2008 Pennsylvania 500 Review

Pennsylvania 500 Review
by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com

Sunday’s race at Pocono certainly proved to be another one of those unpredictable Car of Tomorrow showdowns that we’ve seen all year long. It seems that the car of tomorrow has created quite a difference in how these races are turning out throughout the year. Honestly, I thought that the car would prove to show more consistency among teams and drivers, but it has done the opposite. Week in and week out, we see that there are few drivers who are showing the same strengths or weaknesses. It’s more or less differences in technicalities and the mechanics of these new cars that are creating such wild finishes.

That being said, the race yesterday did prove one thing right. Fuel mileage
strategy won the race. Jeff Gordon was pushed around the track by
his teammate, Casey Mears, at the conclusion because he ran out.
Other drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. were also worried
about fuel. Edwards had to be the most worried though when his crew chief
waited for 6 laps to go to tell him to conserve fuel. I mean, seriously,
you don’t conserve fuel with 6 laps to go. Maybe 10 laps would’ve given
him some notice, but 6 is unreasonable. Regardless, Edwards’ clear 6 second
lead over second place Tony Stewart showed his domination.

This race clearly came down to pit strategy. Drivers and crews were scrambling after looking at the radar map with 78 laps to go. Rain was moving in. But then again, this IS Pocono. This is to be expected. It rains every single time we come here. Because of the rain, drivers had to decide whether or not to pit before the race would stop. Drivers like Edwards and Gordon came in to pit. Others like Denny Hamlin stayed out for track position, hoping there would be another burst of rain to end the race. Needless to say, there was massive amounts of confusion as to who made the best calls because no one knew how the race would turn out or how the weather would cooperate.

The race resumed and the drivers who did not make a pit stop before the rain were forced to make 2 additional stops before the end. Those who did come in were able to stay out and make that fuel count. Edwards had his fuel down to the line, with crew members calculating that he would be able to reach lap 200, the last lap of the race. Had we had a green-white-checker finish, there’s no telling who would’ve won. It was clear that several drivers were making Hail Mary attempts with their fuel, but a win is a win, no matter how you get it.

Some drivers were actually doing well despite typically bad runs at Pocono. Kyle Busch is actually one of those drivers. He had a top-10 run going, which is great for him at Pocono, but with 2 laps to go suffered a pass-through penalty with 2 laps to go for a commitment cone violation. Kevin Harvick thought he was going to have another doomed week after being involved in an incident with Joe Nemecheck, but as the king of comebacks, Harvick used pit strategy to make a bad day turn into a 4th place finish. With such surprises, let’s look at the top ten from yesterday’s race:

1. Carl Edwards
2. Tony Stewart
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kevin Harvick
5. David Ragan
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Mark Martin
9. Jamie McMurray
10. Jeff Gordon

With such surprising finishes for some guys, it’s no wonder that the ESPN announcers were confused about the points all day. Here’s the official top 12 after Pocono:

1. Kyle Busch
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Carl Edwards
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Jeff Burton
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Greg Biffle
9. Tony Stewart
10. Denny Hamlin
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Clint Bowyer

As you can see, Harvick moved back into the top 12, bumping Matt Kenseth , who is now 11 points behind Bowyer. This Sunday, we’re headed to Watkin’s Glen. Road courses always have a way of jumbling the points and expectations. There are only 4 races until we get to Richmond, where we’ll lock in the top 12. These last few races are going to be quite the showdown.