Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned Brad Keselowski’s trash into Victory Lane treasure, pulling away down the stretch Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, 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 on Earnhardt. Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford still had the power in the engine needed to finish the race, and he had his second straight runner-up finish.
“It was definitely a mistake because the engine made it,” Keselowski said, rubbing his face. “It probably shouldn’t have.”
Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and rookie Kyle Larson completed the top five.
Earnhardt gave Hendrick Motorsports four straight wins, including back-to-back victories by Jimmie Johnson. Johnson overcame a pit road accident to finish sixth.
Owner Rick Hendrick texted Earnhardt before the race to let him know he would not attend and would see him next week at Michigan. Earnhardt told him, “I’ll drink one for you after it’s over.”
Earnhardt stuck to his end of the deal, spraying all types of beverages in a jubilant Victory Lane.
Johnson was the first driver over to congratulate him.
I don’t have much to do tomorrow,” Earnhardt said, grinning. “Tonight’s going to be a long one.”
Earnhardt’s second win means he is guaranteed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. He won for the 29th time in 519 career Sprint Cup starts.
“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, not worry about points.”
Earnhardt led three Hendrick drivers in the top 10; Jeff Gordon finished eighth.
Daniel Ricciardo won the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, breaking the Mercedes stranglehold on the Formula One circuit.
The Red Bull driver earned his first Formula One victory and the first win this year for any driver other than Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Ricciardo passed Rosberg, the points leader and pole-sitter, with two laps to go.
Hamilton was knocked out in the 48th lap with a brake problem.
Rosberg finished second, easily protecting his lead in the championship standings.
Four-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel, who won at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve last year, was third.