Listen to what all the top finishers ahd to say about today's Pocono Mountains 125 .
NASCAR.com's Matthew Dillner cruises through the garage to chat with drivers before they hit the track at Pocono and learns a lesson from Richard Petty along the way.
Clint Bowyer and Johnny Sauter talk about their solid runs in the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway, a track Sauter describes as one he isn't particularly fond of.
Get analysis for all 43 cars from Sunday's race 1. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . The fourth time was the charm for the New Jersey native who led the most laps for the fourth straight race and earns a spot in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . 2. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The fastest car all weekend couldn't get it done on restarts, although the points leader Harvick cut Truex's lead to 1.5 seconds coming to the white flag. 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson rallied for his 10th top-five finish of the year after cutting a tire on Lap 87 to bring out the third caution flag. 4. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano had to climb through the field twice on Sunday -- first for changing a rear gear and second for a pit road penalty. 5. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The pole sitter pitted near the midway point with tire concerns and used a great late-race restart to resume running in the top five with eight laps to go. 6. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth rallied from an early pit road speeding penalty and was running fifth when he made side contact with Jimmie Johnson on Lap 135. 7. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet. Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray didn't pit during the final caution period and restarted seventh coming to the final green flag en route to matching his best career Pocono result. 8. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson started 15th on Sunday and quietly worked his way to his third straight top-11 finish at Pocono . 9. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . "I'm getting killed in the tunnel," Busch radioed his team early while running inside the top 10. "Can't get over the bumps today." For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 10. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin safely slid past as the Nos. 31 and 47 cars tangled up on Lap 141 and went on to claim his sixth top-10 finish of the year. 11. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Earnhardt was a big mover early in the race, jumping up to seventh by Lap 22. Contact on a late-race restart, however, stalled his efforts. 12. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing. Continual adjustments helped Biffle improve the balance and handling of his Ford; "The day turned out better than I thought it would," he radioed. For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 13. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne led twice but encountered some transmission issues as he was working his way through the top 10. 14. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . " Stay out," crew chief Alan Gustafson radioed a skeptical Gordon after teammate Jimmie Johnson blew a tire on Lap 87. The decision appeared to ignite an argument that exploded on Lap 160. READ MORE: Gordon, crew chief exchange words 15. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The outside pole sitter matched his best Pocono start and led 16 of the first 29 laps before fading in the field. 16. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears was running 24th on Lap 106, and he kept working with his team on his in-car track bar adjustments. 17. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . "I need straightaway speed," Keselowski, impacted by the sixth caution period, asked his team. "Anybody got any?" For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 18. Ty Dillon , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport . Dillon, making his third Cup start this year, posted his best career result and the highest of the day among the Richard Childress Racing contingent. 19. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . After making his best start of the 2015 season, Dillon battled a loose-handling race car before picking up a bonus point for leading five laps during the third caution. 20. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier earned the free pass on Lap 87 and employed pit strategy to improve five spots in the final 20 laps. 21. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart was among the few drivers to hit pit road during the sixth caution period to top off his tank in anticipation of a fuel-mileage race. But he was set back during the Lap 130 stop by an uncontrolled tire violation. 22. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing . With 60 laps to go, Bowyer was holding on as the last car on the lead lap and still searching for speed. 23. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Ragan returned to the lead lap with the free pass on Lap 50 and encouraged his team that the car's balance was improving. 24. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne, making his first Pocono start, returned to the lead lap after the sixth caution flag was waved. 25. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Cassill just missed matching his best Pocono finish -- 24th -- while navigating the ruckus around Pocono's Tricky Triangle. 26. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Bowman was running 30th when contact from Brett Moffitt prompted him to spin in Turn 3 on Lap 93 to bring out the fourth caution flag. 27. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland saved fuel and was in position to crack the top 30 during the final 20 laps of the race. 28. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Whitt was complimentary of Pocono's updated Tunnel Turn, but he and other competitors struggled with the bumps. 29. Josh Wise , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Wise narrowly missed a spinning Alex Bowman on Lap 93 and held on to record his second-best Pocono finish. 30. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt was rolling along 33rd on Lap 129 when he got loose and spun after receiving contact from Brad Keselowski to bring out the sixth caution flag. 31. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . An apparent issue with his tachometer prompted Menard to pick up back-to-back speeding penalties on pit road before blowing a left-front tire within the first 50 laps. 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . The rookie adhered his spotter's words, "Be smart," and took advantage of a late-race caution to wrap his first Pocono outing. 33. Jeb Burton , No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . The Pocono newbie was running deep in the field with 23 laps to go when he radioed to his crew, "it's not over yet. Get some popcorn and get ready to watch the crash show." 34. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . It was a challenging day for Annett, who spent the majority of the day running deep in the field. 35. Travis Kvapil , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing. Making his first start of the 2015 Cup season, Kvapil rolled off the grid 42nd and ran as high as 35th on Sunday. 36. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Yeley was temporarily sidelined on Lap 38 when a bag stuck to his grille and caused some overheating. 37. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick’s strongest Pocono run to date was dashed when she spun on Lap 135 and then again later in the final laps. 38. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was running eighth and gunning for his best Pocono finish when he made contact with Ryan Newman on Lap 141. 39. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman was passing AJ Allmendinger on the outside for seventh when Allmendinger traveled up the track and hit Newman's left-rear, sending the No. 31 spinning. READ MORE: Newman: Dinger 'has one coming' 40. Brendan Gaughan , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Gaughan rolled off the grid 43rd and struggled to make up position around the long, bumpy 2.5-mile triangle. 41. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Hornish was running 22nd and on the lead lap when he spun in Turn 1 and hit the wall to bring out the caution with 40 laps to go. 42. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse lost his brakes while trying to make a pass going into the Tunnel Turn, and he slammed into the wall on Lap 69. 43. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola's team had just figured out the handling on his No. 43 Ford when he radioed on Lap 74 the engine was blowing up. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Earnhardt looks to join select few, will line up 20th on Sunday LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . is looking to join some rare company in Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 at Pocono Raceway (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Fresh of a 2014 sweep of both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the Tricky Triangle, Earnhardt is looking to become the third driver to win three in a row at 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track. Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond are the other two to accomplish that with the latter's being the most recent occurrence in 1987. However, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will be starting 20th in his bid to win three straight at Pocono and he explained what led to his worst starting spot since Richmond. "I chopped the entrance to (Turn) 1 on the first lap and that cost us a little bit of time. And then the next run we went into Turn 1 and turned sideways and got loose and just kind of killed the lap. So, we had pretty good speed in practice and just didn't … the driver didn’t do a good job." That qualifying performance led Junior to help his No. 88 team push the car back to the garage. Here @DaleJr helps the @nationwide88 team push the car, saying "It's the least I can do after qualifying 20th." pic.twitter.com/BcFfDohG8X — Mike Davis (@MikeDavis88) June 5, 2015 Earnhardt showed speed in Friday's opening practice, placing fourth in the 85-minute session (176.564 mph). In the second practice, Earnhardt was second on the speed chart (175.596 mph) in the 55-minute session. Still, he understands the difficulty in winning one race at Pocono let alone three straight win. "It's just difficult to win one, you know?" Earnhardt said Friday at Pocono . "It’s difficult to win, period. And there’s so much competition in this series now." Junior will be looking to do something Allison and Richmond did not have to do in their run of three straight victories. He will try and join their club by winning with two different crew chiefs. Greg Ives is on top of the box this season as Steve Letarte, his crew chief for the sweep last year, left to be part of NBC's NASCAR coverage after last season. "Well we won those two races by having some great pit strategy," Earnhardt said on Friday at Pocono . "Steve (Letarte) got real aggressive on his pit calls and I think that is definitely going to be what is going to put you in position to win. You kind of call this race in reverse. "The tire is pretty tough here and durable. There is not a whole lot of fall off. You can call the race sort of like a road course in reverse and put yourself up toward the front like we did last year. It makes it pretty difficult to get around you if you have a good car. I mean we were able to pass some guys that tried to get more aggressive than we were. Everything has kind of got to fall in the right place and allow you to make those choices." The change in crew chiefs hasn't affected Earnhardt's performance this season. Entering Pocono , Earnhardt is fifth in the point standings and scored a win last month at Talladega Superspeedway , his 24th victory in the Sprint Cup Series. He has top-five finishes at all intermediate and restrictor-plate tracks this season (seven in total). Earnhardt is looking to keep the good vibes and good times going with Ives, who worked as a crew chief for two years for Earnhardt's NASCAR XFINITY Series organization, JR Motorsports. "He takes this super, super serious. This is his dream come true to be able to crew chief in the Cup Series, and I want to give him every opportunity to be successful and us as a team, we’re in a good position winning races, running well; we don’t want to take a step back." Hendrick Motorsports has had stretches of dominance at Pocono . The organization's four drivers have won the last five races, Jeff Gordon has the most wins here (six) and Jimmie Johnson swept the 2004 events here. In total, the organization has 17 wins at the Tricky Triangle. Johnson says its hard to win here regularly, making a sweep all that more of an accomplishment. Something only seven drivers, including Junior and Johnson have done. "I kind of put sweeping here in the same box as sweeping at Daytona or Talladega," Johnson said. "There are just so many circumstances out of your control at this track. And those lead to the difficulty in winning often and sweeping, for that matter. "This race, there are always long green-flag runs and varying strategies. The teams that don't have the raw speed to race for the win roll the dice and usually catch cautions and lose track position. Track position is so important. There are a lot of moving targets. It's not just a straight-up downforce-style race. And I think that increases the difficulty to win here regularly." With the success that the four-car stable has had here, Earnhardt's recent run of success here makes him the prohibitive favorite this weekend. In addition to last year's sweep, he posted two top-five finishes in the 2013 races at Pocono and has scored top-10 finishes in seven of his last eight starts there. So what contributes to that dominance for Junior and Hendrick as a whole? "Well, we've got four fast cars," Earnhardt said. "This is a horsepower race track where engines can make a difference. I feel like over the last several years we’ve had one of the best engine programs in the sport. So, I think we’ve just got really good stuff. "Your car really, really shines here; whereas the driver is a little bit of the factor or a lot of the factor, especially on restarts and trying to work that difficult air when you’re behind somebody and make a pass and set it up on a particular part of the race track where it will happen. But the car really shines here and we’ve got some of the best equipment in the garage." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Catch up before the Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400, 1 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1) What: 34th annual Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 Where: Pocono Raceway , Long Pond, Pa. When: Sunday, June 7, 2015 TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Distance: 160 laps (400 miles) Green Flag: 1:18.30 p.m. ET Pit Road Speed: 55 mph Caution Car Speed: 70 mph Fuel Window: 32 laps On The Front Row ( Full lineup ) 1. Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (177.599 mph) 2. Carl Edwards , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota (177.550 mph) To the rear Tony Stewart , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet (engine change) Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 Ford (rear gear change) Failed to Qualify None Fastest in Practice ( Full practice results ) First Practice: Kevin Harvick , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (176.932 mph) Second Practice: Kevin Harvick , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (175.658 mph) Third Practice: Kevin Harvick , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (175.974 mph) Triple Play Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s season sweep at Pocono Raceway last year sets him up for a chance at a place in the track's history books. Should he secure the checkered flag in Sunday's 400-miler, he'd join NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison and the late Tim Richmond as the only drivers to win three straight at the Tricky Triangle Hendrick's streak, too Earnhardt's modest run of two wins in a row is part of a larger Pocono streak for his Hendrick Motorsports team. Jeff Gordon started the string with a victory here in August 2012, followed by wins in 2013 by teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne -- all before Earnhardt's two-race tear. Bumpy issue The gradual development of bumps in Turn 2 -- also known as the "tunnel turn" over the infield entrance -- has added a new dimension for Sunday's race. Some drivers have turned critical, but front-row starter Carl Edwards is a fan. "To me, if they could just go ahead and take some bumps like that and put them over in the other corners, too, it would be even better," Edwards said. "It adds something. As long as it's not breaking parts, I believe it gives us an opportunity to set up passes. We'll see how it goes in the race, but it could be one of those things where you might have an opportunity to take advantage of a guy's trouble that he has through there." Mixed fortunes for Harvick Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick swept to the top of the leaderboard in all three practices Friday and Saturday, and he landed the fifth starting position in Coors Light Pole Qualifying. His speed wasn't rewarded in the selection of pit stalls, as his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet team picked last in the 43-car field as a result of a P1 penalty assessed this week. Harvick will pit Sunday in unlucky stall No. 13. History lesson Pocono Raceway opened in 1968 as a .75-mile track, expanded to its current 2.5-mile layout in 1971. The triangular speedway began hosting NASCAR's top division in 1974, when Richard Petty edged Buddy Baker to become the first winner. Sunday's race will be the 75th event for NASCAR's premier series. Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Pocono based on past 20 races: 1. Denny Hamlin , 108.3 2. Jimmie Johnson , 106.9 3. Kurt Busch , 105.9 Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet Former Pocono winners in the field Jeff Gordon (6); Denny Hamlin (4); Jimmie Johnson (3); Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards (2); Ryan Newman , Joey Logano , Brad Keselowski , Greg Biffle (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Drivers' opinions of track surface mixed after opening practice RELATED: Stewart says 'driver error' led to wreck " Complete lineup for Pocono 400 LONG POND, Pa. -- NASCAR drivers were greeted Friday by a challenging new wrinkle to an already treacherous turn at Pocono Raceway . A wrinkle, a bump -- or even a motorcycle jump, depending on whom you ask. The 2.5-mile speedway's second corner -- otherwise known as the "tunnel turn" for the location of the track's infield entry lanes -- provided rough terrain during opening Sprint Cup Series practice, spawning mixed reviews from drivers and a promise from track president Brandon Igdalsky to find a remedy before the circuit returns Aug. 2. Barring an unforeseen development, a fix won't happen before this Sunday's Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM), which could produce interesting competition in the 14th of 36 races this season. "I've still got a headache," former Pocono winner Joey Logano said. "Apparently, winter was really harsh here or something. It's unbelievable. I figure (extreme sports and motocross star) Travis Pastrana would be really good here with the jump in the tunnel turn. It's brutal. It's a big, big jump." The triangular facility was last repaved ahead of the 2012 season, relatively recently in terms of track surface age. But Igdalsky said the trouble with asphalt settling in Turn 2 was accelerated by severe cold and snowfall the past two winters, and the fact that far less dirt is packed between the infield tunnel and the track's asphalt. "Those bumps have been there since we did the repave," Igdalsky told reporters Friday afternoon. "The first year, they weren't there. The second year, they were there. Last year, they were a little bigger. It's just been gradual, and the winter this year -- these guys will tell you, living in Pennsylvania, the roads this year just got disintegrated. Everything just got beat up so bad because it was so cold. And it's basically two back-to-back years of awful winters, and they're taking their toll. "A road is not any different than a race track at the end of the day. When the ground gets frozen, it does bad, bad things." Igdalsky said the issue had nothing to do with a new decorative rock wall and waterfall added at the tunnel entrance in an offseason beautification project. But Kurt Busch , Friday's Coors Light Pole Award winner, hinted that the notion might have some merit. "For some reason the top side of the entry way was compromised," Busch said. "There are literally speed bumps the size that you would put in grocery store parking lots up on top of the track. Where did they come from? They had to have come from the underside where they were creating a beautiful fancy entryway. It is what it is. The sooner you get over it the better you are going to be." Because NASCAR returns to Pocono for opening-day practice July 31, the turnaround time for a track renovation project is tight but doable, Igdalsky said. After the visit by the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series, Indy cars race here three weeks later. "We're going to try to get something done before the next race," Igdalsky said. "If it's as bad for these guys, it's going to be worse for the Indy cars. So we've got to look at them, too. Those races being so close, we're not going to have time between those two races to get it done. We have a really busy track schedule. We've got cars out there just about every day, so it's just a matter of finding enough days to do something, get the track cleared, do something and then make it work." The court of garage opinion seemed split on the tunnel turn's transformation. Reigning Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick was among those in favor, tweeting, "Love the character of Turn 2. Makes you really have to change your car up!" Then again, Harvick may have had extra reasons for saying so after finishing opening practice atop the leaderboard. Tony Stewart spun exiting Turn 2, but blamed his crash into the inside wall's water barrels on driver error instead of bumps. Dale Earnhardt Jr . wasn't far behind Harvick in fourth place in opening practice, but his review initially was less favorable. Even then, Earnhardt said he felt Igdalsky and the Pocono track management had a handle on the situation. "I think everything is going to work out," Earnhardt said. "I would be worried had they not been aware of it and not had any interest in fixing it. Brandon does a great job with this place. I've gotten to know him really well over the last couple of years. He listens to the drivers, the series officials and really takes what everybody has to say to heart. He just wants to have a good facility people enjoy coming to whether you are a driver or a fan or what have you. "I'm happy that they are going to tune on it. Whatever they do, anything to improve it. I just think over time another hard winter and it is just going to be a little bit too much." Among those surprised by the abrupt development in the track surface was Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon , who offered hope that the coarse nature of Turn 2 might produce an intriguing 400-miler here Sunday. "It's extremely rough," Gordon said. "It's going to make it an interesting race, for sure. It seems like at speed, you can get through there and get over pretty good. It gets your attention, but if you were inside of a car or something like that, it's really going to get your attention. We'll maybe see what we can do to address that when we leave here if there is something that can be done because it did catch a lot of us by surprise. But I don't know. It might make for a great race and add some unique challenge that we weren't expecting." WATCH: Denny Hamlin spin ends Cup qualifying early FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hendrick driver upbeat despite not pulling off third straight win at Pocono RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . came to Pocono Raceway looking to join the select company of Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond as the only drivers to win three straight races at the Tricky Triangle. And while that didn't happen for the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet, his reaction on pit road after the Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 wouldn't have given away an 11th-place finish. "I had so much fun today," Earnhardt said after the race, his first result outside the top 10 at Pocono in his last five starts at the 2.5-mile track. "My car was awesome, we were passing five, 10 cars on restarts, having a blast." Earnhardt started the race 20th and by Lap 20, found himself in the top 10. On Lap 75, he was running in second place and looked to be making his way toward the lead. He would spend a good amount of the next 50 circuits in the top five before restarting sixth on Lap 126. On that restart, Earnhardt made contact with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne , resulting in some left-rear quarter-panel damage on the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy. Junior went from sixth to 12th in a short span before pitting under the next caution on Lap 131. He explained what happened after the race. "I can't visually picture what exactly I saw coming off of Turn 2, but I thought I was up on the quarter-panel of the 2 ( Brad Keselowski )," Earnhardt said. "I knew the 5 (Kahne) was down there, and I thought the 2 yanked off the wall as if he had almost hit the fence or something. He sort of yanked the car to the left, and I saw that and moved and hit the 5. Tore the left side of my car up. I'm sorry whatever it did to Kasey. I'm sure it didn't help him being run into like that." Junior restarted in 28th on Lap 134 and in two green flag laps had moved up to 17th before another caution came out. He was able to do something similar on the next restart on Lap 140, moving up to 11th before the last caution of the day occurred. From there, he couldn't work his way into the top 10 over the final green flag run of 16 laps, despite recording the most green flag passes (83) and second-most quality passes (41) on the day, according to NASCAR loop data. "I'm racing hard. It's so hard to pass here. You got to take every position you can and when you get a position on a guy, when you can get to his quarter-panel and draft, you got to go." Earnhardt also didn't think the team's pit stall did them any favors, a result from their worst starting spot since the April race at Richmond International Raceway . The 88 team had stall No. 12, which was right in the middle of the first block of 24 stalls on pit road at Pocono . "We had a really bad pit stall behind the 4," Earnhardt said. "They had to pick last because of their penalty and ended up forced into the stall behind us. So we had to come around him all day and the 16 come around us all day. So we're terrible getting in our stall, losing several spots because of that. And that cost us a lot." Still, on a day where he could have been disappointed by his showing and seeing Hendrick's five-race winning streak at Pocono end, the sport's most popular driver remained very upbeat. "We had a good enough car to run in the top three. Probably not win the race, but I had a blast." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Carl Edwards starts on front row in Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 RELATED: Starting lineup LONG POND, Pa. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying can be fraught with twists, turns and unexpected bumps in the road. Friday's qualifying session at Pocono Raceway , which saw Kurt Busch capture the Coors Light Pole for Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 had them all. Throughout the day, Turn 2 -- the Tunnel Turn -- had been a major topic of concern. "There are grocery store parking lots around the country that are jealous of those three bumps that have developed there," said Busch, speculating that an offseason beautification project with water feature, enhancing the exterior tunnel entry, somehow created the lumpy racing surface. "To me, if they could just go ahead and take some bumps like that and put them over in the other corners too, it would be even better," said Carl Edwards . "It adds something. As long as it's not breaking parts, I believe it gives us an opportunity to setup passes." Ultimately, the issue with the bumpy track took a back seat when Denny Hamlin spun in Turn 1 in the final minute of qualifying, halting the session with 39 seconds remaining and preventing himself and four other drivers from posting a time in the final round. "It really is a bizarre set of circumstances," said Jimmie Johnson , a winner of four races this season but one of the drivers left in the qualifying cold. "It's just unfortunate (for) the guys that were on the track. But as long as NASCAR is consistent (with the rule) through all three series, then we will take our medicine and just deal with it. We (start) ninth. That is the best we've been in a while. Joey Logano , the last driver not from Hendrick Motorsports to win at Pocono , was not so forgiving. Logano said he already had a ‘headache' thanks to the bumps -- and that was before his lap in progress was negated by Hamlin's spin. "A car spins out and they throw a red flag for it and then you don't get an opportunity to go out and make a lap," Logano said. "I don't understand it. It makes me mad. I don't get it. We didn't even have a chance to try to put our car up front." Busch suggested that Pocono Raceway attempt to grind the bumps prior to Sunday's race. Earnhardt was encouraged that Pocono Raceway CEO Brandon Igdalsky was not only aware of the situation, but planning to take action before the Sprint Cup Series returns in late July. "I feel like they understand that while we can probably get through this weekend with what's back there right now, it's probably not in their best interest to leave it as-is," Earnhardt said. "It will continue to get worse and I don't think that we can get our race cars through there if it gets much worse than it is." Carl Edwards finished second in qualifying. "My plan with Denny ( Joe Gibbs Racing teammate) almost worked out," Edwards joked. "But he didn't spin early enough to keep Kurt from catching me." Martin Truex Jr . qualified third in the Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, unaware that the session had been cut short but well aware of the challenges in Turn 2. "It's wild," he said. "The first time through there, I thought either our car was way off or there's something wrong with the race track. The bumps are 10 times bigger than they were last year, which is crazy. You're going across bumps that are 8-10 inches tall and, literally, the tires are coming off the ground." Jeff Gordon qualified fourth and series leader Kevin Harvick , who posted the fastest lap in each of the first two qualifying sessions, was fifth. Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne were the other drivers who were burned by Hamlin's spin, having waited too long to attempt a lap in the five-minute session. Kurt Busch noted during practice that he was losing speed in Turns 1 and 3 and elected to focus on the vast majority of the course, not the troubles in Turn 2. His team also overcame a "wrong gear ratio in the transmission in third gear." "There was so much disconnect when we first got here," said Busch, whose third pole of the season was the 19th of his career. "We had to drop back, reboot with (crew chief) Tony Gibson, (engineer) Johnny Klausmeier, the whole gang. Today was a big group-bonding day and a strength-building day on what this No. 41 team can do together." With 43 race entries, all drivers qualified for Sunday's race. Tony Stewart , mired in 28th in the point standings, was forced to a backup car after a crash coming out of the Tunnel Turn in the 36th minute of Friday's practice session. Stewart was 28th in the first round of qualifying and failed to advance. "Driver error," said Stewart, who has managed just one top-10 finish this season. "I was already past the bump. I got loose on the exit (of the turn) and couldn't catch it."
Second-year driver will start sixth in Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 LONG POND, Pa. -- Halfway through the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, Austin Dillon admits the results aren't where the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team wants them in his second season in the sport's top series. "It'd be like a C-minus on our finishes," Dillon told NASCAR.com at Pocono Raceway , site of Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). "As far as on speed compared to last year, we're better. We haven't had the finishes that we want. I think my driving style is fine. We just could be better on the last couple restarts. Our points aren't there because of motor issues and failures. Hopefully, we can get rid of some of those failures." Those issues Dillon speaks of are an electrical problem in March at Martinsville that led to a 41st-place finish and an engine failure in May at Talladega that resulted in a 35th-place finish. "I think we'd be in the top 14, 13 in points if you take away two engine failures, a blown tire in Atlanta. A couple of different things that didn't go our way that we could have back would really benefit where we should be." One of the hallmarks of his rookie campaign was Dillon's ability to log laps and stay on track. In 2014, he missed logging only 53 laps of the 10,541 circuits. Keeping his car clean and out of trouble had him 15th in points this time last year. This season, he has already been off track for 259 laps of the 4,321 laps run in large part due to engine woes he simply didn't have last year. Dillon comes into Sunday's race at Pocono 24th in the points standings with one top-10 finish (a 10th-place result at Bristol). With the exception of a 16th-place showing last month at Charlotte, Dillon has finished outside the top 20 in four of the past five races. On the plus side, Dillon's average starting spot is 17.2 (counting Pocono ), an improvement from the 19.9 mark he averaged last season. That mark was further improved as Dillon backed up his fifth-fastest time in Friday's opening practice (176.561 mph), with a fast lap of 176.526 mph in the final round of qualifying. He will start Sunday's race sixth. This is his third straight start in the top 12 and his best starting spot in 2015. The two-time national series champion (2011 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 2013 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series) has been spending some time in the XFINITY ranks, running the No. 33 Chevrolet for RCR. Dillon has scored two wins (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and Charlotte Motor Speedway in May) and seven top fives in 10 starts in that series. The 25-year-old sees great value in the prepaation the extra seat time allows him. "It's definitely been more beneficial having the laps (in XFINITY ) on Saturdays to be prepared for Sundays, the start of the race especially," Dillon said. "We take off a lot better knowing what the track is going to do. We have two wins in the XFINITY cars, so the confidence has been really high. It's been great to have the XFINITY car." Dillon's two Sprint Cup starts at Pocono produced an average finish of 16.0 and starting positions of 11th in both races. But the driver is ready for what the Tricky Triangle has to offer and has a Camping World Truck Series win (in 2014) at the 2.5-mile track to boot. "Last year, both (Cup) races were pretty solid for us. We had one stint where we were really fast in the race last year and we took a similar package here. "Track position's always big. And if we can keep that, that would be beneficial." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule