NASCAR: Live from Pocono

Johnson rolls to pole at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. -- Note to the field for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

Beware of Jimmie Johnson.

The previous two times the five-time champion lost a race he dominated, he came back to win the following week.

The first happened at Dover, where he was penalized for jumping a late restart after leading 143 of 400 laps. He came back to win at Pocono the following week.

The next came at Kentucky, where he thought Matt Kenseth jumped a late restart after Johnson had led 182 of 267 laps. He came back to win the following week at Daytona.

Last week, Johnson dominated the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, only to finish second to Ryan Newman, thanks to a long final pit stop and a two-tire stop for Newman instead of four.

So you can bet the farm Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will be fired up to make amends.

They began with winning the pole, beating Kyle Busch by 0.004 of a second with a track-record 180.654 mph.

"There's more frustration than anything," Johnson said on Friday of the way his team bounces back.

"You hate to give away a race win … especially when you have a dominant car. Whether the mistake may be driver or team, you hate having that on your shoulders.

"For me, it hasn't brought any more focus or drive to the next event. It's in a way a relief."

Relief was getting the car through prequalifying inspection a second time after NASCAR determined the left rear toe was off by a thousandth of an inch.

It's not the first time this season the 48 team has been forced to go through inspection more than once, and according to Busch, "every time they're late, they're always fast."

"Maybe we need to be late,'' Busch added.

Johnson's team was on the clock and went out four spots later to clear up the issue.

"I wish there was some master plan behind it all,'' he said. "They're [Busch's team] welcome to experience the stress that goes with it. Man, my heart was pounding. It's not what I want to go through.''

-- David Newton




Danica and dogs

The grill next to Danica Patrick's hauler was filled with hot dogs Friday, but the Sprint Cup rookie made it clear she doesn't do dogs.

"I don't ever eat hot dogs,'' she said. "I had a Martinsville hot dog, though. Maybe I need to do it again. That was probably my best race this year.''

Patrick finished 12th at Martinsville, her second-best finish outside of eighth in the Daytona 500.

-- David Newton

Mere mortals

Reporter to Tony Stewart behind the No. 14 hauler: "How are you feeling? That sprint car crash on Monday looked really nasty to us mortals who don't race cars."

Stewart to reporters: "Oh my god. You mortals need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff. It was not a big deal. It's starting to get annoying this week about that. That was just an average sprint car wreck. That was not a big deal.

"I promise you, if there is something to report I'll let you know. I'll guarantee you there were 15 to 20 guys across the country that flipped just like that and were fine just like we were. If it's bad, we'll let you guys know."

But if it's bad, will he be able to let us know?

-- David Newton





Free dinner for No. 17 team

The "Tricky Triangle" got the best of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. early in the first Sprint Cup practice.

"I had my hands full there," the Roush Fenway Racing driver said. "I was just getting used to this racetrack. Last time here was the first time I ever downshifted, really, at an oval, so I was getting used to that."

"I didn't downshift the first five laps through the tunnel turn [Turn 2], but then I said, 'Hey, I am going to downshift here and see if we can get a little extra speed.' I downshifted a little too early and it jumped out from under me."

The car received minor damage to the right-rear quarter panel, but not enough to go to a backup.

"I owe the guys dinner now," Stenhouse said. "I told them anytime I scrape the wall, I owe them dinner, so now I owe them another dinner."

No word on whether Danica Patrick will be invited.

-- David Newton



No job offers yet

Ryan Newman had 350 text messages when he landed in Charlotte, N.C., after his win Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. None was from a sponsor or team offering guarantees for the 2014 season.

"It wasn't like the phone rang off the hook with respect to sponsors, car manufacturers or anything," said Newman, who is in his last season for Stewart-Haas Racing. "I didn't expect it to. I'm working on what I need to work on to be in a good competitive position next year."

He's also working on making the Chase. A win, coupled with being only 25 points outside the top 10, helps.

"It gives us more hope," Newman said. "We had hope in the first place that we still have to make the Chase, whether it's mathematically or winning. Another win would be amazing just based on history of what I've seen with the wild cards.

"Two [victories] pretty much locks you in with the wild-card spots."

-- David Newton


Only 60 points separate 20th-place Jeff Burton and 10th-place Jeff Gordon, with six races left in the Chase. Only 35 points separate 18th-place Joey Logano and Gordon.

"There's a lot of inconsistency this year," Burton said. "Look at teams 10th to probably 20th, there's just a lot of inconsistency there. None of those teams have shown the ability to maintain momentum … or just from a luck standpoint get on a roll."

"Someone will."

In other words, Burton expects a lot of shuffling in and out of the top 10 in the next six weeks.

"It's going to be a dogfight," he said.

And for the teams that don't make the Chase, Burton said, "It's a demoralizing event when that time comes."

"It really is," he said. "It's a whole lot harder to bring the same effort that a team that is in the Chase is bringing."

-- David Newton


Logano in 48

Joey Logano is 35 points outside the top 10 with six races left in the regular season. Those top 10 are guaranteed a spot in the Chase, so what better way to make up ground than to drive the No. 48?

No, Logano isn't switching places with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. His Penske Racing crew chief just opted to use chassis No. 48 for next week's race at Watkins Glen. And it's for the Nationwide race, not the Cup race.

"I don't think there's any back story behind that one, but I thought it was kind of funny," Logano said earlier in the week. "Todd [Gordon] is going to call the race for us, and I said, 'Well, I'm just going to call him Chad, and you can call me Jimmie.' I think, if I don't win in the 48 car, we've got an issue."

It may not be the smartest move. Johnson is winless at the Glen and has an average finish of 13.2 on the road course.

-- David Newton