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Race Rewind: Looking back at the GoBowling.com 400

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Aug. 04, 2013

Observations

• It was the same cars and same drivers with the same aerodynamic package. And yet the racing Sunday at Pocono Raceway - not typically known for stellar side-by-side action - was lauded while the racing a week ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was vilified. Obviously, the circumstances of each race - and the tracks themselves - play a great role in the quality of racing. If anything, the past two races show no one should make snap judgments on whether things need "fixing" based on one race, or even one driver's performance.

• Driver 'A' has one Top 10 finish this season, is 27th in the series standings and hasn't finished better than 30th in the past three races. Driver 'A' also is set for a ride in 2014. Driver 'B' has a win this season, 10 Top 10 finishes, is 15th in points and hasn't finished worse than fourth the past two weeks. Driver 'B' has no ride yet for 2014. Driver 'A' is Danica Patrick. Driver 'B' is Ryan Newman. Is the situation more complicated than that? Of course it is. But should it be?

• Much has been made of the rookie battle this season between Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., not just because both are in rides with top organizations but also because they are dating. They shared another distinction on Sunday - they both finished worse than the race's top rookie, Timmy Hill, who ended up 27th. Stenhouse was 34th and Patrick 35th.

Notebook

Johnson's bad day not so bad: It appeared Jimmie Johnson, who started from the pole, was on his way to another win at Pocono but while in the lead he blew a tire and slapped the wall hard on Lap 76.

Johnson needed extensive repairs on pit road but never lost a lap on the track. While he spent much of the rest of the race running outside the Top 20, he rallied at the end for a 13th place finish. He actually expanded his points lead to 77 over second-place Clint Bowyer.

"I really felt like we had a shot to win, unfortunately blew a tire off of Turn 1 and ended those hopes there. We worked on the car and got it better," Johnson said. "Then I hit the wall so hard that it knocked a spark plug wire off the spark plug.

"They were able to find the right plug and get everything hooked back up and the engine took off. Off we went and salvaged a very nice finish."

Newman continues roll: Ryan Newman followed up his win of a week ago in the Brickyard 400 with a solid fourth-place finish. He is now 15th in points, 24 outside the Top 10 and nine behind the second wild card position.

"It was a good run no doubt. We struggled a lot on pit lane. I had a good car," Newman said. "Just those restarts man they are so crazy. I was telling (Dale Earnhardt) Junior it seems like Martinsville restarts, short track restarts every time."

Not a bad weekend for Keselowski: His Truck series team won on Friday and Brad Keselowski won the Nationwide race at Iowa on Saturday night. While he missed the victory Sunday, his sixth-place finish helped make up some lost ground in the points.

"I am more frustrated than tired," he said. "We caught that one yellow at the worst possible time with about 50 or 60 (laps) to go and pitted for four (tires) and we were still going to be okay but then we caught another yellow which killed our strategy."

Pocono not kind to Hamlin: Four of Denny Hamlin's 22 Cup wins have come at Pocono but it was not kind to him on Sunday. Hamlin wrecked out of the race after 14 laps and finished in 43rd.

"Well, our car was a handful. I tried to fight through it until that competition caution, but I was getting run over from behind and just holding up traffic," he said. "I just let off (the accelerator) in the corner and it just breaks loose."

5 key moments

1. Denny Hamlin, one of the best drivers at Pocono, wrecks out after 14 laps and finishes in last place.

2 . Pole-winner Jimmie Johnson led the first 33 laps and 43 of the first 75 but blew a tire and hit the wall on Lap 76 and was knocked out of contention.

3. Kasey Kahne takes the lead for the first time on Lap 58, passing Brad Keselowski on a restart. He would lead a race-high 86 laps.

4. On a restart with eight laps remaining, Jeff Gordon makes his way around Kahne to take the lead for just the second time in the race.

5. Matt Kenseth spins to bring out a caution. On this restart, Kahne reverses course, passes Gordon and holds on for the win.

Next race

Cheez-It 355 at the Glen

Where: Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International

When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday

TV: ESPN

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Last year's winner: Marcos Ambrose



Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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