*THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER*
*Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
*August 6th, 2012
Volume VI, Edition CLIII**
**BREAKING NEWS: Lightning Leads to Tragedy at Pocono
**by Tom Bowles
*NASCAR Nation is in mourning this Monday after losing one of their own, a
race fan during a series of storms that turned tragic. As severe weather
swept through Pocono Raceway, shortly after the race was called a
41-year-old man was killed and nine injured as a series of lightning
strikes hit near Gate 11 (*Note: A facility map can be seen
*) behind the grandstands (four remained in area hospitals, one critical at
press time). In a heartbeat, the smiles surrounding getting the race in on
Sunday were replaced by sadness, confusion and concern as everyone tried to
figure out what went wrong.
"I'm pretty sure I know which one it was," said winner Jeff Gordon. "We
were walking down pit road, the umbrellas weren't doing any good, there was
a huge, huge crack from lightning. You can tell it was very close. I mean,
that's the thing that's going to take away from the victory, is the fact
that somebody was affected by that."
NASCAR, for its part immediately expressed compassion and concern over the
incidents, which were centered around the parking lot area behind Turn 3.
According to witnesses, several strikes occurred, the most serious
affecting the deceased man and two others who were around and/or inside a
car at the time of the incident.
"We are deeply saddened that a fan has died and others were injured by
lightning strikes following today’s race at Pocono,” said NASCAR spokesman
David Higdon. "Our thoughts are with them as well as all those affected by
this unfortunate accident."
"A member of our raceway family here, a fan, has passed away,” added track
President Brandon Igdalsky. "On behalf of myself, the entire family and
everybody here, (we offer) a really heartfelt (sympathy) that this
The death erased happy faces on Pocono's staff - several were
understandably shaken by the news - after a year's worth of breathtaking
improvements both in and around this 2.5-mile facility. Profits and
attendance were also noticeably up for a speedway that has made its
mission, under new Track President Brandon Igdalsky to cater to the fan.
In just 18 months everything from repaving the facility, to shortening the
race distance and adding a variety of amenities have been met with almost
universal positive reaction.
Now, they're grieving as everyone involves in the sport digests the short
timeline of events. According to the National Weather Service, a severe
thunderstorm warning was issued at 4:12 for the Speedway, with the heart of
the storm expected to arrive at 4:50. Racing stopped shortly after 4:40,
giving fans who watched from beginning to end less than ten minutes to run
NASCAR, in response to the incident made clear they would stop competition
immediately if they felt any weather posed a physical threat to fans. NASCAR
Spokesman Kerry Tharp told the Sporting
cars were out there until the track was completely soaked in order to
keep heat in the asphalt, officials hoping the storm would pass and fans
would get to see more racing. The track also clearly issued warnings,
several times and loud enough for all to hear as fans were urged to run for
Several drivers tweeted their prayers and support to the families affected
by the incident. Brad Keselowski, Jeff Burton, and Jimmie Johnson were
among those most vocal on Twitter, along with Kasey Kahne. "Thoughts and
prayers to the friends and family who were struck by lightning after
today's race," Kahne said, echoing the thoughts shared by many NASCAR
stars. "Very sad."*
*Have news for The Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us
at phil.alla...@frontstretch.com with a promising lead or tip.*
*Sprint Cup Race Recap: Johnson’s Bobble Brings Gordon Unlikely Pocono
**by Tom Bowles**
Jimmie Johnson, for much of the day at Pocono looked primed for a second
straight victory. Jeff Gordon? He looked happy to simply finish fifth in
a year where bad luck has ruined too many strong performances.
But during a wacky ending at the Tricky Triangle, the field was reminded
luck doesn’t always tilt Johnson’s way. A late caution bunched up the
field, erasing a three-second lead for Johnson and setting up a series of
circumstances that handed Gordon a surprise victory at Pocono. Battling
for fifth on a restart, Lap 91 of the 160-lap scheduled distance the No. 24
car darted out front when Johnson, of all people entered Turn 1 with a
right-rear tire and flat lost it.
“When I was cooling my tires down through the tunnel coming to the green I
noticed that something didn’t feel right,” Johnson said. “I kept trying to
clean the tires off and it got a little better so I just assumed I had
trash on my tires, but when I got down into Turn 1, I realized that I had a
right-rear (tire) flat. Unfortunate that we lost the lead there and we got
a couple of cars in the process.”
That wreck included Matt Kenseth, on the outside of the front row for the
restart along with Denny Hamlin. As others behind slowed up, Gordon saw
the opening needed to move ahead; a slip to the inside was all she wrote as
the No. 24 Chevrolet darted up front just before a raging downpour brought
Pocono to a screeching halt. With just 98 of 160 laps complete, the race
was official and suddenly, Gordon’s evasive move proved the tipping point
in turning his car towards Victory Lane.
“I actually got a better (restart) than I anticipated, and it looked like
Kasey maybe didn't get quite as good a one,” he said. “When I saw that
opening to get to that inside, I was taking it. I was pretty happy at that
moment because I thought if I get down at the bottom, we got a shot at
getting another one of the guys that's in the outside lane, if not two.
So, little did I know what was going to happen.”
Gordon’s surge left Kasey Kahne sitting second, also breathing a sigh of
relief at the race’s early ending. A flat tire would have forced the No. 5
Chevrolet down pit road if the race went back to green. Martin Truex, Jr.
wound up third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart as the final
results were all jumbled up by a wreck other drivers thought might have
“We went off into one and I could hear his pipes,” said Matt Kenseth. “I
wasn’t sure he had lifted yet. He drove in really, really far and spun out
underneath me and I got wrecked. I don’t think he had a flat, did he? I
don’t think so.”
“Jimmie got loose, him racing,” added Gordon, whose teammate’s loss was
clearly his gain. “I don’t think it was bad luck on Jimmie’s part. The
car got loose. I don’t think it was good luck on our part. We were in the
right place at the right time.”
Gordon’s victory puts all four Hendrick cars in the Chase, as of now for
the first time all season. A goal for the car owner prior to the season,
his teams are working hard to make it happen; they’ve now won seven of the
past eleven points-paying events.
Just three cautions for 14 laps slowed the race, run quickly in one hour,
45 minutes after starting the day with a nearly two-hour delay for rain.
Only two cautions for the Busch brothers – one for Kyle, which served as a
competition yellow and one for Kurt – slowed the race pace before Mother
Nature took over. The long green-flag runs hurt those that missed the
setup, like polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya (who faded to 20th); a small
number of stops meant limited adjustments and an inability to dial in the
car on Pocono’s new pavement.
Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Regan Smith, and Marcos Ambrose
rounded out the top-10 finishers. The race was run in front of a strong
crowd of 85,000.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series returns to action at Watkins Glen
International for the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen. Coverage starts at
Noon Sunday on ESPN with race coverage beginning at 1:00pm EDT.
*Tom Bowles is the Editor-in-Chief of Frontstretch. He can be reached via
e-mail at tom.bow...@frontstretch.com. Follow him on Twitter at
*Chasing the Chase: Earnhardt Back In The Points Lead
**by Tom Bowles*
Despite an awful afternoon, pulling in the garage for transmission
problems, *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* still emerged from Sunday’s soaker at
Pocono with the points lead. However, its been cut to just five over good
friend *Matt Kenseth*, who would have easily emerged with the top spot
without that late-race wreck while battling up front. Instead of a
first-place finish, seemingly within reach with the right move, a
disappointing 23rd kept him from closing the gap completely.
In third was *Greg Biffle*, involved in that late incident to keep him six
points off the pace. The Biff felt the scoring was botched down the
stretch, though as he believed the No. 16 Ford reached “caution speed”
before several of the lead lap cars placed ahead of him drove past. One
spot behind in fourth, despite that crash was *Jimmie Johnson*. That could
change, however once NASCAR’s official results are announced this Monday;
Richard Childress, among others was vocal the No. 48 should have been
placed at the back of the lead lap instead of being credited with 14th. *
Martin Truex, Jr., *after a surprising third now sits fifth in the
standings. Its the best result for the NAPA Toyota in a Cup race since his
second-place, oh-so-close brush with Victory Lane at Kansas.* Tony
Stewart*sits sixth, followed by
*Brad Keselowski* in seventh; their top-5 performances erased what little
doubt remained about each driver making the field on points. *Denny Hamlin*,
involved in the wreck, *Kevin Harvick* (who’s car was a wreck – he wound up
16th after an order revision by NASCAR) and *Clint Bowyer*, Pocono’s
eighth-place finisher round out your top-10 in points.*
*How big a cushion do they have? With five races left, Bowyer’s got a
57-point edge on 11th-place *Kasey Kahne*. Harvick, at greater risk due to
his “goose egg” in the win column, sits 59 points ahead of Kahne and 60
ahead of *Carl Edwards*. *Jeff Gordon*, now tied for 13th is 70 points
back of Harvick and would need some sort of DNF from the No. 29 team (or
No. 15) to truly challenge.*
*Kahne and Gordon are smiling this Monday, though because their finishes
put them in position to make the postseason. Kahne, with two victories in
hand is solidly placed in the first “wild card” slot while Gordon’s
victory, in an unlikely scenario places him as the second. Gordon and *Ryan
Newman* are tied, 133 points behind Earnhardt but Gordon has a higher
number of fifth-place finishes to break it under NASCAR’s rule system. *Kyle
Busch*, whose brake problems left him with a lengthy stint inside the
garage now sits 12 points outside the postseason.*
Standings: 1) *Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 744,* 2) *Matt Kenseth -5,* 3) *Greg
Biffle -6,* 4) *Jimmie Johnson -8,* 5) *Martin Truex, Jr. -50,* 6) *Tony
Stewart -53,* 7) *Brad Keselowski -54,* 8) *Denny* *Hamlin -61,* 9) *Kevin
Harvick -63,* 10) *Clint Bowyer -65. *
Chase "Wild Cards:" *Kasey Kahne 11th in points, 2 wins; Jeff Gordon 13th
in points, 1 win. *
On The Outside Looking In: *Ryan Newman, 1 win, -0, loses tiebreaker with
Gordon; Kyle Busch, 1 win, -12 behind Gordon; Joey Logano, 1 win, -36
Race Winners: *Matt Kenseth (Daytona 500), Denny Hamlin (Phoenix, Kansas),
Tony Stewart (Las Vegas, Fontana, Daytona-2), Brad Keselowski (Bristol,
Talladega, Kentucky), Ryan Newman (Martinsville), Greg Biffle (Texas), Kyle
Busch (Richmond), Jimmie Johnson (Darlington, Dover, Indianapolis), Kasey
Kahne (Charlotte, New Hampshire), Joey Logano (Pocono-1), Dale Earnhardt,
Jr. (Michigan), Clint Bowyer (Sonoma), Jeff Gordon (Pocono-2).*
Tracking The Top 35: Start And Parks Rule The Roost
*For those on the back end of NASCAR’s top 35, “locked-in” positions for
some led to the luxury of starting-and-parking at Pocono. With 36th-place
Stephen Leicht, running the No. 33 Chevrolet for Joe Falk failing to
qualify that left Tommy Baldwin Racing with an easy decision to park their
No. 36 Chevrolet a little early. Tony Raines, who pulled the car inside
the garage wasn’t alone in his decision to call it a day; in all, ten cars
were out by Lap 43 in the biggest contingent of start-and-park efforts this
season. Even Casey Mears, sponsored by GEICO in most events and 28th in
owner points didn’t have the funding to go the distance.
Leicht’s DNQ leaves the margin now a seemingly insurmountable 92 points
with fifteen races left. So with those “locked-in” spots all but assured,
don’t be surprised if this rash of parking, not persevering keeps
continuing for the foreseeable future.
*Here's your owners point standings around the all-important cutoff...*
*29)* Front Row Motorsports (No. 34 - David Ragan), 171 points ahead of
*30)* Front Row Motorsports (No. 38 - David Gilliland), 168 points ahead of
*31)* BK Racing (No. 93 – Travis Kvapil), 167 points ahead of 36th.
*32)* BK Racing (No. 83 - Landon Cassill), 128 points ahead of 36th.
*33)* Tommy Baldwin Racing/Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 10 – David Reutimann),
122 points ahead of 36th.
*34)* FAS Lane Racing (No. 32 – Jason White), 111 points ahead of 36th.
*35)* Tommy Baldwin Racing (No. 36 – Tony Raines), 92 points ahead of 36th.
*36)* Richard Childress Racing/LJ Racing (No. 33 – Stephen Leicht), 92
points behind 35th.
*37)* Wood Brothers Racing (No. 21 - Trevor Bayne), 114 points behind 35th.
*38)* Inception Motorsports (No. 30 – David Stremme), 120 points behind
*39)* Robinson-Blakeney Racing (No. 49 – not entered at Pocono), 153 points
*40)* Front Row Motorsports (No. 26 - Josh Wise), 159 points behind 35th.
*41)* Phil Parsons Racing (No. 98 – Mike Skinner), 174 points behind 35th.
**Tom Bowles is the Editor-in-Chief of Frontstretch. He can be reached via
e-mail at tom.bow...@frontstretch.com. Follow him on Twitter at
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*Secret Star Of The Race: The Best Run You Never Saw *
Clearly, for *Regan Smith*, building upon his breakthrough 2011 season with
Furniture Row Racing hasn’t gone as planned. After a rough first half of
2012, with only two laps led and no top-10 finishes, the Chase isn’t on the
radar; instead, it’s all about building momentum for 2013. A crew chief
change, with Todd Berrier replacing Pete Rondeau pre-Indy was designed to
shake things up and bring back the swagger this single-car team once had in
pulling off some unlikely finishes and compelling upsets – the best of
which was a Southern 500 victory for the ages in May, 2011.
So far, so good it seems for the new Berrier-Smith combo. Indianapolis was
a top-10 finish just missed after contact with Brad Keselowski hurt the
aerodynamics of the No. 78 Chevy while battling for the lead. Then, on
Sunday Smith was brilliant at Pocono, staying consistent after starting
11th in putting together his best performance of the season. *Ninth at the
checkered flag*, the rain couldn’t stop this driver from cracking a smile
over what was clearly a building block for the future.
“We had a good car this weekend and it got even better as the race went
on,” he said in registering the season’s first top-10 finish. “Its a great
feeling in our Furniture Row camp to have the kind of performances we've
had the past two weekends with our No. 78 Chevrolet. Todd (Berrier, crew
chief) has done a great job in a short time. He's made the transition real
easy for everyone. Its like I've been working with him for a long time.
We're moving along with plenty of enthusiasm right now and feel that we're
in the process of turning things around."
Watkins Glen might not tell the tale, as Smith isn’t the most accomplished
road racer. But as we head towards the Fall, it looks like the focus has
returned to an organization that once again has designs of running up
front. - *Tom Bowles*
*STAT OF THE WEEK: 5,648*. That’s the number of laps run this season, plus
the number Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had completed before the streak was ended
this Sunday at Pocono. Transmission problems relegated Junior to 32nd, 18
laps behind as he no longer has completed every mile on the Cup Series
circuit. Bad luck at the right time? Some might say better now than the
Chase, as only time will tell how much this result will halt the No. 88’s
momentum, if at all.* - **Tom Bowles**
*Quotes To Remember: Pennsylvania 400
**Note: This week, we're doing this a little differently. Instead of
quotes about the race, we're going to run quotes and Tweets about the
lightning strike and aftermath.*
"A member of our raceway family here, a fan, has passed away. On behalf of
myself, the entire family and everybody here, (we offer) a really heartfelt
(sympathy) that this happened." - *Pocono Raceway President Brandon Igdalsky
"We are deeply saddened that a fan has died and others were injured by
lightning strikes following today’s race at Pocono. Our thoughts are with
them as well as all those affected by this unfortunate accident." - *NASCAR's
Official Statement on the tragedy as said by Spokesman David Higdon*
"You really begin to rethink life once you see 10 people get struck by
lightning right in front of you. You see your life flash before your
eyes." - *Patricia Westfall (@p_west97 <http://twitter.com/@p_west97>),
witnessed lightning strike behind grandstands*
"Me and my friend just ran into our truck during all the nasty weather.
The visibility was very poor and all of a sudden (I) saw a bolt of
lightning right in front of our windshield. When it became a little more
visible, we saw two bodies next to a destroyed tent with people
scrambling." - *Kyle Manger, to Sporting News' Bob
"I'm pretty sure I know which one it was. We were walking down pit road,
the umbrellas weren't doing any good, there was a huge, , huge crack from
lightning. You can tell it was very close. I mean, that's the thing that's
going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected
by that." - *Jeff Gordon*
"Super long day. Blessed to be home safely. Thinking of those hurt at
Pocono. Good night, Team." - *ESPN's Marty Smith*
"Headed to bed and thinking about the fan that lost their life today. Hope
we all can do something to honor them next race in Pocono." - *David Ragan
"This is a tragic and very avoidable incident. We all knew for hours a huge
storm was coming. I'm so sad about this." - *Jeff Gluck*
"I cant believe the news about the fans struck by lightening. I will be
praying for all of those involved." - *Jamie McMurray*
"I want to throw up after reading the days of today's tragic death [at
Pocono Raceway]. How terribly, terribly sad... my condolences to the
family. " - *Brad Keselowski
"*Thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of the fan who was struck
by lightning after today's race. very sad." - *Kasey Kahne*
"Tough day today but means nothing when I think about the fans hurt and
killed. My thoughts are with the families. So very sad.
"Just heard about the fans struck by lightning at Pocono. Our thoughts and
prayers to all involved and their families.
- *Juan Pablo Montoya*
"Just got home and heard the news of the fans struck by lighting. My heart
goes out to them and their friends and family. Life's fragile." - *Aric
"I just got home and found out about the tragic loss we had today at
Pocono. I am so sorry for the family's that we're involved." - *Mark Martin*
*Are you looking to advertise your website, product or brand? A good way
to get your name out there is via direct advertising here in the
Frontstretch Newsletter! Interested parties can contact us at
tony.lum...@frontstretch.com for details.
*TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:*
*Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Pocono-2 Race
**by Matt McLaughlin
<goog_484090409>**Pace Laps: Pocono Tragedy, A Tiff in Trucks, and The End
For a Short Track? <http://www.frontstretch.com/article/40914/>
**by the Frontstretch Staff
**Mistake and Failure Prone, Hendrick Motorsports Still Conquers
**by Bryan Davis Keith
**Tragedy Overshadows All For NASCAR At
**by Tom Bowles
**The Big Six: Questions Answered After The Pennsylvania
**by Amy Henderson
<goog_484090421>**IndyCar Mid-Ohio Recap: Caution Free Once
**by Matt Stallknecht*
Q:* The 1993 Bud at the Glen is best known for Mark Martin coming back from
a couple of horrible pit stops to win his first career road race. However,
Rick Mast had a huge crash early in the event. What happened?
*Check back Monday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!*
*Q:* These days, Pocono Raceway is actually a pretty good track for Dale
Earnhardt, Jr. Not so much in the past. You might remember his first lap
crash with teammate Steve Park there in 2002. The 2006 Pennsylvania 500 was
another miserable day for Earnhardt, Jr. What happened?
**A:* *On Lap 88, Earnhardt, Jr. was the recipient of what appeared to be a
bad bump draft on the Long Pond Straightaway from Dave Blaney. The contact
turned Earnhardt, Jr.'s Budweiser Chevrolet into the outside wall**.
Earnhardt, Jr. tried to recover, but the car then turned right and hit the
wall head-on before stopping in the middle of the track. The crash can be
seen in this clip <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9t8rvKKl2M>. DEI took
the car into the garage and made repairs, eventually resuming. However, a
lack of attrition made it impossible for Earnhardt, Jr. to gain any
positions. As a result, the team parked the car for the day after
completing 115 laps. Earnhardt, Jr. was credited with a 43rd-place finish.
**Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee:* Take the shirt off our backs! If we've
provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the
first to email the corrected trivia answer to tri...@frontstretch.com and
we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... *FREE*!
*Coming Monday in the Frontstretch Newsletter:*
-- *Top News **by Tom Bowles*
-- *Fan's View Commentary* *by S.D. Grady*
-- *This Week's Topic: What If... An Earnhardt Really Did Rule The NASCAR
**-- **Numbers Game: Brickyard 400 **by Garrett Horton*
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
*Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:*
*Who's Hot / Who's Not in Sprint Cup by StarCoach Race Tours:
Pocono/Watkins Glen Edition* *by Brett Poirier
*With just five races left until the Chase, Brett takes a look at which
drivers are in perfect position to make the field... and which ones are
already taking a look ahead towards 2013.
*Five Points To Ponder* *by Bryan Davis Keith
*Bryan has his weekly edition of talking points to wrap up Pocono of the
season and get us ready for Watkins Glen.
*Couch Potato Tuesday* *by Phil Allaway
*The Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series were both in action at
Pocono Raceway this past weekend. In addition, the Nationwide Series was
in action at Iowa Speedway. Were these race telecasts up to snuff? Find
out in this week's TV Critique.
*Tech Talk **by Mike Neff*
This year, we have an interesting new weekly feature for our readers where
we'll have a special guest stop by on a weekly basis to discuss the
technical aspects of our sport.
*The Yellow Stripe* *by TBA*
Danny is out this week, but we'll have another interesting commentary,
*Talk back to the Frontstretch Newsletter!**
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