top 10s this year.
- Kasey Kahne: Besides his win at Atlanta, 2014 has been a season to forget for Kahne. With 10 top 10s this year, he hasn’t been horrific, yet there is plenty of room for improvement. The No. 5 team will make it past the first round, but since they have been so inconsistent, it’s unlikely that they’ll go past that.
- Aric Almirola: Almirola was extremely lucky with his win at Daytona. Without that, there was not a shot that he would’ve been in the Chase. Even if he does awful in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, he’ll finish 16th at the worst, which would be a career-best for the driver of the No. 43 car. Chicagoland and New Hampshire have been good tracks for him. Although he is a long shot to make it past the first round, there is a slight chance that he can do so with a little bit of luck.
- AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger’s situation is similar to that of the No. 43 team. It’s unlikely that he’ll get past the first round, but stranger things have happened. With four top 10s this season, he has the potential to do well if he can get the most out of the limited equipment that he has. Running with an alliance with Richard Childress Racing has certainly helped JTG Daugherty Racing, but it has not solved all of their on-track issues. Worst case scenario – Allmendinger will finish 16th in points instead of outside the top 20.
- Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has yet to score a win this year. He has run better than his JGR teammates all season, but just hasn’t had the luck he’s needed. With his 16 top 10s, Kenseth should make it far into the Chase. However, he won’t make it to the final round. Even if he can score a victory before the end of the season, it is going to be difficult for the No. 20 team to consistently be right there for wins as the entire crew has struggled somewhat this year.
- Greg Biffle: Biffle probably won’t make it past the first round of the Chase. He has had a brutal year. Somehow or another, the No. 16 team made the Chase based on points, albeit he has just three top fives. However, with five straight top 10 finishes prior to Richmond, he jumped six positions, which led him to 10th-place. If he can race like that, Biffle will make it past the first round. But if he struggles at the intermediate tracks like he has, then he won’t last too long in the Chase.
- Ryan Newman: This year, Newman has made a quiet, yet steady transition at RCR. He has 10 top 10 finishes, but he hasn’t really shown he is capable of winning races. Newman’s average finish is 14.1 through 26 races. Unless he earns a top five in one of the races in the first round, it’s going to be tough for him to advance. For the majority of the year, he has been a 15th-20th-place car, and he will need to improve upon that now.
In a wild race at the Pocono Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to come out on top once again. After taking the victory in the June race at the 2.5-mile triangular-shaped speedway, Earnhardt Jr. was able to capture his third victory of 2014 in Sunday afternoon’s GoBowling.com 400.
Leading 14 laps on Sunday, he was able to take the lead at just the right time. With less than 15 laps remaining in the 160-lap race, Earnhardt Jr. passed Greg Biffle to take the top position. However, Kurt Busch hit the wall with just eight laps to go – forcing a late-race restart that created an added level of excitement to the race. The victory is his third of the season – marking the most he has recorded since 2004 when he had six triumphs.
"Steve's strategy was perfect at the end and I don't know if anybody knew what was going on, but that was pretty awesome. I can't believe we swept Pocono. I think the 24 had a great car. The 41 was fast all weekend, but we definitely went home from the last race and made our car better. They went back and didn't sit on what we had. They wanted to get better, faster cars so we didn't have to rely on luck to win," Earnhardt Jr. said after the race.
Besides marking his first multi-win year since that 2004 season, this is the first time the 39-year-old has swept the races at a track in one season since Talladega of 2002. This is also the fifth straight victory at Pocono Raceway for Hendrick Motorsports. Heading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the No. 88 team will be seeded at the top position if no one else reaches three or more victories leading up to the regular-season finale at Richmond.
“It’s too far from the Chase. This is just a win. It’s a win at Pocono. It’s a great win. It gives you an advantage at Pocono, but if you think it gives you an advantage at Chicago – you are sadly mistaking. You have to go to every race like you are good enough, and if you have that mind set – you need to continue to try to stay ahead. The garage is full of great competitors, and the Chase is going to be something that you have never seen. No one knows how it is going to be. We all have our predictions, so we will so who’s right,” Earnhardt’s crew chief Steve Letarte said.
Kevin Harvick was able to come home in the runner-up position, and gave Earnhardt Jr. a run for his money in the concluding laps of the race. However, he was caught up in a 13-car wreck that took out several contenders. Harvick’s car was damaged in the incident, but it actually helped him move away from a tight condition.
“The left-front splitter was gone,” Harvick said in a post-race press conference. “Both fenders were caved in on the tires. I was loose most of the day and a touch tight in all of the corners. It definitely affected us some, but it definitely made us looser. It wasn’t very much fun before that when it was loose, but it was still really fast.”
Hamlin got loose under Clint Bowyer and saved it, but Brian Vickers got loose as he tried to avoid Hamlin – hitting Kenseth in the process. Tony Stewart went low but got hit from behind and landed on top of Paul Menard’s hood. Brad Keselowski received major right side damage in the accident as his No. 2 team spent multiple minutes trying to fix the damage on pit road. 13 cars were involved in the accident – Aric Almirola, Kenseth, A.J. Allmendinger, Keselowski, Menard, Stewart, Vickers, Justin Allgaier, Hamlin, Michael Annett, Truex Jr., Harvick and Edwards.
“The first one, I got tight off turn one and got in the fence,” Johnson said after the incident. “It pushed the rear quarter panel into the tire and got the first flat, so my bad. There on that one, I am clueless. It didn’t act like a tire went down and I am not exactly sure if it did. Normally when they go down that quick they explode and there was no explosion, the tire did not come apart, it just went straight. We are trying to get in there and look at it, obviously the tire is flat now from the impact.”
“It started far enough ahead of us that we couldn’t see it. We were just coming off of two there and somebody got sideways and started wrecking in front of us and we got caught up in it. I ended up on top of Paul Menard’s hood so it wasn’t where we wanted to end up by any means,” Stewart said.
After the incident, Allmendinger and Almirola attempted to go back on trap although their cars were severely beat up. Allmendinger smashed the wall in Turn 1 to bring out the caution with 21 laps remaining in the race. Greg Biffle took the lead on the restart, but Earnhardt was able to pass him with just 14 to go.
With just 31 laps left in the race, Jamie McMurray started the final green-flag pit sequence after a hectic day for teams in terms of strategy. Multiple drivers came in for two tires, but the majority of the cars on the lead lap took four tires. In order to save fuel in case of the possibility of a green-white-checkered finish, drivers stopped shifting.
On the second lap of the race, Brad Keselowski made an incredible save after nearly getting into the wall coming out of the tunnel turn. As Lap 10 came by, Jimmie Johnson experienced a flat right-rear tire coming off of Turn 1. Johnson came into pit road – forcing his No. 48 team to change up their strategy as they went one lap down. During the caution, multiple teams came down pit road – moving away from their original strategy.
Danica Patrick had problems with her No. 10 Chevrolet early in the race. On Lap 17, she slammed the wall just seconds after she radioed in that she had a tire going down. Patrick went a lap down, and never fully recovered as she finished 30th – four laps down.
Kyle Busch was running inside of the top-10 when the engine on the No. 18 Toyota expired. When that happened, multiple Toyota teams expressed concern for the reliability of their engines. Busch finished in the 42nd position during the Gobowling.com 400 at Pocono.
“Something in between the frame rails just doesn’t want to operate correctly right now and it’s so unfortunate because I thought we had a good car this weekend,” Busch said. “The car in practice was strong and it feel good and we were biding our time here early. We pitted early to get off sequence a little bit to see if we couldn’t do something different than the leaders and it obviously bit us here.”
As McMurray and Kasey Kahne were making green-flag pit stops, Landon Cassill’s No. 40 car collided with the wall. Cassill’s car was done for the day as he came home in the 41st position. The accident spiced up pit strategy even more as some teams came down pit road, while others stayed out.
Jeff Gordon led 63 laps on Sunday afternoon. Just after the halfway mark, Gordon became the first driver in the history of Pocono Raceway to lead 1,000 or more laps. Later in the race, he also led the 24,000th lap of his career.
Gordon continues to hold the championship lead over Earnhardt Jr. by 17 points. Keselowski, Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Johnson, Logano, Edwards, Bowyer and Ky. Busch round out the top-10 in points.
Here are some notables from the GoBowling.com 400:
-Clint Bowyer his third top-five finish of 2014. He made the jump from 10th to ninth in points.
-Joey Logano finished third in Sunday’s event. The top-five marks his eighth of the year, and marks his best finish in a race that he did not win this year.
-Jamie McMurray earned his sixth top-10 finish this year. McMurray raced inside of the top-five throughout the race, but fell to seventh after the final caution flag. He sits 20th in points and is still lacking a win.
-Pole sitter Kyle Larson came home in the 11th position. He was unable to lead a lap, and stayed inside of the top-five for a brief period of time before dropping back on the long runs. Although he was outside of the top-15 at certain points, his crew chief Chris Heroy and he were able to bounce back to earn a solid finish – remaining 12th in points.
-Casey Mears finished in the 12th position during the 400-mile event. Mears was on a strategy similar to McMurray’s as he was racing inside of the top-five in his No. 13 Chevrolet during multiple stages of the race. This is his best finish at a non-restrictor plate track since finishing seventh at Charlotte in 2009.
-The Front Row Motorsports cars of David Gilliland and David Ragan finished 17th and 19th, respectively. This is the first time both cars have finished inside of the top-20 since the pair earned sixth and seventh-place finishes at Talladega in October.
-Ryan Truex finished earned a 20th-place finish. His previous best career finish was 30th at Martinsville Speedway earlier this season. Truex spoke to Speedway Digest after the race: “It’s a big deal. Our car wasn’t very good all day, we just got lucky and Joe (Williams – crew chief) made the right call there. For once nothing broke and everything went our way. That big wreck happened far enough ahead of us, so luckily we were able to stop and after that – we had to save fuel. We had to run around some laps and just save fuel. We just have to get our cars driving better – get them turning and get them to carry more speed in the corners. I think we’re gaining on it. This is our best finish and we have been getting better and better throughout the year.”
-Travis Kvapil finished in the 25th position. His previous best finish of the season was 29th in the June race at Pocono.
-Dave Blaney came home in 26th-place. Blaney was reunited with Tommy Baldwin Racing after starting 2014 in the No. 77 car for Randy Humphrey Racing. The finish marked Blaney’s best result since finishing 25th at Talladega in October.
-Alex Kennedy finished a career-best 28th at Pocono on Sunday while running for Circle Sport Racing.
-There were 15 lead changes with 10 different drivers taking the top spot throughout the 160 laps. Eight caution flags were thrown on Sunday with an average speed of 127.411 mph.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the Pocono Raceway for the second of a pair of trips this year. In the midst of the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania, the track has been infamous for its history of having rain within the area on a frequent basis.
This year, it is 50/50 on whether or not the poor weather will show up for Sunday’s Gobowling.com 400. For the second straight year, the company is the title sponsor of the event, and they also have their colors on Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Ford. During Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the rain was able to hold off, and the Sun came out for a large portion of the 150-mile spectacle. The forecast is similar for Sunday’s race as 43 Sprint Cup Series teams are prepared to race at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ for 400-miles.
Kyle Larson, the newly turned 22-year-old, set a new track record on Friday afternoon during qualifying for the Gobowling.com 400 at Pocono. Larson led the field to the green flag at Richmond International Raceway, but that was due to qualifying being rained out and set on practice speeds. The pole locked him into the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway for next year as it was his first career pole.
After winning the first race at Pocono this year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking to take out the broom stick. Earnhardt Jr. is second in points behind last weekend’s winner Jeff Gordon. After struggling to begin the weekend, the No. 88 team has picked up speed as they were fifth quickest in final practice. With 14 top-10s this year, he will be a factor in Sunday’s event. However, with Gordon coming off of his 90th career victory – he is expected to be strong once again this weekend. He will start fifth in his No. 24 car, but he has been one of the top-three fastest cars over the course of the weekend.
Brad Keselowski was extremely close to winning the June race at the triangular-shaped speedway. But with debris on his grille – Keselowski had to drop back behind Earnhardt Jr. with a handful of laps remaining in the race. On Saturday evening, the former Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series champion captured his 30th career race in NASCAR’s second-tier division. He dominated the race at Iowa Speedway – leading 146 of the 250 laps as he held off a hard-charging Michael McDowell after a late-race caution to score the victory. Keselowski flew back to Pocono as he will pull off the double for possibly the final time with Ryan Blaney possibly moving up to that ride in 2015.
Denny Hamlin will be racing without his crew chief Darian Grubb this weekend. Grubb was suspended for six events due to multiple rear firewall covers having issues following a third-place finish at Indianapolis. Hamlin’s replacement crew chief will be Mike Wheeler, whom of which has worked as the No. 11 team’s car chief since 2006. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota won his first pair of races at NASCAR’s highest level at Pocono back in 2006, and has been quick all weekend. Hamlin will start the Gobowling.com 400 from the 13th position, but was ninth in Happy Hour and 15th in Saturday’s first practice session.
Stewart Haas Racing was strong in the June Pocono race. However, none of their four drivers were able to close the deal. Team co-owner Tony Stewart was leading the race, but had a pit road speeding penalty which dropped him back to the 13th position after pacing the field for 24 laps. Kurt Busch was the lone driver from the organization to finish inside of the top-10 after leading five laps in the 160-lap event.
Michael Waltrip Racing is looking for their first win of 2014. Clint Bowyer sits 10th in points and hasn’t finished outside of the top-15 at Pocono since the August race in 2012. His teammate Brian Vickers made his return to Pocono in June – finishing 19th. Moreover, he sits 17th in points and needs a solid run this weekend.
The green flag will take place at 1:05 p.m. ET as NASCAR moved up the start time by 13 minutes due to the pending weather.