Aug 4, 2012; Long Pond, PA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon (24) during qualifying for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

NASCAR At Pocono 2012: Jeff Gordon Wins Rain-Shortened Race

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NASCAR Pocono Results 2012: Time Running Out For Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards

Kyle Busch is a realist.

After a broken brake rotor sent him into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 19 of Sunday's NASCAR race at Pocono, Busch knows he must win at least one of the next five races to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Busch had a harrowing experience when he blew out a rear brake rotor heading toward the tightest turn at Pocono.

"Getting down into Turn 1 with a three-wheel brake is about the worst situation you can have as a race car driver," Busch said. "I kept trying to pump it to keep feeding pressure to the rest of the three wheels to keep it off the fence -- but just couldn't do it."

Busch finished 33rd and dropped to 15th in the Cup standings and fourth in the race for one of two available wild card berths in the Chase.

"We're obviously not going to make the top 10 (and a guaranteed Chase spot), so if we get at win -- great -- we'll make the Chase," Busch said. "If not, we'll probably miss it."

RAIN PUTS DAMPER ON EDWARDS' RUN

Another driver in dire need of a victory, Carl Edwards, had his chances cut short by the rain.

Edwards is 12th in the standings, 60 points out of 10th, but without a win since March of last year. Under those circumstances, his seventh-place finish on Sunday wasn't quite good enough.

"We needed another restart," Edwards said. "It's too bad that the rain came when it did, because we needed to keep racing. ... The good news is that we were fast, and (crew chief) Chad (Norris) has done a really good job with the car, and I'm really looking forward to next week (at Watkins Glen).

"I have never wanted to race so bad in my life -- I want to be racing right now."

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NASCAR Point Standings After Pocono: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Leads, Wild Card Chase Race Taking Shape

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost third and fourth gears 49 laps into Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway, the points lead he took last week at Indianapolis appeared headed for the door.

That was before his three closest pursuers -- Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson -- all had issues of their own.

Kenseth wrecked on the decisive restart on Lap 91 -- when race winner Jeff Gordon went to the front for good -- and finished 23rd. Biffle lost pace, in NASCAR's judgment, on that same wild restart and was credited with a 15th-place result.

Johnson, who caused the wreck when his car broke loose under Kenseth's, likewise failed to maintain pace and was placed 14th, where he blended back into line after the caution flew.

Consequently, Earnhardt retained a narrow advantage, by five points over Kenseth, six over Biffle and eight over Johnson.

Earnhardt, however, did see his streak of consecutive lead-lap finishes end at 21, a NASCAR record he shares with Gordon.

Here are the top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  2. Matt Kenseth -5
  3. Greg Biffle -6
  4. Jimmie Johnson -8
  5. Martin Truex Jr. -50
  6. Tony Stewart -53
  7. Brad Keselowski -54
  8. Denny Hamlin -61
  9. Kevin Harvick -63
  10. Clint Bowyer -65
And here are the new Chase wild card race standings:
  1. Kasey Kahne (two wins)
  2. Jeff Gordon (one win)
  3. Ryan Newman (one win) ... -0 points behind Gordon
  4. Kyle Busch (one win) ... -12 points behind Gordon
  5. Joey Logano (one win) ... -36 points behind Gordon
  6. Carl Edwards (zero wins) ... would have No. 2 wild card with a win
  7. Paul Menard (zero wins) ... would have No. 2 wild card with a win + 14-point gain
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NASCAR Pocono Results 2012: Martin Truex Jr. Finishes Third

Lost amid Jeff Gordon's somewhat improbable victory and the chaos that ensued during the closing laps of the Pennsylvania 400 was Martin Truex Jr. finishing third on Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

"We had great speed today," Truex said afterwards. "We had good speed last week. We're still not exactly where we'd like to be. We'd like to get in Victory Lane. I felt like if we could have had a shot at the restart today, we might have had a shot at it. We were very fast at the end."

The multi-car incident on the day's final restart was triggered when Jimmie Johnson got sideways heading into Turn 1. The resulting caution and subsequent rain which ended the event 62 laps from the scheduled distance was a benefit to some, including Truex, who was able to drive through the carnage unscathed.

"The big thing is nobody took tires," he said. "We were all trying to save fuel because we knew the rain was coming. A lot of guys had stuff all over their tires. Everybody was throwing rubber off their tires trying to get them cleaned up before we took the restart.

"So all that stuff combined into those guys going off into (Turn) 1; all of them looked like they took off up the track. Fortunately, I was the third guy that didn't slide."

For Truex, this marked his best result since finishing second at Kansas back in April and moved him up to fifth in the standings. And with his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Clint Bowyer also in the top 10 in points with just five races left in the regular season, it is all but certain MWR will have a car competing for the championship for the first time in its history.

"I'm proud of the team, for what we've done, what we've accomplished," Truex said. "This is a big deal for us. To be wherever we're at, we're in pretty good shape. To have Clint in there, to have Mark (Martin) and (crew chief) Brian (Pattie) and Michael all doing what they've done, the 55, it's been an awesome team effort all year.

"Everybody at the company has just done a phenomenal job getting our cars better."

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Did Jimmie Johnson Have A Flat Tire Before NASCAR Pocono Crash?

When Jimmie Johnson got loose and took out several cars at the end of Sunday's Pocono NASCAR race, it seemed the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion simply made a rare mistake that threw away his chance at a victory.

But Johnson, who had by far the best car on the day, said after the race there was a reason for what happened.

"When I was cooling my tires down through the tunnel coming to the green, I noticed that something didn't feel right," said Johnson, who was leading at the time. "I kept trying to clean the tires off and it got a little better so I just assumed I had trash on my tires. But when I got down into Turn 1, I realized that I had a right-rear (tire) flat."

From the video, it's very tough to tell conclusively whether Johnson indeed had a flat tire. But whatever the result, it took out second-place Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, among others.

"Unfortunate that we lost the lead there and we got a couple of cars in the process," Johnson said. "I shouldn't feel bad about that, but not much you can do with a right-rear flat."

Kenseth, though, saw the incident differently. He said Johnson drove "really, really far" into the corner and got loose underneath the No. 17 car, which is how the crash started.

"He just drove in incredibly far and spun out," Kenseth said. "Maybe he had a flat, but I am not so sure about that."

Kenseth said he wasn't mad, but was disappointed about the crash after he raced hard for his position all day. Kenseth left Johnson enough room to race down low, he said, and was upset the incident took place.

"We are in a situation where we need to win some races, too," Kenseth said. "You don't mind if something happens, it is just a bummer when it takes you out after you are running top three all day and finish 22nd or wherever we are. That is very disappointing and it is hard to look at the bright spot in that."

So what really happened? Though the circumstances were questionable, we're going to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt on this one. Here's why: Johnson always seems to man up and take the blame when he believes he made a mistake. On Saturday, for example, he tweeted this after he messed up a corner during qualifying:

Clearly, Johnson doesn't have a problem taking responsibility for a screwup. So when he says he had a flat tire, that probably is close to the real story.

As he tweeted after the race:

Here's a look at the crash:

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NASCAR At Pocono: Injuries Reported After Lightning Strikes Parking Lot Following Race

Shortly after the conclusion of Sunday's rain-shortened NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway, three fans were reportedly struck by lightning in the parking lot while retreating to their cars. Their condition is unknown, according to reports from the track.

The area had been under a severe thunderstorm warning and officials had plenty of notice that a storm was approaching, but cars remained on the track until the weather was directly over the venue.

UPDATE (6:15 EDT): A Pocono Raceway spokesperson told reporters that three people were struck by lightning. Two were transported to a local hospital and a third was treated and released at the scene.

While details are scarce, here are some tweets from the immediate aftermath of the lightning strike:

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NASCAR Pocono Results And Recap: Chase Picture Changes With Jeff Gordon Victory

Jeff Gordon, one of NASCAR racing's biggest rainmakers, got a shower just when he needed it in Sunday's Pennsylvania 400.

Gordon didn't lead a lap under the green flag, but he notched a critically important victory at Pocono Raceway after an opportunistic move to the front after a restart on Lap 91 of a scheduled 160.

Coincidentally, it was a mistake by Jimmie Johnson, Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, that enabled Gordon to celebrate in Victory Lane, and, more important, to resurrect his prospects for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The victory was Gordon's first of the season and the 86th of his career. It was his sixth win at Pocono and the second there in a rain-shortened race. Gordon took the checkered flag after 106 laps when rain halted the June 2007 event at the 2.5-mile triangular track.

On Sunday, NASCAR parked the cars on Lap 98, after they ran seven laps under caution as rain moved into the area. When what started as a light rain became torrential, NASCAR called the race.

Gordon surged into the lead when Johnson got loose in Turn 1 on lap 91 and knocked Matt Kenseth's Ford into the outside wall. Gordon, who had restarted sixth, saw an opening, dodged a handful of cars wrecking around him and took the lead.

"I've never seen the seas part like that," said Gordon, who moved to 13th in the series standings and the second wild-card position for the Chase.

Kasey Kahne finished second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart. Despite a broken transmission, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home 32nd and kept his lead in the standings by five points over Kenseth, six over Greg Biffle and eight over Johnson.

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NASCAR Pocono Results 2012: Jeff Gordon Wins Rain-Shortened Race

Jeff Gordon took advantage of a rain-shortened race at Pocono Raceway today to pick up his first win of the season and thrust himself into the Chase wild card race.

Gordon is now the No. 2 wild card with five races remaining before the Chase.

"You can't ever give up, it doesn't matter where we're at," Gordon said. "... For all the things that have gone wrong for us this year, I still can't believe this just happened."

More to come soon...

Here are the unofficial results from today's Pocono NASCAR race:

  1. Jeff Gordon
  2. Kasey Kahne
  3. Martin Truex Jr.
  4. Brad Keselowski
  5. Tony Stewart
  6. Ryan Newman
  7. Carl Edwards
  8. Clint Bowyer
  9. Regan Smith
  10. Marcos Ambrose
  11. Paul Menard
  12. Mark Martin
  13. Joey Logano
  14. Jimmie Johnson
  15. Greg Biffle
  16. Kevin Harvick
  17. Jamie McMurray
  18. Aric Almirola
  19. Sam Hornish Jr.
  20. Juan Pablo Montoya
  21. David Gilliland
  22. Jeff Burton
  23. Matt Kenseth
  24. David Reutimann
  25. Travis Kvapil
  26. Landon Cassill
  27. Bobby Labonte
  28. David Ragan
  29. Denny Hamlin
  30. Kurt Busch
  31. Jason White
  32. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  33. Kyle Busch
  34. David Stremme
  35. Casey Mears
  36. Joe Nemechek
  37. Josh Wise
  38. Tony Raines
  39. Mike Bliss
  40. JJ Yeley
  41. Mike Skinner
  42. Reed Sorenson
  43. Scott Riggs
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NASCAR Pocono Race Underway After 90-Minute Rain Delay

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are finally on track under sunny skies at Pocono Raceway following a downpour that delayed the start of the Pennsylvania 400 by more than an hour and a half.

But with more rain lurking in the area and a long line of storms approaching, today's race is a dash to halfway.

Unlike previous years, drivers will only need to make it to 200 miles before the halfway point (Pocono shortened its races from 500 to 400 miles this season). But with weather headed toward the track, it seems doubtful even halfway could happen.

NASCAR waved the green flag at 2:58 Eastern time. The originally scheduled green-flag time was 1:12 p.m.

There will be a competition caution at lap 20 of today's race. Drivers will need to work together to make sure they don't wreck and unnecessarily slow down the pace of the race if they want to reach the halfway point today (which would make it an official race).

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Start Of Today's NASCAR Pocono Race Delayed By Weather; Will They Race Today?

The rain has begun at Pocono Raceway, which has delayed the start of today's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track. So now what?

First, here's a look at the current conditions:

LIVE RADAR - (Refresh to get the latest image)

THIS WEEK NASCAR WEATHER RADAR

NASCAR moved up the start of the race up to 1:12 p.m. EDT, but that didn't help much. Once this initial rain stops, it could take about two hours to dry the 2.5-mile track. During that time, the next larger area of rain to the west begins to move closer to Pocono Raceway, as you can see on the image below:

Poconoradar_medium

Once we get the track dry there might be a 2-3 hour window before the next wave comes. If that window holds, then they could get the race in. The concern I have is the "rain we don't see." What I mean by that is the development of showers and storms in between areas of rain that you don't currently see on radar.

Along with more showers and storms later today, some of the storms could become severe with large hail and strong damaging winds.

Can We Get The Race In Today? Many things will have to come together, but it is possible. Follow me on Twitter @NASCAR_WXMAN and like me on Facebook for the latest weather updates as we go through the afternoon.

Conditions in Long Pond, PA: Click here for Current Weather ConditionsLook at Doppler Radar | Mobile Friendly Site | Mobile Radar

SUNDAY:
1 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, showers and storm – temp: 79
2 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, chance of shower or storm – temp: 80
3 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 81
4 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 81

There are no lights and SUNSET is around 8:12 p.m. EDT

MONDAY (just in case):
11 a.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Pre-race – Mostly cloudy – temp: 70
12 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Sunshine and clouds – temp: 72
2 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Partly Sunny – temp: 76
4 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Partly Sunny – temp: 79

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NASCAR At Pocono 2012: Viewer’s Guide For Today's Race

Here are some storylines, notes and drivers to watch for in today's NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway:

Storylines

Hendrick Ascending

Winners of six of the last 10 races, Hendrick Motorsports is now, without question, the team to beat. There are some in the garage, including Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, who believe Hendrick's recent success has to do with a loophole the team has found in the rulebook concerning the alignment of the rear of the car.

Whatever the reason may be, Hendrick's recent success coincides with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s rise to the top of the Sprint Cup Series standings for the first time in 280 races. But while that's all well and good, Earnhardt Jr. has made it clear he wants to win more races – something he's only done once this season. And he has an excellent chance of doing just that today, as the 88 car was among the fastest here back in June and was in contention for the win until conservative pit strategy in the closing laps resulted in a disappointing seventh-place finish.

And whether it's Earnhardt Jr. or one of the other three Hendrick cars, if today ends like the last Sunday did, you can expect more outcries in the garage over the perceived advantage the Hendrick juggernaut has over the field.

A Pocono Repeat For Joey Logano?

When the Sprint Cup Series visited Pocono in June, it was Joey Logano who won from the pole. At the time, Logano's second career victory was seen as a breakthrough of sorts, as his future with Joe Gibbs Racing was very much in doubt. Yet, six weeks later as the Cup circuit revisits the triangular-shaped speedway, little has changed; Logano's future is still uncertain and he doesn't know what team he'll drive for in 2013.

But like two months ago, a victory today could do wonders for the 22-year-old wheelman in his hunt for job security. First off, it would certainly increase his bargaining power with JGR as the organization attempts to re-sign him. Secondly, it makes him more attractive – both to other teams (Penske?) and possible future sponsors.

Winning Is All That Matters For Edwards

After mechanical troubles last week led to him finishing 29th, Carl Edwards made his intentions clear over the next six weeks: He will do anything he can to win, points be damned. It's a sound strategy, considering winning is Edwards' only hope to qualify for the Chase.

Combine that mindset with a fast car – which Edwards has, judging by practice speeds – and that makes the Roush Fenway driver a man to watch today. If there is a gamble to take involving pit strategy that will result in favorable track position, the 99 is going to take it. And if that means taking unnecessary risks – particularly in the closing stages –Edwards has no qualms about going that route, either.

Weather

Anytime there's a race at Pocono, weather is almost always a factor. Today, the weather forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain with the odds less than favorable the entire distance is completed. This means the Pennsylvania 400 will be a race to halfway, as teams jockey to get to the front. And don't be at all surprised to see some teams pull out all the stops to perhaps snag an unexpected victory.

Worth Noting

• After losing his right-front brakes and subsequently crashing into the outside wall, Paul Menard will be starting today's race in a backup car.

• Keep an eye on pit road today, as that was a source of controversy here in June with NASCAR handing out 22 penalties for speeding – 20 of them for being too fast exiting pit road.

• If Joey Logano can win today, he will become the seventh driver to complete the Pocono sweep and the first since teammate Denny Hamlin did so in 2006.

Favorites

1. Jimmie Johnson

In an ominous sign Friday, Jimmie Johnson said his team will be able to apply what they learned at Indy to Pocono. Knowing the 48 crossed the finish line 5 seconds ahead of the field, this sounds like bad news for the competition.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

As evident by his effort here in June, as well as last week in Indy where he finished fourth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte have a good handle on the high-speed, flat superspeedways. It also doesn't hurt that the 88 car was fastest in Friday's second practice.

3. Matt Kenseth

In each of the two practices on Friday, all three Roush cars were fast in practice, but it was Matt Kenseth who was quickest.

Sleeper

The runner-up in June, Mark Martin has more top fives and top 10s than any other driver at Pocono. What the veteran doesn't have, however, is a victory on the 2.5-mile track, which could change this afternoon.

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NASCAR Pocono 2012: Start Time, Starting Lineup, TV/Radio Schedule, Live Streaming And More

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 today's Pennsylvania 400 for you below.

What time does the race start today? The command to fire engines will be given today at 1:09 p.m. Eastern time, and it could be an emotional one: The grand marshals of the race are family members of passengers killed on Flight 93 during 9/11. After a few pace laps, the green flag will officially wave at 1:20 p.m. So if you're looking to skip the pre-race show and just tune in for the race, turn on your TV set at 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

UPDATE (9:30 a.m.): NASCAR has moved the start time up eight minutes to 1:12 p.m. Eastern due to approaching weather. Stay tuned to @nascar_wxman's Twitter feed for weather updates.

Race name/distance: Today's race is the first Pennsylvania 400, which follows in the path of June's Pocono 400. Track officials believed cutting the distance from 500 to 400 miles will make for a better show, and that seemed to happen in June. The race is 160 laps around the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway.

TV, radio and live streaming: Today's race can be seen on ESPN. This is ESPN's second broadcast of its portion of the season, and it will handle the remainder of the season. There IS live streaming of the race today, which can be found at NASCAR.com's "RaceBuddy" site and on the "Watch ESPN" app. If you'll be away from your computer and TV, check the Motor Racing Network's web site for a list of affiliate radio stations in your area.

*** NOTE: If you're out and about today and can't watch the race, make sure to follow me (@jeff_gluck) on Twitter. I'll be tweeting updates about the event. ***

National anthem: RCA recording artist Alex Boyd is scheduled to do the honors today.

Tickets: The race is not a sellout, so you should be good to go if you're planning to make a last-minute trip on race day.

Weather: The unofficial NASCAR weatherman, Brian Neudorff, says today's weather at Pocono is iffy. There is only a 30 percent chance that the entire race gets in today due to weather in the area. Here's his full forecast.

Last time: Last August, Brad Keselowski shocked the NASCAR world by going to Victory Lane despite a broken ankle. More recently, Joey Logano nudged his way past Mark Martin to win the Pocono 400 in June.

Here's the starting lineup for today's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono:

  1. Juan Pablo Montoya
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Paul Menard
  4. Kasey Kahne
  5. Marcos Ambrose
  6. Kurt Busch
  7. Matt Kenseth
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  9. Ryan Newman
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Regan Smith
  12. Greg Biffle
  13. Aric Almirola
  14. Joey Logano
  15. Martin Truex Jr.
  16. Jamie McMurray
  17. Carl Edwards
  18. Mark Martin
  19. Clint Bowyer
  20. Kyle Busch
  21. Kevin Harvick
  22. Landon Cassill
  23. Jeff Burton
  24. David Reutimann
  25. Sam Hornish Jr.
  26. David Gilliland
  27. Jeff Gordon
  28. Tony Stewart
  29. Casey Mears
  30. Mike Bliss
  31. Brad Keselowski
  32. David Ragan
  33. Scott Riggs
  34. Josh Wise
  35. JJ Yeley
  36. David Stremme
  37. Travis Kvapil
  38. Joe Nemechek
  39. Bobby Labonte
  40. Reed Sorenson
  41. Jason White
  42. Tony Raines
  43. Mike Skinner
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NASCAR At Pocono 2012: Rain Likely For The Pennsylvania 400

The headline above says it all: Rain is likely for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway today. I was tracking showers and storms through Saturday evening and into this morning, and it's just a matter of when will it rain – not if it will rain.

Nascar_pocono_race_day_weather_forecast_medium

Showers and storms are likely this morning across central and eastern Pennsylvania. Once the first round comes through, there could be a break. The length of that break is unknown. Once we get into the start of the race and the afternoon, more rain and showers are possible to move through sometimes between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. EDT.

Will we get the race in at Pocono Raceway? That's the main question everyone will be asking me this morning. It could go either way, but it all comes down to timing and development of afternoon storms and showers, as well as breaks long enough to even dry the track.

From all that I am seeing it doesn't look real promising. I give NASCAR a 30-50 percent probability of starting on time. The same odds – if not a little less – apply to getting to halfway. The likelihood of seeing a full race at Pocono Raceway this afternoon appears to be less than 30 percent.

I'm stopping short of declaring this afternoon's race a washout, but if it happens, I won't be surprised.

Please follow me on Twitter @NASCAR_WXMAN and like me on Facebook for the latest weather updates through the weekend.

Conditions in Long Pond, PA: Click here for Current Weather ConditionsLook at Doppler Radar | Mobile Friendly Site | Mobile Radar

SUNDAY:
12 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Pre-race – Mostly cloudy, chance of shower or storm – temp: 77
1 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, chance of shower or storm – temp: 77
2 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 78
4 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 79

There are no lights and SUNSET is around 8:12 p.m. EDT

MONDAY (just in case):
11 a.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Pre-race – Mostly cloudy – temp: 70
12 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Sunshine and clouds – temp: 72
2 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Partly Sunny – temp: 76
4 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Partly Sunny – temp: 79

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NASCAR At Pocono Results: Joey Coulter Wins First Truck Race

Pulling away after a strong restart with seven laps left in Saturday's Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway, Joey Coulter notched his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory, beating James Buescher to the finish line by 1.224 seconds.

Coulter charged from third to first moments after a restart on Lap 44 of 50 at the 2.5-mile triangular track, after a caution on Lap 39 that took series leader Timothy Peters out of the race. Peters was racing through the tunnel turn, got loose beneath another truck and spun into the wall, as two separate incidents in the same corner damaged five cars.

Nelson Piquet Jr. ran third after leading the field to the final restart. Piquet, who led 33 laps, survived a Lap 34 run-in with Todd Bodine (which knocked Bodine out of the race) but fell victim to Coulter on the final restart.

Matt Crafton and Denny Hamlin finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Ty Dillon, Parker Kligerman, John Wes Townley, Justin Lofton and Ross Chastain completed the top 10.

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NASCAR Pocono Starting Lineup 2012: Juan Pablo Montoya Tops Qualifying

Benefitting from an early draw and aided by cloud cover that burned off as Saturday's qualifying session progressed, Juan Pablo Montoya was the surprise winner of the pole for Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Montoya turned a lap at the 2.5-mile triangular track in 51.124 seconds (176.043 mph) and waited as the fastest cars from Friday's first practice session failed to unseat him from the top spot. The Coors Light pole award was the Colombian driver's first of the season, his first at Pocono and the eighth of his career.

Early qualifiers also filled the second and third spots, with Denny Hamlin (175.795 mph) claiming the second starting spot and Paul Menard (175.627 mph) the third. Menard posted his lap in a backup car, after his primary car was wrecked beyond repair during Friday's practice.

Kasey Kahne (175.439 mph) will start fourth in the 21st NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season, followed by Marcos Ambrose (175.432 mph) and Kurt Busch (175.339 mph).

Montoya was the 16th driver to make a qualifying attempt. Menard and Hamlin followed before the sun began to heat the track in earnest. But Montoya was happy for any good fortune during a season that has produced just two top-10s in 20 races for the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet.

"To be honest with you, I'm not sure if I'm more shocked that we're on the pole right now -- with how the last few races have been for us and how our season's been -- or that we're on the pole at Pocono," Montoya said. "This is a place where I normally struggle in qualifying.

"This is a big boost for everybody on the Target team. We really needed a little bit of light. We know we've been working in the right direction. We know we've been working hard, and we feel that the cars are getting a little better, but to actually get out there and get a pole . . .

"I just went through the hauler, and all the engineers are happy, laughing. I've seen a lot of long faces and a lot of stressful faces -- we really needed something like this as a company."

Montoya's early draw was calculated. He deliberately did not post a fast speed in Friday's first practice, during which the qualifying order is set, slowest first to fastest last. The team looked at the weather forecast and determined to take an early draw if rain wasn't likely.

"It's the right call," Montoya said. "Do we have the fastest car out there? No. but qualifying is the same as racing -- you've just got to make the right call and do whatever it takes to get it done, and that's what we did."

Notes: Points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified eighth, one position behind Matt Kenseth, who is second in the standings . . . Stephen Leicht failed to make the 43-car field.

Here's the starting lineup for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono:

  1. Juan Pablo Montoya
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Paul Menard
  4. Kasey Kahne
  5. Marcos Ambrose
  6. Kurt Busch
  7. Matt Kenseth
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  9. Ryan Newman
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Regan Smith
  12. Greg Biffle
  13. Aric Almirola
  14. Joey Logano
  15. Martin Truex Jr.
  16. Jamie McMurray
  17. Carl Edwards
  18. Mark Martin
  19. Clint Bowyer
  20. Kyle Busch
  21. Kevin Harvick
  22. Landon Cassill
  23. Jeff Burton
  24. David Reutimann
  25. Sam Hornish Jr.
  26. David Gilliland
  27. Jeff Gordon
  28. Tony Stewart
  29. Casey Mears
  30. Mike Bliss
  31. Brad Keselowski
  32. David Ragan
  33. Scott Riggs
  34. Josh Wise
  35. JJ Yeley
  36. David Stremme
  37. Travis Kvapil
  38. Joe Nemechek
  39. Bobby Labonte
  40. Reed Sorenson
  41. Jason White
  42. Tony Raines
  43. Mike Skinner
DNF: Stephen Leicht
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NASCAR At Pocono: Talk Continues Over Jimmie Johnson's Winning Indy Car

As soon as last week's NASCAR race at Indianapolis ended, drivers began talking publicly about an unusual amount of skew in the rear end of Jimmie Johnson's winning car.

Denny Hamlin called it "unique" and said the tires and rear body of the No. 48 car were "moving quite a bit."

"They figured out something that is obviously working well," he said at the time.

The chatter continued on Friday at Pocono Raceway, with several more drivers saying they also noticed something going on with Johnson's car.

"All the Hendrick cars have more yaw than the whole field," Kevin Harvick said. "They have done a good job doing some R&D to get the things that they need, but that didn't just happen last week. That has been going on for several weeks before we came here (at Pocono) to the first race.

"That is what this sport is all about is finding an advantage and making it work on the racetrack. They have done that."

NASCAR implemented a rule regarding the rear sway bars beginning at Kentucky, but that didn't seem to affect the Hendrick cars like everyone thought it would. There's apparently something else going on that Hendrick is doing to gain the advantage.

"Well, (it makes) you definitely go to work," Harvick said. "That is one of the things that we worked on in Michigan this week. They have got the garage scrambling a little bit right now to try and figure out how to achieve exactly what they are doing."

Greg Biffle said his Roush Fenway Racing team was "working hard on trying to figure out" how Hendrick was getting the cars to work like that and said the Roush organization gained knowledge about the rear suspension at both Indianapolis and the Michigan tire test this week.

"We have a little of it – maybe not what they had – but our own version of our rear suspension, working hard at it," he said. "... You look at the speeds now and we have three Roush cars right near the top. I think we are gaining on what they have or what we are doing is getting is closer."

Jeff Gordon, naturally, defended Hendrick Motorsports by saying one of the things the team does so well is to "go out there and push the limits constantly."

"You've got to understand that NASCAR has put us in a box," he said. "In that box, you have a lot less tools to work with, and so you've got to creatively get outside of that box. That's what I think Hendrick is doing right now."

That said, Gordon said he "didn't see anything that stood out to me over a lot of the other competitors" at Indianapolis. Some of the comments, he suggested, come when drivers are "getting beat and they don't like it."

"(They) want to try to bring attention to something that is probably not there," he said.

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Denny Hamlin's Girlfriend Jordan Fish Expecting Couple's First Child

There will be a new addition to the Denny Hamlin household.

Hamlin announced Friday at Pocono Raceway that he and girlfriend Jordan Fish are expecting the couple's first child in January.

"I'm excited, it's been a long time coming," said Hamlin, 31. "It's going to be exciting to be a dad."

When asked if he was ready to be a first-time father, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver laughed, but did say he'll rely on his parents for advice.

Hamlin has fond memories of his father and said he would like to be "half of what my dad was."

"My family has done a lot for me to get to this point, obviously, with all the sacrifices and all that they've gone through," Hamlin said. "My dad tells me all the time that some of the best times he had was just carrying me around in a pickup truck every day, taking me to work and things like that.

"It's going to be a great experience. I'm really excited about it and to be part of it. From my parents to have grandkids – it's all going to be good."

Hamlin said the couple has no immediate plans to get married.

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Jason White To Replace John Wes Townley In No. 32 Sprint Cup Car At Pocono

John Wes Townley hit the wall at the exit of Turn 2 during his warmup lap on Friday at Pocono Raceway, and he was replaced as driver of FAS Lane Racing's No. 32 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car before he even turned an official lap.

Camping World Truck Series driver Jason White will replace Townley, who was planning to make his Cup debut in Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 with sponsorship from the Zaxby's fast-food chicken restaurant chain.

Townley, whose father co-founded Zaxby's, was locked into the field thanks to the No. 32 team's owner points but was making his debut despite a disappointing NASCAR record.

In 41 career Nationwide Series races, Townley had more DNFs (14) than lead-lap finishes (eight) and had a top NASCAR result of 14th in the Truck Series.

This will be White's second career Sprint Cup Series start. He finished 33rd in last year's August Pocono race while driving the same No. 32 for FAS Lane Racing.

RELATED: John Wes Townley's Cup debut should not happen (Opinion)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pleased With Points Lead At Pocono, Wants More Speed For NASCAR Chase

For the first time in eight years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters a NASCAR weekend as the Sprint Cup Series points leader. But even as he relishes the position he finds himself in and the dramatic turnaround the 88 team as undergone, it still isn't enough for Earnhardt Jr.

In his eyes, there is still more work to be done if he is to go from being a Chase also-ran a year ago to legitimate contender this season for the championship.

"In a broad spectrum, our team just needed to be quite a bit better and faster and we've gained what I consider to be 70 percent of that," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at Pocono Raceway. "I think we have a little bit more we can find. We're running well, but we need to win more races and we need to show up and be the fastest car more often.

"We've been quick, but in my opinion, I've only been the fastest guy once or twice this year and I don't know if that's good enough. I'm going to say it's not good enough."

But in spite of the fact is team hasn't reached the level he would like it to – the No. 88 team is 10-15 percent short of where it needs to be on speed, he said – the results have been good enough in 2012 to propel Earnhardt Jr. to Victory Lane for the first time in four years, along with giving him cars good enough to finish in the top 10 during 15 out of 20 events.

And all success thus far has offered him "a little bit of vindication" over those critics who never thought he would win and be competitive again.

"It's been a long time since I was in the points lead; it's been forever," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I can't even recall the last time we were in the conversation for the championship. So these things are really validating the effort and the work we've done.

"Aside from winning a few more races, I don't know how much more of a statement I could have made than we made this year."

Yet in the same breath, the sport's most popular driver fell back to his mantra of looking at the bigger picture and seeing the ultimate goal.

"Leading the points the points today isn't as awesome as winning the championship and going to Vegas as the top dog," he said. "But it does feel good 20 races into the year to have put more points on the board than any other team."

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NASCAR At Pocono 2012: Weekend Schedule, Weather Forecast For Pennsylvania 400

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its second appearance at the "Tricky Triangle" of Pocono Raceway this weekend, and like many Pocono races before, rain is threatening the weather forecast.

Pocono_nascar_weather_forecast_medium

It will be very warm and mostly dry today. High temperatures will be in the upper 80s and there is just a small chance of an isolated storm or two developing in the afternoon.

Our main concern for rain will be Saturday into Sunday. A couple disturbances along with a cold front coming out of the Great Lakes will spark scattered showers and storms. The best chance for these showers and thunderstorms appears to be Sunday afternoon, just in time for the Sprint Cup Series race.

Right now, this forecast has me concerned and like many weather forecasts before it will come down to timing of these weather features and the development of any showers or storms each afternoon, especially Sunday midday and afternoon.

Please follow me on Twitter @NASCAR_WXMAN and like me on Facebook for the latest weather updates through the weekend.

Conditions in Long Pond, PA: Click here for Current Weather ConditionsLook at Doppler Radar | Mobile Friendly Site | Mobile Radar

FRIDAY:
9:00 a.m. EDT
Camping World Truck Series Final practice – Mostly sunny – temp: 74
12:00 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series practice – Mostly sunny – temp: 83
1:40 p.m. EDT
ARCA Series Final practice – Partly sunny chance of sct'd shower/storm – temp: 86
3:30 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Final practice – Partly sunny chance of sct'd shower/storm – temp: 86
5:15 p.m. EDT
ARCA Series Qualifying – Partly sunny chance of sct'd shower/storm – temp: 87

SATURDAY:
9:35 a.m. EDT
Camping World Truck Series Qualifying – Partly sunny – temp: 73
10:40 a.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Partly sunny, chc. of scattered storms – temp: 82
1:40 p.m. EDT
Camping World Truck Series Race – Partly sunny, chc. of scattered storms – temp: 85
3:30 p.m. EDT
ARCA Series Race – Partly sunny, chc. of scattered storms – temp: 85

SUNDAY:
12 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Pre-race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 80
1 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 80
2 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 81
4 p.m. EDT
Sprint Cup Series Race – Mostly cloudy, possible shower or storm – temp: 82

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