LONG POND, PA. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned Brad Keselowski’s trash into Victory Lane treasure, pulling away down the stretch Sunday at Pocono Raceway for his second win of the season and a secured spot in the Chase field.
He paired his first career win at Pocono with his Daytona 500 championship for his first multi-win season since 2004.
“I feel like I’m such a lucky guy to have this second opportunity again to be competitive,” Earnhardt said.
But for as strong as he ran in the No. 88 Chevrolet, Keselowski gift-wrapped this win when he yielded the lead with five laps left in a desperate attempt to clear debris from his grille and cool his overheated engine.
Keselowski’s gamble backfired. He couldn’t get the draft needed from the lapped traffic to clear his car and make one final pass for the win. Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford still had the engine power needed to finish the race, and he had his second consecutive runner-up finish.
“It was definitely a mistake because the engine made it,” Keselowski said, rubbing his face. “It probably shouldn’t have.”
Junior shook off the rising red gauges in the No. 88 that could have had his car meet a similar fate as Keselowski.
“They were still within good reason to stand on it and give it hell,” he said.
Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and rookie Kyle Larson completed the top five.
Earnhardt gave Hendrick Motorsports its third victory in a row, following back-to-back victories by Jimmie Johnson, who overcame a pit road accident to finish sixth Sunday.
Johnson was the first driver over to congratulate him.
Earnhardt’s second win means he is guaranteed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
“When we won at Daytona, man, it made the rest of the year a lot more relaxing, a lot easier,” he said. “It makes it fun because you can just go to the track and just race.”