Pocono Observations

Jonathan Baum
Yahoo! Sports

LONG POND, Pa. – Thoughts, observations and a few questions following Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway:

• Long green runs and complete dominance by a single team doesn't exactly make for exciting racing – especially at a place like Pocono, where the races probably are 100 miles too long, anyway. But it's impossible not marvel at what Kurt Busch and No. 2 team did here Sunday.

Almost always there are at least two or three teams that have a legit shot at winning on any given Sunday, but only mechanical failure and the like possibly could have stopped Busch. And he knew from the start that he was primed for a big day.

"I can honestly say that when the green flag dropped and we flew off into Turn 1 and made the outside move work around the 8 car to get the lead, I did say to myself, 'Man we really have something for them here today,' " Busch said.

• Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked the right time to put a big performance on the board. Just take a look at the standings. These two could be battling each other for a while.

• The guy who make the biggest splash all weekend didn't even race at Pocono.

Robby Gordon went a little crazy at the end of the Montreal Busch race. And perhaps it's hard to blame him, as he has an understandable claim that he should have been scored the leader after being spun under caution. That said, what he did after that was embarrassing – and a bit amusing.

Gordon did need to be held responsible for his actions, but NASCAR should have seen this coming. As soon as it became clear Gordon wasn't going to fall back in line, it also became clear that he was going to spin Marcos Ambrose at his first opportunity. And that, of course, is exactly what happened. NASCAR never should have restarted that race with Gordon lurking near the front, though there may not have been an easy way to force him to comply.

Gordon totally lost it (the race and his mind – though celebrating a non-victory in burnout fashion was hilarious), but NASCAR pushed him. At least NASCAR allowed Gordon to remain at Pocono in his ownership role. He still picked up owner points for P.J. Jones' performance in his car on Sunday.

• Nice postrace restraint exhibited by Ambrose, and nice worst-to-first run for Kevin Harvick. You know, the guy who really did win the race. Pretty good day at home for Patrick Carpentier, too.

• It's hard to say whether the race left the worst impression possible on Montreal fans or the best. Probably a little of each. It wasn't a great race, but the finish was wild. Hard to imagine those fans not coming back for more next year.

• As NASCAR president Mike Helton walked from the garage toward the pits before the Pocono race, fans called out his name and yelled "wooo." Helton acknowledged them with a wave. Then one fan shouted, "Next time suspend Jeff Gordon, not Robby Gordon." Helton turned to Nextel Cup Series director John Darby and smiled.

• Suspending Jeff Gordon, who checked in with another top-five run on Sunday, might be the only way to stop him these days. Similar story for Sunday's third-place finisher Denny Hamlin, who has a whopping zero DNFs this season.

• Give NAPA credit for making the most of Michael Waltrip's awful season in those new commercials. Good stuff.

• According to the scroll on the race broadcast, "Brain Vickers" started in row 14. Just a typo – happens to everyone – but an amusing one.

Who knows, maybe Vickers' mission isn't just to get Red Bull up to speed, but to "try to take over the world."

Does that make A.J. Allmendinger his Pinky?

• For the Busch race intro, wouldn't it have been appropriate for ESPN to sub out Aerosmith in favor of, say, Barenaked Ladies or The Tragically Hip? Maybe even Loverboy? Celine Dion, anyone?

Either way, it was nice to hear Allen Bestwick in the booth again, though it also seemed ESPN possibly could have benefited from having one more camera trained on the leaders late in that race.

• Overheard in the Pocono media center regarding when to leave the track Saturday to avoid traffic jams:

"There isn't much traffic after an ARCA race."

Someone's reply: "No, just during it."

• A NASCAR spokesperson described Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s post-qualifying media session as possibly being the best NASCAR press conference ever.

Fully aware of Junior's rep, Hamlin said to Junior before the postrace press conference, "you take too long – let me go first, please."

It wasn't the only time Hamlin wanted to go somewhere before Junior.

"I think (Junior) was busy looking in his mirror," Hamlin said of their race for second. "Every time I went high, he went high. Every time I went low, he went low."

Said Junior, "Exactly."

Jimmie Johnson needed a run like this.

• Where was Ford on Sunday? In an extremely solid run for the 88 team, Ricky Rudd carried the Ford banner with a 13th-place run.

Jamie McMurray apparently wasn't content with only turning three times per lap at Pocono.

• Speaking of, Busch said he wasn't sure he was going to win until he was coming out of Turn 4 to take the checkers. A couple of years back, Rusty Wallace said he was having trouble in Turn 4 at Pocono. Must be something about that No. 2 car …

To be fair, there isn't a team in the garage that has figured out how to set up its car for Turn 4 at Pocono. Though there also isn't a team in the garage that has ever seen Turn 4 at Pocono.

Joking aside, it was somewhat appropriate that Busch (a day after his birthday) won on the same weekend Wallace was honored for his great success at the three-turn track.

• Busch's crew chief Pat Tryson clearly is enjoying himself. A castoff earlier this season, Tryson has led Busch's resurgence. And while Busch generally maintains his an even demeanor during press conferences, Tryson could be seen chuckling at several amusing questions, just having a good time, appreciating the situation in which he now finds himself.

• The Tony Stewart-ESPN "feud" may have subsided a little on Sunday. In an odd turn, Robby Gordon declared himself the winner of the feud.


Of the top 12 finishers Sunday, only two – Casey Mears and Mark Martin – are drivers not in Chase contention (though Martin would be if he ran full-time). It was a somewhat similar, if not less pronounced, story the previous weekend at Indianapolis.

In other words, the drivers who have been getting it done all season continue to separate themselves from the rest of the field.

That, of course, could change next weekend when Nextel Cup heads to Watkins Glen for the second and final road race of the season. Some road specialists (and Robby Gordon, if he's allowed to play) will be in the mix, but don't be surprised to see the usual suspects on ovals also picking up points on the road course, just like many of them did at Sonoma.

Meanwhile, can Juan Pablo Montoya pull off the third road course sweep since '03? Robby Gordon did it that year, and Tony Stewart followed suit in '05.

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