Jeff Gordon Wins Rain-Shortened Pocono 500
- Jun 10, 2007
- 24 Team
LONG POND, Pa. (June 10, 2007) – With Sunday’s Pocono 500 red-flagged for rain after 106 laps, Jeff Gordon was looking at clouds more intently than he ever had.
Brilliant pit strategy propelled the NASCAR Nextel Cup points leader to his fourth victory of the season and 79th of his career after the clouds opened up and the event at Pocono Raceway was called at 7:35 p.m. ET, six laps past the halfway point.
The red-flag period lasted 34 minutes, as track crews at the 2.5-mile speedway attempted in vain to dry the asphalt in time to restart the race before darkness fell.
“I’ve never looked at clouds as hard as I am now, trying to figure out what they’re going to do,” Gordon said during the stoppage, hoping for more rain.
Gordon fought brake problems all afternoon and could have run only eight more green-flag laps before pitting for fuel.
“We had a great car,” said Gordon, referencing his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “We just needed track position.”
Crew chief Steve Letarte took care of that problem by keeping Gordon on the track when the seven cars ahead of him in the running order came to the pits for fuel and/or tires on Lap 65.
Gordon and teammate Casey Mears, who also stayed out on Lap 65 under a caution for debris in Turn 3, had to pit for tires and fuel on Lap 82, and with rain approaching from the northeast, Gordon ran hard to the halfway point and rocketed back to the front as the cars ahead of him were forced to refuel.
When Gordon pitted from the lead on Lap 82, polesitter Ryan Newman assumed the point, but with rain starting to sprinkle the Tunnel Turn, Newman had to pit for gas on Lap 95. Carl Edwards inherited the lead through the cycle of pit stops but had stop for fuel on Lap 98, handing Gordon the top spot.
As the race reached Lap 100, the rain began to fall in earnest. NASCAR slowed the race one lap later.
“Yes, we were fortunate, lucky—whatever you want to call it—that the rain came when it did,” Gordon said. “Steve made a gutsy, great call based on the radar. He was watching the radar all day. It was risky, but it really worked out pretty awesome.
“On the one side, I feel guilty for taking this win. On the other side, Steve made a great call, and everyone else had the opportunity to make the same call.”
Mears posted a fourth-place finished and continued his improvement in the Nextel Cup standings. He’s now sits 24th overall, up four spots from last week.
Kyle Busch was eighth, posting his seventh top-10 finish of the season. He remains 10th in the standings.
Jimmie Johnson finished 42nd thanks to a tire issue and dropped from second to fourth in championship points.