Saturday, August 3, 2013
Johnson up for more Pocono domination
By Matt Willis, ESPN Stats & Information
Earlier this season at Pocono, Jimmie Johnson dominated in picking up his third career victory at the “Tricky Triangle,” leading 80 percent of the race (128 of 160 laps), the most laps led in a Pocono victory since Kurt Busch led 175 of 200 laps in 2007.
His victory wasn’t just dominant from a Pocono perspective, it was one of the most dominant wins at any track in recent memory.
Johnson’s average running position throughout the race was 1.2, which marks the third-best in a single race since NASCAR began tracking the statistic in 2005. He spent 128 laps in first, 27 laps in second, four laps in third and a single lap in fourth.
The win improved his average finish at the track to 8.7, the best all-time among drivers to make multiple starts at the track. In fact, only two other drivers in series history with multiple starts at Pocono have an average finish there better than 10th, Davey Allison and Tim Richmond. The next-best mark by an active driver is Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon (10.2).
The Hendrick Motorsports Angle
The win was the 14th by Hendrick Motorsports at Pocono, the most in Cup Series history, and five more than any other team. In fact, only two other teams are within even 10 wins of Hendrick at Pocono, as Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing each have 9.
Johnson’s biggest competition Sunday afternoon could come from within his own team. Last year in this race, Hendrick Motorsports had a non-Johnson 1-2 finish, with Jeff Gordon winning and Kasey Kahne finishing second.
That marked Gordon’s sixth career Pocono victory, breaking a tie with Bill Elliott for the most in track history. Gordon also needs just 35 laps led to become the first driver in series history to lead 1,000 laps at Pocono. Sunday will be the 72nd race there in series history.
Despite the dominant win in June, by one measure, Johnson wasn’t the fastest driver on the track. That honor belonged to Kasey Kahne, who was the fastest driver on the track for 51 laps, compared to 36 for Johnson.
However, Kahne finished the race 36th, 19 laps down, due to an early-race vibration that sent him to the pits. But his total of 51 fastest laps run was the most by a driver at Pocono over the last four seasons.
But Kahne’s record at Pocono doesn’t inspire much confidence. Besides his second-place finish at the track last August, he hasn’t finished any better than 12th at Pocono in six other races since the start of the 2010 season. He has led just a single lap in those seven races.
The fourth driver at Hendrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., could also be a factor, despite his recent unremarkable stretch. In the last 15 Sprint Cup Series races, he has only a single top-five finish, and it came with a third at Pocono.