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:
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Matt Kenseth -5
- Greg Biffle -6
- Jimmie Johnson -8
- Martin Truex Jr. -50
- Tony Stewart -53
- Brad Keselowski -54
- Denny Hamlin -61
- Kevin Harvick -63
- Clint Bowyer -65
- Kasey Kahne (two wins)
- Jeff Gordon (one win)
- Ryan Newman (one win) ... -0 points behind Gordon
- Kyle Busch (one win) ... -12 points behind Gordon
- Joey Logano (one win) ... -36 points behind Gordon
- Carl Edwards (zero wins) ... would have No. 2 wild card with a win
- Paul Menard (zero wins) ... would have No. 2 wild card with a win + 14-point gain