Luck Be a Lady...
And she was for Jeff Gordon, when he found himself in the lead when severe thunderstorms hit Pocono International Raceway on Sunday afternoon. After thirty minutes of waiting, NASCAR declared the race official, and Jeff Gordon the winner of the Pennsylvania 400.
This has the potential to change everything in regards to Chase for the Championship.
Two months ago, Gordon was 19th in the standings and largely considered a Chase afterthought. Six finishes of sixth-place or better, including a win on Sunday has catapulted Gordon to 13th in the standings. And more importantly, he's moved into the second and final wild card slot, displacing Kyle Busch, who had yet another disastrous finish at Pocono.
While there's still five races remaining before the Chase begins, Gordon's progress has to be worrisome to the rest of the paddock. Gordon's had speed all year, but found himself with incredibly bad luck. If Gordon can somehow squeeze into the Chase, he and his team will be battle-tested and carrying enough momentum to factor into the final 10 races.
Just ask Tony Stewart how important these variables are this close to the playoffs.
Sunday was a banner day for Hendrick Motorsports as a whole, with Gordon and Kasey Kahne finishing first and second. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did his part, leading laps and maintaining his championship lead and Jimmie Johnson having the day's dominant car.
Gordon's win secures a provisional Chase berth and also places all four Hendrick cars within the playoff bubble, a situation that Rick Hendrick predicted during the preseason. While it looked downright improbable at times, that prediction has come true.
Assuming that all four cars make it into the final roster, they should enter the post-season as the favorites to win it all. That's now a realistic scenario, which is absolutely remarkable considering how depressing the season started for both the No. 24 and No. 5 teams.
A complete full-field rundown, championship standings and a brief note on Sunday's tragedy can be found after the jump.
In the moment after the final accident, fans were tweeting that Johnson had purposely slid up into Kenseth in order to give Gordon the lead. The accusations were so steadfast that Johnson even responding on Twitter, saying "Some of you can dream up whatever you want, I had a flat RR tire. #truth"
Knowing what we know now about the character of Jimmie Johnson, the four-time champion is too fierce of a competitor to just take wins off the table. Beyond that, they're looking for additional Chase for the Championship bonus points. There's absolutely no reason for Johnson to give up a win, this close to the Chase.
Furthermore, the notion is even more ridiculous when you consider how many variables had to go right for Gordon to inherit the lead on that restart. Johnson and Kenseth had to slide up the track, blocking both Biffle and Keselowski, all assuming that Gordon, who restarted on the outside of row three, could jump in front of Kahne and avoid the resulting carnage.
That's entirely too much to leave to chance, even for control-freaks like Johnson and Chad Knaus. The No. 48 had a flat right rear that likely cost him his fourth win of the season.
Lightning strike fatally injuries fan at Pocono
I don't think now is the time to point fingers about Sunday's tragedy, however I do feel compelled to opine my thoughts, although briefly out of respect to the victims.
Brian Neudorff, better known as @NASCAR_WXMAN on Twitter, had warned everyone at Pocono that lightning-producing storms were on the way and that cars should have been off the track long before that decision was made. The fan situation would likely have taken care of itself. Neudorff, also an SB Nation contributor, had all but predicted this situation. His most-telling tweets, in hindsight, have been provided below.
It's my sincerest hope that this scenario won't have to repeat itself. NASCAR has set a precedent of appropriate reaction after a tragedies and this scenario should be no different. It's just upsetting that the Sanctioning Body isn't more proactive in the face of ominous and indisputable warnings.
NASCAR Ranting and Raving sends its thoughts and prayers to the victim's families. Get well soon.
Update: 11:40 a.m. CST: Brian Neudorff wrote this excellent column outlining what NASCAR and their partner tracks should do to avoid the Pocono tragedy from repeating itself. It's well worth a look.
Final Laps: Jeff Gordon victorious with help from Mother... (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
Victory Lane: Jeff Gordon (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
|1||27||24||Jeff Gordon||Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet||98||47||4||Running||1||8|
|2||4||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance Chevrolet||98||43||1||Running||1||1|
|3||15||56||Martin Truex Jr.||NAPA Auto Parts Toyota||98||41||Running|
|4||31||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite Dodge||98||41||1||Running||1||8|
|5||28||14||Tony Stewart||Office Depot Back to School Chevrolet||98||39||Running|
|6||9||39||Ryan Newman||HAAS Automation / Quicken Loans Chevrolet||98||38||Running|
|7||17||99||Carl Edwards||Fastenal Ford||98||37||Running|
|8||19||15||Clint Bowyer||5-hour Energy Toyota||98||36||Running|
|9||11||78||Regan Smith||Furniture Row / Farm American Chevrolet||98||35||Running|
|10||5||9||Marcos Ambrose||Stanley Ford||98||34||Running|
|11||3||27||Paul Menard||Menards / Serta Chevrolet||98||33||Running|
|12||18||55||Mark Martin||Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota||98||32||Running|
|13||14||20||Joey Logano||The Home Depot Toyota||98||31||Running|
|14||10||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe's Chevrolet||98||32||2||Running||3||44|
|15||12||16||Greg Biffle||3M Ford||98||29||Running|
|16||25||22||Sam Hornish Jr.(i)||Shell Pennzoil Dodge||98||0||Running|
|17||21||29||Kevin Harvick||Budweiser Chevrolet||98||27||Running|
|18||16||1||Jamie McMurray||Bass Pro Shops / Allstate Chevrolet||98||27||1||Running||1||3|
|19||13||43||Aric Almirola||Automotive Lift Institute Ford||98||25||Running|
|20||1||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Target Chevrolet||98||25||1||Running||1||7|
|21||26||38||David Gilliland||ModSpace Motorsports Ford||98||23||Running|
|22||23||31||Jeff Burton||Enersys / Odyssey Battery Chevrolet||98||22||Running|
|23||7||17||Matt Kenseth||Zest Ford||98||22||1||Running||2||4|
|24||24||10||David Reutimann||TMone.com Chevrolet||97||20||Running|
|25||37||93||Travis Kvapil||Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota||97||19||Running|
|26||22||83||Landon Cassill||Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota||97||18||Running|
|27||39||47||Bobby Labonte||Scott Products Toyota||96||17||Running|
|28||32||34||David Ragan||Taco Bell Ford||96||16||Running|
|29||2||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Ground Toyota||90||16||1||Accident||1||3|
|30||6||51||Kurt Busch||Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet||84||15||1||Accident||1||3|
|31||41||32||Jason White(i)||Zaxby's Ford||81||0||Transmission|
|32||8||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||DietMtnDew/AMPEnergy/NationalGuard Chev||80||13||1||Running||2||17|
|33||20||18||Kyle Busch||M&M's Toyota||74||11||Accident|
|34||36||30||David Stremme||Inception Motorsports Toyota||43||10||Transmission|
|35||29||13||Casey Mears||GEICO Ford||40||9||Brakes|
|36||38||87||Joe Nemechek(i)||AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota||37||0||Brakes|
|37||34||26||Josh Wise #||MDS Transport Ford||34||7||Brakes|
|38||42||36||Tony Raines||@Tmone / CRM Hiring Veterans Chevrolet||31||6||Fuel Pump|
|39||30||19||Mike Bliss(i)||Plinker Tactical Toyota||29||0||Overheating|
|40||35||37||JJ Yeley||Max Q Motorsports Chevrolet||27||4||Brakes|
|41||43||98||Mike Skinner||TRAQM.com Ford||26||3||Rear Gear|
|42||40||91||Reed Sorenson(i)||Plinker Tactical Toyota||10||0||Brakes|
|43||33||23||Scott Riggs||North Texas Pipe Chevrolet||9||1||Brakes|
# = Rookie, Fin = Finish, Str = Start, Pts = Total Points, BPs = Lap Leader Bns Pts, TLd = Times Led, LLd = Laps Led. (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series
Average Speed: 139.249 MPH Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 45 Mins, 34 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution
Lead Changes: 13 among 10 drivers Cautions: 3 for 14 laps Attendance: 85,000