I, for one, was surprised.
Pocono certainly has had its exciting moments in the past, but the last 50 or so laps of the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 turned out to be some of the best racing I can remember ever seeing at Pocono.
The fight of which I speak in the title was between David Stremme and Robby Gordon. Both drivers ended up wrecking each other to some extent, and NASCAR gave each of them a 5 lap time out. At that point in the race, I figured that was probably the most exciting thing I would see in the entire 500 mile race.
I was wrong.
Watching Jimmie Johnson overcome a 3 lap deficit to finish 13th on the lead lap, after changing plug wires, carburetor, and spark plugs on pit road was quite a site to see. Denny Hamlin's spectacular, if somewhat foolhardy dash to the front was also exciting to watch. Seeing a very emotional Hamlin emerge from his car in victory lane only 2 days after his grandmother's death provided more than enough drama for me.
Losing a family is tough for anyone, and though I'm not a Denny Hamlin fan, my heart goes out to Denny and his entire family.
Watching Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s free fall through the field in the closing laps was also heart breaking. After managing to work his way into the top 10 near the end, he was bumped by Ryan Newman, causing him to collide with the wall. Dale Jr. stayed out, but obviously had some tire problems and dropped from 10th to finish in 28th place. Unfortunately, the Earnhardt Nation will have to wait yet another week for tangible evidence of the 88 team's improved performance. The communication between Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Lance McGrew seems to be an improvement over what transpired earlier this year between Dale Jr. and Tony Eury Jr., and the team has been building some new cars, but the finishes have been nothing short of dismal. A blown engine here, a bump into the wall there, and that's all it takes to put a top 5 car into 20 somethingth place.
As frustrating as a rain marred race weekend at Pocono can be, the racing itself was exciting on Monday. In years past, I've often been one of those who wonders why Pocono has 2 race dates on the NASCAR schedule.
If all Pocono races were like the one we watched on Monday, I'd be all for keeping 2 dates at the track.
I wouldn't mind if they shortened the races to 400 miles though.