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At one point during Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, it appeared Joe Gibbs Racing was set to end the day with all three cars in the top-four while Penske Racing was out of luck at the end of the lead lap.
Rain had halted the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 on Lap 124 of 200 with Joey Logano holding on to the lead, followed by teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in third and fourth respectively. On the other hand, Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch sat 25th and 26th.
With rain pelting the track and another cell fast approaching, things were looking grim for the Penske duo, but looks can be deceiving.
Taking a gamble prior to the arrival of the weather, both Keselowski and Busch hit pit road in anticipation of the race resuming. While Logano eagerly awaited more rain, the Penske teammates were hoping the track would dry and the approaching cell would miss the track.
After an hour and 40 minutes, that is exactly what happened.
Penske Racing: 1st (No. 2), 3rd (No. 22)
The skies cleared and the track was dried, forcing the leaders to pit road for tires and fuel. Just in for service prior to the caution, the No. 2 and No. 22 stayed on the track and moved into the lead once the race resumed.
"At the time I thought my crew chief was crazy," Busch said. "That would have trapped us 26th if we didn't get it back underway. But luckily we did. And it looked like the Penske guys were the smartest guys when it came to rain delay, because we came out of there 1‑2 after that restart."
"We knew that's what it was going to take," Keselowski's crew chief Paul Wolfe said. "I felt like it was somewhat of a gamble to come down at that point. But at the same time we felt like it was an educated gamble at that. It wasn't just a shot in the dark. And it ended up all working out how they had said it would."
The move paid off for both cars as they gained the ever-valuable track position and were able to do the job from there. When the checkered flag flew, Keselowski surprised many but himself by scoring the win, while Busch held off Jimmie Johnson to finish third.
Knowing it would take calls like that to get Keselowski into the Chase, Wolfe took a chance and it paid off. While he described it as an "educated gamble" Keselowski had another reasoning.
"Just tell them, Paul, you got balls this big," he said with a hand gesture. "Just tell them. Because if it wouldn't have worked out, man it would have been rough, whew."
While Keselowski was busy laughing about his victory, Busch was defending his race with Johnson on the final lap. Refusing to give in to Johnson's late-race aggressiveness, Busch held his ground, beat the No. 48 and caught an earful on pit road from the five-time champion after the race.
"I'm never going to lay down behind the wheel," he said. "When I show frustration, people get excited, ‘Oh wow he's lost focus' (I) just brought home another third place finish."
Joe Gibbs Racing: 2nd (No. 18), 15th (No. 11), 26th (No. 20)
While it may have looked like the JGR cars were going to have a dominant afternoon, that quickly evaporated once the race resumed and the closing laps clicked away.
Although all three cars were able to contend for a top-10 once the race went back to green, Kyle Busch was the only Gibbs cars that truly battled for the lead.
When the final caution of the day slowed the field, Denny Hamlin led a number of cars to pit road in what appeared to be a solid strategy call for fresh tires. However, an uncharacteristic mistake by the 2011 Pit Crew Challenge champion team cost Hamlin a number of spots on the track when a lug nut fell off the right rear tire. After entering the pits fifth, Hamlin emerged mired deep in the pack and with little time to get back to the front. In the end, the four-time Pocono winner finished a disappointing 15th.
For Logano, the day could not have ended much worse. After being so close to victory, a leaking tire in the final 20 laps forced the team back to pit road under green flag conditions. The No. 20 Home Depot Toyota crossed the line in 26th.
The JGR teammates were not without their own bit of controversy, however. Early in the race when Hamlin had the dominant car, Busch asked to lead a lap prior to the race's halfway mark. When told of the request, Hamlin did not appear willing to give up the top spot so easily. After a number of laps, Busch eventually moved around Hamlin to take the lead, but then drove away without giving the spot back.
Roush Fenway Racing: 7th (No. 99), 8th (No. 16), 16th (No. 17), 34th (No. 6)
While things seemed to be working out well for Roush Fenway Racing after Carl Edwards announced his decision to stay with the team, this weekend did little to show team unity among the organization.
First, Edwards' three teammates gave strange responses to questions about his return to the team, then Saturday night's dramatic Nationwide Series race showcased hard racing and frustration amongst teammates Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and then Sunday's race seemed to cap it all off.
Early in the going, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle made contact exiting the third corner, damaging both cars.
Just a handful of laps later, David Ragan dove under David Reutimann to make it three-wide into Turn 3. The move did not work, as Ragan's No. 6 got loose and backed into the outside wall.
Under that caution, Biffle's team took time to fix the damage to the fender, forcing the No. 16 to restart deep in the field. Coming to the green flag, Biffle changed lanes prior to the start-finish line and was issued a pass-through penalty by NASCAR.
Despite the multiple setbacks, Biffle was able stay out on the final caution to gain track position and rally back to an eighth-place finish.
Hendrick Motorsports: 4th (No. 48), 6th (No. 24), 9th (No. 88), 13th (No. 5)
Stewart-Haas Racing: 5th (No. 39), 11th (No. 14)
Richard Childress Racing: 10th (No. 27), 14th (No. 29), 17th (No. 31), 18th (No. 33)
When the rains came to Pocono Raceway just past halfway, it appeared Joey Logano was going to have a stellar day.
After sitting on the pole and leading 43 laps, Logano was poised to win his second career Sprint Cup race and potentially solidify his spot as the driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota.
During the rain delay, Logano boasted about holding off Jimmie Johnson before the rain hit and beamed at the opportunity to show The Home Depot he had what it takes to win.
"I just hope it keeps raining," he said in the break. "That's all I can do right now."
But the rain ended and Logano and the majority of the field headed for pit road, all while the strategy played out for Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.
Restarting the race in fifth, Logano continued to contend for a spot in the top 10, leading another lap, but his chances at victory seemed to dry up with the rain.
Things got even worse for Logano as a flat tire with less than 20 laps to go brought the No. 20 car back to pit road under green.
Instead of celebrating his first win of the season, Logano was forced to swallow a disappointing 26th-place finish. Yet for crew chief Greg Zipadelli, there is no way the team can hang their heads after a tire leak ruined an otherwise strong performance.
"What can you do? We did all we could," Zipadelli said. "We sat on the pole, we led a bunch of laps, we had a very respectful top-five car. I think (it was) one of our better performances in the last two and a half years, so I'm not going to hang my head and be miserable over something on the race track. I can't control that.
"If it was something that we did and made a bad call it would be different than that. Right now, we learn and the last thing I want to do is walk out of here with a bad attitude and kill the momentum that we've had in the last six to eight weeks."
Five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson yelled at Kurt Busch on pit road following Sunday's NASCAR race at Pocono, expressing his displeasure over contact between the two drivers as they raced hard late in the 500-mile event.
Johnson and Busch pointed and gestured at one another while making their opinions known, but there was no physical contact between the two.
"I'm not going to run people over to pass them," Johnson said. "That's just not me. I worked on him for however many laps trying to get by him clean – fair and square – and then as I got up next to him, we had an issue off of (Turn 2). I'll just keep filing things away and remember this stuff."
Busch argued that Johnson took a "jab" at him first, and said he simply returned the favor.
"I was racing him, flat-out," Busch said. "You want to race? Let's race. I didn't know we were supposed to pull over when it came to five (laps) to go. I raced him hard, raced him smart, raced him clean and he wants to come over here and bitch about it."
Johnson said he had the opportunity to run Busch over or make contact with him for the 10 previous laps, and "never did it." He was upset Busch didn't treat him the same way.
Busch, obviously, disagreed.
"It's as clean as I've ever seen it," Busch said. "Why can't we race like this and put on a show for the fans and not have a problem with it? I don't know."
Busch took exception to reporters' questions about the incident after the race, calling one "People magazine" for asking about Johnson.
"We were racing hard," he said. "I think that's what we saw on TV and exactly that's what should be reported. There are a lot of times when the 22 is on the short end of the stick of the 48. And I raced him hard today. I'm glad I did. I have no regrets in it."
When another reporter asked Busch's brother, Kyle, about drivers showing less give-and-take on the track, Kurt interrupted angrily.
"You wonder why we don't (race hard) – because we have to come in here and answer...questions like this," he said. "Just accept it: It was great racing."
Coming off a string of six races with only one top-15 finish, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to smile once again following his ninth-place finish Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Running in the top-10 for the majority of the afternoon, Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the overall speed of the car and the team's ability to rally back from some struggles on pit road.
"There's so many guys on the team, it's rare when everyone is kind of clicking," he said. "We'll get it sorted out. We had good speed though, we had a good car all day long and real happy how that worked out."
By finishing ninth, and thanks to a late-race mistake by Denny Hamlin's pit crew, Earnhardt Jr. was able to put a bit more of a cushion on his points position, moving within one point of Tony Stewart in ninth and extending the gap to Hamlin to 23.
After weeks of struggles, Earnhardt Jr. said he was "comfortable" with his spot in the standings, without even knowing how Sunday's results came into play.
"I don't know where we're at (in points). I haven't seen it. I'm comfortable though, trust me," he said with a grin. "I'd rather be second or first or third, whatever, but I'm good with how things are working out."
What Earnhardt Jr. is happy about is the team's ability to get back on track after those six weeks of poor finishes. Following a string of three races with one top-five and three top-10s, Earnhardt Jr. slipped into his worst slump of the year.
Instead of hanging his head or panicking, Earnhardt Jr. remained focused and was able to get the team back on track. Although pleased with his performance, he continued to find room for improvement going forward, saying they need to get better at qualifying.
"Our car had speed," he said. "I was like, ‘Heck yeah, man!' I drove up to fifth there one time and was racing around the top four, that's how we were running at the start of the year. I'm kind of happy about that. Hopefully we've got it figured out."
Heading to Watkins Glen next week, Earnhardt Jr. knows it could be "feast or famine" as they try to "steal a win" using pit strategy.
"If we have a bad day (at Watkins Glen), I really won't be too concerned," he said. "As far as oval racing – what I love – I think we're getting better at it again."
Brad Keselowski's Pocono victory on Sunday was a massive step forward in securing a potential wild card berth in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Keselowski's win was his second of the season, which is more than any other driver from 11th to 20th in points. That means Keselowski now holds the No. 1 wild card spot and is almost assured of making the Chase as long as he can remain in the top 20 over the next five races.
Denny Hamlin (11th in points, one win) remains in the other wild card spot. Paul Menard (14th) will need to catch Hamlin or win again in order to make the Chase.
Carl Edwards remained the Sprint Cup Series points leader with Jimmie Johnson in second – nine points behind.
Here's a look at the updated NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings after Pocono (with each driver's best shot at making the Chase):
Ricky Rudd once taped his eyelids open so he could race. Denny Hamlin went to Victory Lane with a torn knee ligament. And on Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Brad Keselowski added his name to the list of NASCAR drivers who toughed out an injury for the benefit of their team.
Just five days after Keselowski was airlifted to a hospital following a crash in testing, the Penske Racing driver and his swollen ankle went to Victory Lane at Pocono with an inspiring drive.
Keselowski, who said he was motivated by the memory of American soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan earlier in the week, came out with the lead after a three-wide battle on a restart with 17 laps remaining.
The win gave Keselowski new life in the Chase wild card race – it was his second win of the season – and it came thanks in part to a rain delay of one hour and 40 minutes that changed the strategy.
While most of the frontrunners – including race leader Joey Logano – stayed out, Keselowski and teammate Kurt Busch pitted in case the race went back to green.
NASCAR officials dried the track and the tandem of Busch and Keselowski were able to gain track position. Keselowski's car was better in the end, and he held of a challenge from Kyle Busch at the finish.
Here are the results from Sunday's NASCAR race at Pocono:
The NASCAR Pocono race is back underway after a rain shower caused a 90-minute delay with 76 laps to go.
That's bad news for Joey Logano – who was winning when the rain came – but good news for Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski, who pitted just before the delay and now will have good track position.
More weather is in the area, but it's unclear whether it will miss the track or allow the race to run until its finish.
A typical summer rain shower has delayed the NASCAR action at Pocono Raceway, and Joey Logano is hoping it doesn't let up.
Logano is leading on lap 124 (of 200 laps) and efforts are underway to dry the 2.5-mile triangular track. If the Joe Gibbs Racing driver holds on, he'll be in the No. 2 Wild Card spot for the Chase with only five races remaining until the cutoff.
The rain has stopped as of 4 p.m. Eastern, but another cell is on the way. If the race doesn't get restarted, here's how the Pocono Raceway results would look:
In light of the rain-delayed Camping World Truck Series and ARCA races at Pocono Raceway this weekend – and the threat of rain for today's Sprint Cup Series race – @nascarcasm has designed a new logo for the "Tricky Triangle."
You know the drill: We're in for a long day of viewing from Pocono Raceway ahead, so hang out here and chat about all things "Tricky Triangle."
Make sure your "auto-refresh" box is checked in order to see the latest comments from other race fans.
Our pick for today is Denny Hamlin. How about you?
I continue to monitor the weather situation through central and eastern Pennsylvania. As of 11am EDT, there were a few isolated showers and storms through central PA moving east, some appeared to become more scattered through western Pennsylvania as a cold front prepares to work across the state later this afternoon. Thankfully the activity is scattered and isolated with lots of breaks in between the negative is how "juiced" the atmosphere is. Lot of available moisture to develop more showers and storms as the day wears on. I don't think that the race is a wash and we will probably start on time, but I think as we get later into the afternoon the threat of rain increases and in my opinion we are racing to halfway and if we get beyond that then any lap after halfway is bonus.
1:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Race – Mostly cloudy, scattered showers and storms - temp: 78
3:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm - temp: 78
5:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm - temp: 79
Sunday's Sunset at 8:11pm EDT
MONDAY: (Just in case the race is postponed or moved to the next day)
12:00 p.m EDT
Possible Sprint Cup Race – Partly Sunny, isolated threat of showers, looks mostly dry - temp: 78
It's NASCAR race day at Pocono Raceway, and we've got the actual race start time, the starting lineup and some other facts about the second-biggest race of the season for you below.
Start time: The command to start engines will be given at 1:07 p.m. Eastern time. After a few pace laps, the honorary starter will wave the green flag at 1:18 p.m. Eastern. So if you want to skip the pre-race show and just tune in for the race, flip on your TV set at 1:18.
Race name/distance: The Good Sam RV Insurance 500 usually feels like one of the longest races of the year – as does any event at Pocono. Five hundred miles (200 laps around the 2.5-mile raceway) seem to take forever because of the long straightaways and strung-out racing. So find a comfortable spot on the couch and relax.
TV and radio: Today marks the second race of ESPN's portion of the NASCAR season. Every Cup race will be on either ESPN or ABC for the rest of the year. If you aren't near a TV, the radio broadcast can be found on your local Motor Racing Network (MRN) affiliate. Click here to see a list of stations where you can listen.
National anthem: A man named Clark Louis is singing the anthem today. Louis is a Pocono Raceway regular when it comes to the national anthem, and his deep, baritone voice is a favorite of track owner Doc Mattioli.
Tickets: There are still tickets remaining for the Pocono race, so you should be safe if you want to take the chance by walking up to the ticket window on race day.
Weather: Looking iffy – another Pocono tradition. According to the unofficial NASCAR weatherman, there's enough chance of a storm on Sunday morning/early afternoon to be a "little nervous" about the race getting in with no interruptions. On the plus side, the weather will be a pleasant 80 degrees.
Last time: One year ago, Greg Biffle won the summer Pocono race – an event remembered more for Elliott Sadler's terrifying wreck. More recently, Jeff Gordon claimed his second victory of the season with a June win at the Tricky Triangle.
Starting lineup for today's NASCAR Pocono race:
The question everyone wants to know, "Will we be racing Sunday or will it be Monday?" Rain is definitely a threat and I don't think there are a lot of windows, I hope I am wrong and we see a full race with perfect weather but here is why I am not real confident that we get a full race in on Sunday.
Attached you will find print outs from two computer models I use when I put together a weather forecast. Model #1 is more aggressive with the rain as you can see more of the darker shades which indicated heavier and steadier rain for Sunday afternoon around 2pm.
Model #2 doesn't have heavy rain but it is still not what you want to see as you go into the afternoon. I can tell you that both of these models keep rain around eastern Pennsylvania until evening.
After looking over the date and reviewing radar data from overnight I think we have at best a 40% chance of getting a whole race in. The problem with rain Sunday morning into Sunday afternoon is it will come in small waves and timing these waves are tough.
Eastern Pennsylvania is in a warm moist airmass thanks to a passing warm from Saturday night, this provides enough "juice" for storms and showers to form and keep them from dying out. Also a cold front is expected to cross the area late Sunday afternoon and evening. This boundary could spark showers and storms out ahead of the front.
I can't and won't tell someone whether or not they should or shouldn't go to a race. My job is to give people the best information so they can make the decision that is right for them. I will say this, if you go tomorrow be prepared for rain at some point and also know that the race could be delayed, postpone or shorten.
9:00 a.m EDT
Truck Race – Showers and storms likely - temp: 72
1:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm - temp: 78
MONDAY: (Just in case the race is postponed or moved to the next day)
12:00 p.m EDT
Possible Sprint Cup Race – Partly Sunny, isolated threat of showers, looks mostly dry - temp: 78
Putting all of the job security rumors out of his mind, Joey Logano was able to post the fastest qualifying time of Saturday's session at Pocono Raceway and put the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota on a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole for the second time in 2011.
Admitting the rumors of Carl Edwards taking over the No. 20 ride stayed in the back of his mind, Logano said he never let them come into play on the race track and remained focused throughout. In addition, the focus on those rumors have kept his team's momentum out of the spotlight.
"The last six or seven races, our team has done a good job," he said. "We've been doing a good job lately, building a lot of momentum. If we keep doing that, eventually a win is going to happen. Confidence in the whole team is definitely up right now, especially with me."
Rolling off 26th in qualifying, Logano said a lot of teams looked at the weekend schedule and saw an early qualifying session and sandbagged their practice sessions to get a late qualifying run. The effort paid off for the No. 20 team as the weather held off and his lap time held up.
Posting the second fastest time of the day was Red Bull Racing's Kasey Kahne. His second-straight outside pole run, Kahne is looking to better his 18th-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five, while Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick made up the rest of the top 10.
Jeff Gordon tagged the wall during his qualifying lap, but was still able to post the 31st-fastest time and was not forced to a back-up car.
Here is the starting lineup for Sunday's NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway:
The Carl Edwards contract saga that came to an end Thursday was just the latest illustration of how distracting contract negotiations and renewals can become over the course of a season. For weeks and months, rumors swirled and questions were asked about Edwards' future, the consequences of a move to Joe Gibbs Racing and the domino effect it would have on other free agents and teams.
Despite 11 different winners in the last 11 races, it seems the majority of the conversations throughout the NASCAR garage and media center focused on Edwards' contract situation and the possible fallout. The discussion not only dominated the headlines, but also served as a distraction for fans, drivers and team members – especially those directly linked to the rumors.
Edwards even said Friday afternoon in Pocono he wished he had never mentioned his contract was up, thus drawing less attention and making the process much easier. Teammate Greg Biffle said he was glad the situation came to an end because, "people won't ask me about it anymore after today."
"It can get to a point where it's all you guys ask and it's all we sometimes think about because of what you ask," said Ryan Newman, who has a contract up at the end of the 2012 season. "Sometimes pleading the fifth is the best thing you can do to get the answer done and give you guys the answer you want."
While Newman would not elaborate about his upcoming contract situation, he did say he believed it was better to handle those things during the off-season while the team is building race cars and not preparing to go the race track every weekend.
This season, the majority of contract talk has surrounded Edwards, but in 2010 that focus was mainly on Kevin Harvick and his negotiations with Richard Childress Racing.
Similar to Edwards, Harvick was atop the standings and had a long relationship the organization, but rumors still swirled about his departure. In the end, Harvick inked an extension with Childress and has contended for the title the past two seasons.
For Harvick, it is those on the team who are the most affected by the distraction and rumors being swirled around about the varying possibilities.
"It's a tough situation to be in with your team just because all the guys look at you like, ‘Man, why are you leaving? Things are going pretty good,'" Harvick said.
"The guys on the team that don't know anything is going on those are the guys that it's hardest on," he added. "They don't want to ask any questions, but they ask them to you kind of under their breath and in odd ways just to see if they can figure out what is going on so that goes away as soon as everything is announced."
Now that the contract situation has finally been put to rest at Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards believes the team is glad to put everything behind them.
After he and team owner Jack Roush spent time with the crew this weekend he admitted, "everybody feels the same way as best as I can tell that, ‘Hey, man, that was getting kind of stressful. I'm really glad we're moving beyond that.' I think everybody kind of has that same feeling, so that's good."
Good news and bad news when it comes to the weather this weekend in Pocono. There will be morning fog and as the day wears on Saturday the threat of showers and storms increases. This could put a damper on the Truck race Saturday afternoon but because qualifying for Sprint Cup is in the morning it has a better chance of getting in. The rain and storms will be more numerous Saturday night into Sunday morning. There is still a threat for storms and showers Sunday. It doesn't look like a wash but there is still enough of a threat to be a little nervous and approach with caution. As for Iowa Speedway, like Pocono some patchy morning fog other wise sun and clouds and not as hot SATURDAY: SUNDAY:
9:30 a.m EDT
Truck Qualifying – Chance of scattered storms/showers - temp: 70
10:30 a.m EDT
Sprint Cup Qualifying – Chance of scattered storms/showers - temp: 72
2:00 p.m EDT
Truck Race – Showers and storms likely - temp: 75
1:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Race – Mostly cloudy, chance of storm - temp: 80
Good news and bad news when it comes to the weather this weekend in Pocono. There will be morning fog and as the day wears on Saturday the threat of showers and storms increases. This could put a damper on the Truck race Saturday afternoon but because qualifying for Sprint Cup is in the morning it has a better chance of getting in. The rain and storms will be more numerous Saturday night into Sunday morning. There is still a threat for storms and showers Sunday. It doesn't look like a wash but there is still enough of a threat to be a little nervous and approach with caution.
As for Iowa Speedway, like Pocono some patchy morning fog other wise sun and clouds and not as hot
A testing wreck at Road Atlanta earlier this week left Brad Keselowski in the hospital and recovering from an avulsion fracture of his left ankle, multiple lacerations and a bruised body, but he remains committed to running the entire Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Wearing a larger size shoe on one foot and grinding through the pain, Keselowski sucked it up and said Friday he is simply happy to be alright.
“I feel like I hit about as hard as I could in one of these cars, and I’m still here somehow,” he said.
The second-year Penske Racing driver said one of a racer's worst fears was doing exactly what he did: Going through a corner without a SAFER barrier and losing his brakes.
“I had two or three seconds of staring at a wall, knowing I was going to hit it about as hard as you possibly could," he said. "Probably less comforting than that was knowing it was a temporary wall and on the other side was trees.”
Keselowski said he believed he would end up in the trees after breaking through the wall, but was lucky to come to a rest. After a few days' rest and recovery, he still has bruises all over his body but was feeling OK aside from some pain while walking.
The impact compromised the driver compartment, something Keselowski pointed out we have yet to see on the so-called COT car.
“The left front tire ended up where the brake pedal was supposed to be,” Keselowski said. “The brake pedal and all the other pedals were moved…a good six to eight inches in the cockpit. That was kind of hell. All the leg braces and structures had broken out of the car, but the seat itself was intact and what I feel like got me hurt was that the feet area was compromised. Being a guy with long legs, (the wreck) just shoved my legs back into my torso, into my hip and it was very, very painful.”
This weekend at Pocono, Keselowski has no hesitations of climbing back in the car but said, “I have checked my brakes a couple extra times before each corner.”
While he admitted there was “no good time” to have this injury, the upcoming stretch seems especially ill-timed: Keselowski will have to endure heavy braking and shifting the next two weekends at Pocono and Watkins Glen, along with the short tracks of Bristol and Richmond.
Some drivers have commented on how tough Keselowski is for racing this weekend despite the injury, but he looks at it in a much different light.
“I consider myself a lucky guy to walk away and be here,” he said.
At times, it seems from the outside like Roush Fenway Racing is Carl Edwards' world and everyone else at Roush just lives in it.
It probably feels that way inside the organization sometimes, too. Edwards' three Roush Fenway teammates were all asked about the driver's contract extension on Friday, and offered varying degrees of what appeared to be lukewarm responses.
"I didn't know he had re-signed," Roush teammate Greg Biffle said sarcastically on Friday at Pocono Raceway. "He has? OK. This is the first I've heard of it."
Biffle admitted he was "a little skeptical" about Edwards' return because he figured "this is August already" and if Edwards was going to re-sign with the team – as Biffle did in the spring – it would have been done a long time ago.
But lo and behold, Edwards did come back. And that's not a bad thing for the overall health of the Roush organization – which is about as much as Biffle had to say about the extension.
"He does a good job getting his car set up and helps (with information)," Biffle said. "I think we all help each other."
David Ragan, another Roush driver, said "I'm just glad it's over" and was pleased that the whole situation "can be put to rest."
"I'm happy to see it. I'm glad it happened now," Ragan said. "I wish it would have happened six weeks ago, but that was certainly the top priority of Roush over the last six weeks, in my opinion, and maybe now they can move on."
Edwards' other Roush teammate, Matt Kenseth, said it was good for the team to retain a driver who has been "kind of the face for Roush Fenway the last few years, at least."
"He brings a lot of excitement and energy to the organization and, obviously, he runs really well and has a big fan and sponsor following," Kenseth said. "So I think it's good for the team."
The best part of the announcement, Biffle said, is that the biggest question about Roush Fenway's 2012 lineup has been answered.
"I'm relieved because people won't ask me about it anymore after today," he said.
Team owner Jack Roush and his newly re-signed driver Carl Edwards met with members of the media Friday afternoon at Pocono Raceway to discuss the extension of their racing relationship. After months of closed-door negotiations and rumors of a possible move to Joe Gibbs Racing, the two sat next to one another full of smiles and beaming about the future.
"Words can't describe how happy all of Roush Fenway is to be sitting here with Carl in this circumstance and having him agree for 2012 and beyond to extend his association with us," Roush said.
Although Edwards declined to discuss the details of their private negotiations, the two did shed some light on the lengthy process.
"Carl, his evaluation and his questions were the most exhausting and certainly the most in-depth of any I've had in my 24 years, and I'm glad we've made it through that and he came to this determination," Roush said.
"I wish we would have never confirmed our term was up, because we could have gotten this done a lot quieter," Edwards said. "I looked at a lot of things, but at the end of the day our negotiations and deals and the things I look at competitively, those are private matters and I appreciate you guys respecting that."
Roush on how having Edwards under contract plays into sponsor negotiations:
As far as the 99 car, we just opened negotiations in the last 48 hours with the existing sponsors to see what's there. There are a couple of new sponsors potentially in the wings that we can attract and embrace and have them get involved.
This thing is extraordinarily expensive, extraordinarily complex and in today's economic environment, I think it's beyond the means of and the interest of most sponsors involved to take the whole car.
We're sorting through now to find out who the anchor will be for the 99 and then we'll fill in around that with the other sponsors and interest. We don't expect to have a shortage of sponsors for Carl. As we finish the 99's program, we'll continue with the discussions of people that are committed to our programs for the cars that are left.
Roush on if Edwards had not returned to the organization:
I want to say that if Carl had made the decision not to come back, I was gonna feel really stupid for having shown him all the things (the company does). We lined up every manager and every brilliant person we've got among the 416 there are a lot of them that are just really superior at what they do. He had a chance to consider the breadth and the length of every person and every thought that we had on what would be good going forward, and I would feel horribly exposed if he had not come back.
How Edwards went about the negotiations:
What I did from the beginning of this is I said, ‘What would I do if money weren't a factor and what would I do if I didn't care what one person thought about my decision?' A decision that's this important to me and my family for all the hard work that I've put in for the path that I've taken, for me personally, I act as my own agent, I make my own decisions, I understand my own deals and the decision was made under those thoughts.
So that's what made this more simple for me and that's how I came to the conclusion I came to. Whenever I'd start feeling that pressure start creeping in from the outside I'd think, ‘OK, let's get back to the basics here. Where can I win the most championships? And what would I do if other people's opinions weren't a factor?'
Was there a last-minute deal struck thanks to Ford? Edwards:
Let me clarify that. There was no last-minute money. The idea that some people have run with is, first
of all the money numbers that I read are not correct. That's all I'll say about that. And if anybody who wants to publish anymore of those numbers would like to come ask me if they're correct in person, I'll tell you they're not correct. And then second, the deal with Ford, there was no difference in the deal at the last minute or anything.
Roush's comments on money negotiations:
I'd like to make one follow-up comment on that on the money thing. The one thing that Carl and I did not have a discussion about at any point in the negotiation or consideration was money. Money was not a factor from my side, from the Roush Fenway side, and from what I could see it was not a factor from Carl's side. That did not weigh into the decision Carl made.
Edwards on the reaction of the crew members:
I think everybody is really excited, I think all of us are. I know I am and Jack is and I spent a little bit of time with the guys talking with them about it today and everybody feels the same way as best as I can tell that, ‘Hey, man, that was getting kind of stressful. I'm really glad we're moving beyond that.' I think everybody kind of has that same feeling, so that's good.
Roush on the team's reaction:
And I don't often agree with Jeff Gordon on very much, but...when Jeff commented and I think his comments were directed that if Carl did make his decision to leave that it would almost certainly be a distraction to his championship efforts this year, I don't think that anybody that's involved in this business would not see that as not a likelihood.
We're able to put that behind us now and there was no damage done (during) the negotiations, because he's still leading the points and we've got six opportunities to win races between now and the Chase.
Denny Hamlin said he's "concerned" with the reliability of his Joe Gibbs Racing team's engines heading into the Chase, but acknowledged there was "not a whole lot I can do about it."
"Just kind of hope and pray that it holds together for us," he said Friday at Pocono Raceway.
JGR's motor program has been plagued by several issues this year, and the team recently brought in Toyota Racing Development (TRD) – which supplies engines to the other Toyota NASCAR teams – to help diagnose the problem.
"I think that they're making strides and trying to get better, and it's not from a lack of effort by any means," Hamlin said. "Obviously, we need to lean on those guys at TRD to try to help us work through it, because it looks like their engine program has gotten reliability sorted out here in the last couple of years."
JGR has had three DNFs due to engine failures in Sprint Cup races this year, but there have been other issues during the race weekends – such as Hamlin's blown motor during Brickyard 400 practice last week – that have called the team's mechanical reliability into question.
With Carl Edwards off the NASCAR free agent market following his decision to re-sign with Roush Fenway Racing, the highest-profile driver still available is Clint Bowyer.
Bowyer has yet to extend his contract with Richard Childress Racing – though publicly, he's said he wants to do so.
When will he make a decision?
"We're working on it," Bowyer said Friday at Pocono Raceway. "That's the biggest thing as far as contract stuff. I feel like we're getting close and we're working on it, and hopefully we'll have that done."
Because of the limited amount of opportunities at other teams, it's been speculated Bowyer will remain at Childress. There are no seats at Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing appears to be waiting for Danica Patrick's arrival to expand to three cars and Joe Gibbs Racing will likely remain at three teams now that Edwards stayed with Roush.
It seems unlikely that Roush would have a place for Bowyer now that Edwards has re-signed, and most of Bowyer's other opportunities would be a step down from his current ride.
That Edwards, Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle have all decided to remain with their current teams is indicative of an owner's market. Drivers simply don't have that many options due to the economic climate, so their best option is to stay put if they can.
Bowyer was rumored to have been flirting with Red Bull Racing before the team announced it would shut down if a new owner wasn't found, but that's obviously no longer an option.
Because the team might not exist, it's likely not an option for current Red Bull driver Brian Vickers, either. It's unclear where Vickers may end up, because there are so few good rides available.
Another free agent is Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian still hasn't re-signed with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, even though that seemed like a foregone conclusion months ago.
And then there's Mark Martin. The veteran has kept his future plans close to the vest, but has said repeatedly that he plans to drive again somewhere next season.
Of course, the picture could get much clearer after Bowyer makes his decision.
Following an Associated Press report earlier in the week that Danica Patrick was close to completing a deal to run the full Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports in 2012, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained quiet on the rumors on Friday at Pocono Raceway.
Earnhardt Jr. said there was no news on the Danica front, adding he is not in the middle of negotiations but nothing has changed over the past week.
When asked if he would consider bringing Mark Martin on as a mentor for Patrick at JR Motorsports, Earnhardt Jr. said the money simply is not there.
"We can't consider adding to our program without money, and money is tight," he said.
The story also indicated Patrick was working on a deal to run a handful of Sprint Cup Series races with Stewart-Haas Racing, something Earnhardt Jr. believes should be put off until she is ready.
"I think that anyone that comes into the sport – anyone – needs two or three years in the Trucks and Nationwide Series to step into the Cup Series comfortably," he said. "Two or three years in the Nationwide Series is a pretty decent amount (of time), and that would be rushing it in my mind."
Earnhardt Jr. said not only are the Sprint Cup cars a "big challenge" but the demands of the schedule, the travel and everything associated with the series is "a big pool to jump in right off the bat."
"It's just good for any driver, any young guy who comes into this sport to really take his time," he said. "I know once you get that opportunity in front of you, you're afraid it might be the only opportunity you have, but sometimes it's smarter to gain more experience at the Nationwide level because some guys come in a little early and they blow that opportunity and it turns out to be the only opportunity they ever get."
Paul Menard woke up with a sore throat on the day of the Brickyard 400 and figured he might have the start of a cold. But if ever had any thoughts of fighting it off, that idea disappeared after a week of celebrations, travel and interviews.
So it was no wonder, then, that Menard showed up at Pocono Raceway on Friday still sounding a bit hoarse and under the weather after a whirlwind week.
But that's OK. He's a Brickyard 400 champion.
"On my cell phone, I have a picture of us in Victory Lane," he said. "It'll probably be there for the rest of my life."
Here's a quick recap of Menard's week:
Sunday: Menard wins the Brickyard 400, his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Monday: Menard hops a 5:30 a.m. flight to ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn. He spends the day making various stops around ESPN and getting a tour of the campus, which he called "pretty cool, as a lifelong sports fan." After returning home on Monday night, he finally had some time to himself to relax with an adult beverage and "enjoy the moment."
Tuesday: Menard heads to a workout with his trainer, then has more interviews, including a couple Speed channel shows.
Wednesday: Menard visits Richard Childress Racing and takes his team out for a celebratory lunch, then stops by Kevin Harvick Inc. (where he runs Nationwide Series cars on occasion).
Thursday: Menard travels to Pocono.
Clearly, there wasn't much time for too much celebration before Pocono weekend arrived. But Menard said there are several memories he'll cherish.
Among them were the moment when his father, John, told him "I'm proud of you, son" and gave him a bear hug in Victory Lane.
Jeff Gordon's visit to the winner's circle was a highlight, too, and Menard said that of all the text messages he received from fellow drivers, the ones from former Indianapolis 500 winners Buddy Rice and Eddie Cheever meant the most.
Menard, of course, hopes for more celebrations soon. He said there's a good chance he'll have a strong day at Pocono – where teams set up their cars in a similar fashion to Indianapolis – and solidify his position as a Chase wild card contender.
Looking out from his perch on the media center stage, he told reporters, "We're going to try to be here every week."
Earlier this week it was announced Nashville Superspeedway would no longer host NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races.
Some were left disappointed by the news. But not Kevin Harvick.
"The grandstands at Nashville have not been full since the first day we went there," Harvick said Friday at Pocono Raceway.
A two-time Nationwide Series winner at the speedway, Harvick said it was the track's responsibility to fill the grandstands and it had not lived up to its end of the bargain.
"The crowds have been terrible," he said. "It's just one of those deals where they couldn't make it work for whatever reason. We need to be in places that fill up the grandstands. There's a lot of race tracks on the circuit that have been able to fill the grandstands and (Nashville) couldn't, and it didn't work out for them."
Despite his comments, Harvick praised the track itself and its history, but said it was ultimately the number of people in the stands that truly mattered.
What track should replace Nashville Superspeedway on the Nationwide schedule? None, Harvick said.
"There's too many races for the Nationwide Series," he said, adding the Camping World Truck Series needs to include more short tracks and bull rings.
Looking at last weekend's attendance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, some could argue that track could be in danger using Harvick's logic, but he disagreed.
"You're not talking about 10,000 people in the stands, you're still talking over 100,000 people in the grandstands at Indy," Harvick said, comparing those numbers to the NFL's Super Bowl attendance.
For Harvick, the attendance issues at Indianapolis do not stem from problems with the racing or the facility; rather they are still being effected by the 2008 tire debacle.
"The bottom line is we made a mistake in Indy and pissed all the race fans off," he said. "Everybody's done a great job trying to fix that situation going forward. Goodyear's done (better) with the tires. There was just a huge mistake made there several years ago. If you look at the grandstands, the way they've been since that particular day has been not as good as it was before that."
Harvick admitted they "still have a lot of work to do" at Indy, but the fact is Indianapolis is still putting 100,000 people in the stands for a Sprint Cup Series race, not 10,000 people for a Nationwide Series event.
Take a look at this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule at Pocono Raceway.
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