Earnhardt Sweeps Pocono
Long Pond, Pa. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. traded hats, waited for his cue and flashed three fingers for the cameras. That’s one for every win.
The beer baths, champagne toasts, selfies and photo opps in Victory Lane are almost routine now for Junior.
He added a new wrinkle at Pocono on Sunday: a broom.
Earnhardt hoisted the broom high over his head after he completed a season sweep at Pocono Raceway, the third win in a season that has served as a career renaissance for NASCAR’s most popular driver. Earnhardt now holds the No. 1 seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Can he keep the momentum headed into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs?
“You’re the broadcaster,” Earnhardt teased crew chief Steve Letarte about that question.
“You don’t,” the departing Letarte said. “You’re too far from the Chase.”
The legion of Junior Nation fans roared when Earnhardt stormed ahead of the pack off the final restart with three laps left for the lead. His third win, he also won the Daytona 500, tied him for the most in Sprint Cup this season.
Earnhardt held off the hard-charging Kevin Harvick to become the first driver to sweep both races at the track since Denny Hamlin in 2006.
He tweeted “Lookin for a broom” last week when he landed in Pocono.
He found one in Victory Lane.
“This group all really enjoys each other,” Earnhardt said. “We want to see everybody happy.”
They had tons of fun inside the Pocono media center.
Letarte acted hurt when his nameplate didn’t have the same three winner’s stickers that were on Earnhardt’s card. Earnhardt also brought a Make-a-Wish Foundation teen to the podium and made sure he’d have his own namecard and stickers.
Earnhardt also became the fifth straight Hendrick Motorsports driver to win at Pocono. Owner Rick Hendrick was not at the race, though he did talk to his winning driver on the phone on pit road.
Earnhardt’s sweep followed Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson last year and Jeff Gordon in the August 2012 race.
Earnhardt has his most wins since he won six times in 2004. His three wins are one shy of his combined total from 2005-2013. His win Sunday was the 22nd of a career still without a Cup championship.
Harvick, who clinched a spot in the Chase, was second, followed by Joey Logano, Clint Boywer and Greg Biffle.
Gordon finished sixth a week after he won the Brickyard 400. He led a race-high 63 laps and passed 24,000 career laps led in the No. 24 Chevrolet and 1,000 laps led at Pocono. He still holds a 17-point lead over Earnhardt in the standings. Earnhardt would have the No. 1 seed because he was one more win than Gordon.
Dixon Wins Mid-Ohio Again
Lexington, Ohio — Scott Dixon went from last in qualifying to capture his fifth win at Mid-Ohio in the last eight years, coasting in on low fuel to end Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s victory drought in 2014.
The 34-year-old New Zeland driver, who started last in the 22-car field, also won on the twisty road course between Cleveland and Columbus in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Target Chip Ganassi has won the last six races at the track, including the last four of Dixon’s triumphs. It finally broke through in a familiar place.
Dixon took advantage of a gaffe by Josef Newgarden and his pit crew to pull away.
Pole-sitter Sebastien Bourdais was a distant second, with James Hinchcliffe third, rookie Carlos Munoz fourth and favorite son Graham Rahal fifth.