LONG POND, Pa. – With another NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in sight, Jimmie Johnson lined up fourth for the final restart at Pocono Raceway on Sunday and powered his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to the front of the field with 16 laps to go. But Johnson was unable to improve his position, and he went on to pick up his eighth top-five finish of the season.
Johnson was joined inside the top 13 by his teammates Jeff Gordon (sixth), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (ninth) and Mark Martin (13th) at the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle. As Sunday’s race unfolded, the Hendrick drivers worked with their teams to overcome deep starting spots and various handling issues.
Improving as many as 22 spots during that first segment, the quartet was running inside the top 10 when rain showers briefly halted racing action on Lap 125. When rain settled into the area, Johnson was running second, Earnhardt was fifth, Gordon was sixth and Martin was holding steady in the ninth position. After a 100-minute red-flag period, the Hendrick teammates returned to racing action.
Johnson, who improved from his 19th starting spot to run third by Lap 106, debated shifting strategy with crew chief Chad Knaus throughout Sunday’s event. After the red flag was lifted and racing resumed on Lap 132, Johnson encountered a vibration that his team appeared to correct during the final pit stop roughly 50 laps laps later. He returned for the final restart and battled for the lead, ultimately crossing the finish line fourth after battling with Kurt Busch down the stretch. Johnson remains second in the driver standings.
Gordon started 31st in Sunday’s 500-mile event at Pocono and worked with his team to overcome a handling issue early on the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. Once the issue was resolved, Gordon slipped through the field, improving 22 spots inside the first 110 laps. Gordon, a five-time race winner at Pocono, moved into sixth and maintained that position after racing action resumed on Lap 132. Gordon remains seventh in the driver standings.
Earnhardt steered his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet into the sixth spot within the first 27 laps, improving 11 spots from his starting position. He worked with his No. 88 team to overcome a loose-handling issue during the first 100 laps, and was running relatively issue-free during the final 72-lap segment. Earnhardt finished ninth, picking up his ninth top-10 finish of the season. He remains 10th in the driver standings.
Martin improved 10 positions during the first 99 laps to run 15th in his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. Two laps later, Martin was running 14th on his way to joining his teammates inside the top 10. He was scored ninth when the red flag was issued 24 laps later. Martin battled through the field during the final 72 laps, and slipped by the No. 31 during the final four laps to finish 13th and improve three spots in the championship standings. He now ranks 15th.