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article imageNASCAR: Earnhardt Jr. completes sweep of Pocono races

By John Duarte     Aug 4, 2014 in Sports
Long Pond - Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the final 14 laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway, on Sunday, to win his third race of the season and climb into the lead of the standings in the final stretch leading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Pit strategy played a big part in Sunday's win of the 400 for Earnhardt. The driver commended the work of crew chief Steve Latarte.
“We're not in that position just on car alone,” Earnhardt said. “We had a fast car and I drove a good race, but Steve's strategy gave us a chance to win. The strategy that he used today gave us the opportunity to get by some guys that we probably weren't going to pass on the racetrack.”
The win on Sunday was Earnhardt's third of season and second this year at Pocono Raceway. Earnhardt Jr. had won the Pocono 400, in June, when he stormed into the lead with five laps remaining after Brad Keselowski's car began to overheat. Earnhardt admitted after that race that he was lucky to get the win as Keselowski had the better car in that race. It was different this time around and Earnhardt praised the work of his crew.
“It wasn't about luck this time,” Junior said. “We got a little luck on the last win (in Pocono) with Keselowski hitting the debris. We wanted to be in the driver's seat this go round with a faster car and they did that.”
Kevin Harvick said he was happy with finishing in second place, especially after serving a drive-through penalty for speeding in pit lane on Lap 96 and doing his best to drive clear of a huge wreck that took out many of the contenders in the closing stages of the race.
“It was fun. We had a really fast car in clean air, a really loose car in traffic and, then, we kind of got behind when I got the speeding penalty,” he said. “There is a huge drain on the back of the straightaway on the middle of the asphalt and (I) ran through it. It bounced us up in the wall as we were trying to go through the wreck. It wasn't too bad of damage. (But the) Car wasn't obviously quite as good after we wrecked it.”
Joey Logano placed third in the race, especially since Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon had the dominant cars on the afternoon. Gordon led a race-high 63 laps and finished sixth. Logano hopes that this week's result combined with a fifth-place finish a week earlier mark a turnaround after a series of unfavourable finishes.
“I felt (my car) was about a third-place car,” he said. “Last few weeks we finished where we deserved. Overall, we're gaining momentum.”
Logano currently sits fifth on the Chase grid, with two wins on the season, and seventh overall in the driver standings.
It was the first time since 2002 that Earnhardt had won two races at the same track in one season. In that year, he won the Aaron's 499 in April and the EA Sports 500 in October at Talladega Superspeedway.
The win, his third of the season, helps Earnhardt close in on top spot on the Sprint Cup standings, where he now trails teammate Gordon by 17 points, and moves him to the front of the Chase grid.
Next up on the Sprint Cup schedule is a true test for Earnhardt's season. NASCAR nation moves on to Watkins Glen International, in New York, and the second of two road-circuit races in the Sprint Cup Series. Earnhardt finished third earlier this year at Sonoma Raceway, in June. Since he has never been a fan of racing on road circuits, Earnhardt said that race felt like “a win for us,” but that doesn't mean he is enthusiastic about the race.
“It's on the schedule and we got to go to it,” he said, adding he has never desired to be known as a road-course racer. “I love fenders and love racing on ovals and banging fenders. Road-course racing is all right and I'm glad we don't have too many of them. I just don't really enjoy it that much.”
The Cheez-It 355 at the Glen goes Aug. 10, 2014.
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