The first of two Pocono races for 2014 can best be chalked up as a bad luck kind of day for the Ford Racing contingent as Brad Keselowski, poised for his second win of the season with under 10 laps to go settled for second after a large piece of debris covered his grille, allowing Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make a pass for the win.
Kurt Busch came home third while pole-sitter Denny Hamlin was fourth and rookie Kyle Larson fifth.
Keselowski, who led a race-high 95 laps on the day, tried to make a move to duck behind Danica Patrick in lap traffic with four laps remaining, only to check up too much, allowing the 88 to pass on the inside and claim his second win of the season.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the next highest finishing Ford in 15th place while teammate Greg Biffle was right behind in 16th, giving Ford three Fusions in the top-20.
Final results were not indicative of how well the Blue Oval crew ran for most of the day, however, as both Carl Edwards and Joey Logano, suffered incidents that knocked them from the race while running in the top-10.
Edwards was the first to find trouble, getting caught up in an incident with 17 to go after the 5 of Kasey Kahne hit the wall and collected Edwards in the mess. The damage proved to be too much for the 99 crew to be able to fix in time to return to the track, contributing to a 41st place finish.
“I saw Kasey hit the wall really hard and I tried to avoid it but there was oil all over the track and I plowed into the back of him,” Edwards said. “Everyone did a good job of missing me but man Kasey hit hard. I hope he is alright.”
The trouble was not over, however, as just a few laps later on the restart, Joey Logano ran into trouble of his own, this time it was under the hood.
“I’ve never had that happen under caution before,” Logano said. “I swerved my tires getting ready to go and we were rolling around turn three to take the green and all of a sudden it started sounding weird and we lost some power somewhere and lost oil pressure once I noticed it was done. I didn’t want to lay any oil out on the track and ruin Brad’s chances for a win there. Unfortunately we didn’t get to have any fun there at the end because I feel like we could easily have had both our cars in to the top-five there.”
It wasn’t all bad news however, as David Ragan powered his No. 34 Taco Bell Ford to an 18th place effort, the top finish for Front Row Motorsports this season.
“That was fun to be racing up there with those guys,” Ragan said. “Our Taco Bell Ford was pretty decent today. Jay (Guy) made some good calls on adjustments to help make it better where we needed it, and the pit crew did a good job on pit road, too. Obviously it’s been a tough year for us, so hopefully this can be a turning point for our Front Row Motorsports team.”
The series now heads to the manufacturer’s backyard, Michigan International Speedway, where Ford has enjoyed great success over the years, including sweeping both races in 2013 with wins by Greg Biffle and Joey Logano.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Kurt Busch
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kyle Larson
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Ryan Newman
8. Jeff Gordon
9. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Jamie McMurray
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
16. Greg Biffle
18. David Ragan
22. Aric Almirola
24. Marcos Ambrose
28. David Gilliland
40. Joey Logano
41. Carl Edwards
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale Ford Fusion | FINISHED 2nd (PIT ROAD INTERVIEW)
WHAT HAPPENED THERE AT THE END WITH THE TRASH ON THE GRILLE AND DOWN IN TURN ONE? “You know, we were just running really hot and the motor was going to blow up so I had to do something so I tried to follow the 10 down in the corner to get the debris off and I just checked up too much. I thought I had more room than I did. The team did a heck of a job, I just messed up a little bit there. We had a really, really good car. It was really a flawless day other than my mess-up there.” WITHOUT THE DEBRIS DOES THIS TURN OUT DIFFERENT? “Well, you would think so but you never know. That is part of the fun of it and the challenge of racing right? We did what we could but it wasn’t going to make it. I thought I had a shot to clean it off and when the 10 car made the aggressive move I just got behind and lost my momentum and Dale did a good job of taking advantage of it.” HOW HOT WAS IT GETTING? “Hot enough.” WAS IT GOING TO BLOW UP? “Oh yeah, we weren’t going to make it. It was already starting to. It is just one of those deals.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion | FINISHED 40th
WHAT HAPPENED THERE? “I’ve never had that happen under caution before. I swerved my tires getting ready to go and we were rolling around turn three to take the green and all of a sudden it started sounding weird and we lost some power somewhere and lost oil pressure once I noticed it was done. I didn’t want to lay any oil out on the track and ruin Brad’s chances for a win there. Unfortunately we didn’t get to have any fun there at the end because I feel like we could easily have had both our cars in to the top-five there.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Zest Ford Fusion | FINISHED 15th – “We had to fight all day. The Zest Fusion was really good at times. Balance wise I thought we were close, as close as we have been in a few weeks as far as getting the good balance – comfortable fast balance. That was a positive. We got some good restarts there and I think we got a little too tight for the race today from practice but all in all we fixed my rear grip issue that I had in practice and just got a little too tight. There is still a lot of work to do but it was definitely a solid day for us and we will just try to carry that on into Michigan.”
DAVID RAGAN, No. 34 Taco Bell Ford Fusion | FINISHED 18th – “That was fun to be racing up there with those guys. Our Taco Bell Ford was pretty decent today. Jay (Guy) made some good calls on adjustments to help make it better where we needed it, and the pit crew did a good job on pit road, too. Obviously it’s been a tough year for us, so hopefully this can be a turning point for our Front Row Motorsports team. Everybody works so hard to get better and sometimes we just have some bad luck or a broken part or something. So, it was nice to have things go in our favor today and do what we know we’re capable of doing.”
CARL EDWARDS, No. 99 Kelloggs/Cheez-It Ford Fusion | FINISHED 41st
WHAT HAPPENED? “I saw Kasey hit the wall really hard, I think it was Kasey in the 5 car and I tried to avoid it but there was oil all over the track and I plowed into the back of him. Everyone did a good job of missing me but man Kasey hit hard. I hope he is alright. We will go get some Cheez-Its now and go watch the end of the race I guess.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI RUNNER-UP PRESS CONFERENCE
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale Ford Fusion – “Well, first off, I am really proud of the speed we had today. The guys did a great job. I feel like this one is kind of on me and the circumstances. I was trying to do something to help my car out and I knew it was going to break and I was going to get passed so I was trying to make whatever move I could do to help clean it off, and I'm not sure I did enough to make a difference. I made enough of a difference to lose the lead in the process. I thought I had enough of a cushion, and when I got down in the corner and the car in front of me got sideways I realized I had made a mistake. But it was too little, too late, but still proud of the speed, good execution today on probably all ends but mine, and something to look forward to as we move forward and come back here in a month or so.”
BRAD, THE TRASH I GUESS DIDN'T BLOW OFF BUT YOUR ENGINE DIDN'T BLOW, SO WAS IT A MISTAKE NOT TO YIELD THE LEAD, OR DID DOING THAT KEEP IT FROM HAVING THE TRASH COME OFF? “I don't think it came off. I don't know. I haven't seen what it looked like before and after. Yeah, it was definitely a mistake because the engine made it, but it probably shouldn't have. It was one of those deals, I think I was going to get passed because I was really down on power down the straightaway. I don't know, I think so, but it's hard to say.”
HAD YOU NOT HAD THE WIN THIS SEASON WOULD YOU HAVE PLAYED THAT DIFFERENTLY? WOULD YOU HAVE STAYED OUT TO TRY TO GET YOUR FIRST WIN OF THE YEAR? “No, I ran it like I would have run it no matter what. It was going to break and I thought I had a shot to clean it off and not lose time, and I misjudged it.”
BRAD, DALE SAID THAT HE FELT LIKE YOU HAD THE BETTER CAR. IS THAT HOW YOU FEEL? “No, I thought we were pretty equal. I thought there were five or six cars that were really equal, the 4, the 14, the 41, the 88 and us. I thought it was kind of a lottery draw as to whoever had the lead in the clean air as far as who was going to win it, and just ‑‑ Dale once he got up front, he was probably a little better than I was with the clean air.”
THE NEW TURN 2, ANY PROBLEMS THERE, ANYBODY DO ANYTHING CRAZY? IT DIDN'T SEEM TO BE A FACTOR IN THE RACE. “Yeah, I thought it was great. I didn't see anything. I didn't think it was a major change other than if you got in a real jam you could still make it through the corner, but I thought it was great.”
HOW MUCH DID YOU KNOW ABOUT JOEY BREAKING DOWN THE STRETCH, DID THAT ENTER INTO YOUR HEAD MENTALLY AT ALL? “I just picked up on it looking at the monitor about 30 seconds at all. I didn't know anything.”
WITH DANICA AND HER SPEED, SHE ENDED UP GOING ON THE APRON AT THE TAIL END OF THE RACE BECAUSE SHE WAS HANDLING SO BAD, DID ANYTHING ABOUT HER SPEED SURPRISE YOU? “No, she just got in the corner and I could tell she was trying to let me go on the inside and I don't think she knew the situation I was in and I was trying to follow her, and I was trying to follow her towards the top side, and she just kept going higher and higher and higher until it sucked me in higher and higher. I just couldn't get out of the wake and lost my momentum. It's one of those things that happens.”
CAN YOU STRESS HOW IMPORTANT CLEAN AIR WAS FOR YOU TODAY? “It just was going to dictate who was going to win the race. That's part of racing. That's part of really all of racing, the aerodynamics taking over motorsports, and we've all kind of learned to live around it and it makes the restarts so critical. But it's just kind of part of the deal.”