At a track known as tricky, with a bowling sponsor for its second race of the season, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 40th annual GoBowling.com 400, at Pocono Raceway.
Surprising: Probably most surprising about the Pocono race weekend was what followed shortly thereafter, with top-ten finisher Tony Stewart flipping in a sprint car accident at Southern Iowa Speedway, which resulted in a fractured leg.
This was eerily and scarily ironic after joking with the media during his Pocono availability about his sprint car racing escapades, including a flip prior to the Pocono race.
Stewart had to undergo surgery and because of the break of both his tibia and fibula, Stewart Haas Racing announced that Max Papis will pilot Smoke’s Cup ride at the Glen.
Not Surprising: In a Pocono race weekend where the victors in both the ARCA and Truck Series were determined on restarts, it was not surprising that the winner of the Cup race Kasey Kahne also made it to the checkered flag thanks to a restart.
“I about gave it away,” the driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet said after scoring his second win of the season, as well as his second victory at Pocono. “I spun the tires a little bit and Jeff (Gordon) got a great jump and Kurt (Busch) pushed me all the way to Turn 1, which really helped.”
“And then I had one opportunity,” Kahne continued. “It was either go for it and make it work or not.”
“It was a great race.”
Surprising: A pair of birthday boys, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch scored surprisingly good finishes on their special days. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet and the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet finished second and third respectively.
“It’s funny how our emotions go up and down in this sport,” Gordon said. “Before the race, if you told me that I’d finish second, I’d say that was a great birthday gift.”
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get this win.”
“This was a phenomenal run today,” Busch said. “Right now, we’re getting the job done.”
“So, I’m happy for this finish and this team and just the job we’re doing.”
Not Surprising: The vibration plaguing Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued to be a hot topic, with the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet discussing it even after his top five finish.
“Well, we changed every part on the car but the engine,” Junior said. “We got it to the point where we could drive it.”
“I felt good coming in here and thought we might win the race, but we came up a little short.”
Surprising: Timmy Hill was the surprising Rookie of the Race after finishing 27th in his No. 32 Oxy Water Ford. ROTY competitors Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick both had troubles on the track, with Stenhouse Jr. crashing on the very first lap and Patrick bringing out the seventh caution of the day in a tangle with Travis Kvapil, Paul Menard and Jeff Burton. Stenhouse Jr. finished 34th and Patrick finished 35th.
“It’s not the way we wanted to start the day,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I was kind of hoping everyone would stay in line but it didn’t play out like that.”
“We were just having a steady race and a good race, and it was over,” Patrick said. “We were competitive and we were making good calls in the pits.”
“Everything was going; it just happens.”
Not Surprising: Even with a tire issue and a resulting crash that was so hard it knocked a spark plug wire off, Jimmie Johnson managed to finish the race, in which he had started on the pole with a new track record, in the 13th position.
And even with all the challenges of the day, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Planes Chevrolet managed to increase his points lead to 77 over second place Clint Bowyer.
“My day kept needing to be re-calibrated,” Johnson said. “I really felt like we had a shot to win, unfortunately blew a tire off of Turn On and ended those hopes there.”
“We salvaged a very nice finish though.”
Surprising: Contrary to all the Bloomin’ Onion fans, driver Ryan Newman was surprisingly unhappy with his fourth place finish in his No. 39 Haas Automation 30th Anniversary Chevrolet.
“It’s a good run but not as good as it could have been,” Newman said. “Just a horrible day in the pits for us.”
“We have to get that figured out.”
Not Surprising: Having come into the Pocono weekend with high hopes for not only a good finish but also making the Chase, there was no one, not surprisingly, more frustrated with being caught up in a wreck not of his doing than Jeff Burton.
The driver of the No. 31 FXI Gutterclear 365 Chevrolet was so upset that he put a nice sized dent in the roof of his car after pounding it royally after getting caught up in the Danica Patrick, Paul Menard and Travis Kvapil mess.
“By the time I got there, they were wrecked,” Burton said. “We had a good car but we just kept getting in trouble.”
“It’s just kind of how the year’s going.”
Surprising: Although teammates and the highest finishing Fords, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano had surprisingly different views on the challenge of the restarts.
“We caught that one yellow at the worst possible time with 50 or 60 to go and pitted for four and we were going to be okay but then we caught another yellow which killed our strategy,” the driver of the No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale proclaimed. “Damn, we were just a little bit short.”
“Those restarts helped us,” the driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford said. “The cautions at the end helped us make up what we lost.”
“It’s kind of funny how it worked out.”
Not Surprising: Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Peanut Butter Toyota, was the highest finishing Toyota, ending the race in the eighth position.
“We were just a little bit off today,” Busch said. “It seemed like we could get going good on restarts and it would drive well for a few laps, then we couldn’t keep up as well on the long run.”
“That’s about all we had with our M&M’s Peanut Butter Camry,” Busch continued. “We were able to get a top-10 out of a day where we were just a little behind.”