Monday, January 22, 2018
Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishes Pocono sweep

LONG POND, Pa. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. traded hats, waited for his cue and flashed three fingers for the cameras.

That's one for every win.

This time in Victory Lane at the Gobowling.com 400, Earnhardt hoisted a broom high over his head after completing a season sweep at Pocono Raceway, the third win in a season that has served as a career renaissance for NASCAR's most popular driver.

Earnhardt now holds the No. 1 seed in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship.

Can he keep the momentum headed into NASCAR's playoffs?

"You're the broadcaster," Earnhardt teased crew chief Steve Letarte about that question.

"You don't," the departing Letarte said. "You're too far from the Chase."

The legion of Junior Nation fans roared when Earnhardt stormed into the lead with 14 laps left and again when he drove away off of a final restart with three laps. In addition to both Pocono races, he also won the Daytona 500 in February.

Earnhardt held off the hard-charging Kevin Harvick to become the first driver to sweep both Pocono races since Denny Hamlin in 2006.

His Twitter post last week when he landed in Pocono read: "Lookin for a broom."

Earnhardt also became the fifth straight Hendrick Motorsports driver to win at Pocono. Owner Rick Hendrick was not at the race, though he did talk to his winning driver on the phone on pit road.

"I told him thanks for believing in me and making my life better," Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt's sweep followed Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson last year and Jeff Gordon in the August 2012 race.

Earnhardt has his most wins since he won six times in 2004. His three wins are one shy of his combined total from 2005-13. His win Sunday was the 22nd of a career still without a Cup championship.

"We had a fast car all day," Earnhardt said. "Steve's strategy was perfect at the end. I don't know if anyone knew what was going on there, but it was pretty awesome."

Earnhardt said before the race his No. 88 Chevrolet was better than his winner in June. He had a bit of luck in his first win when debris slowed race leader Brad Keselowski. On Sunday, no one could touch Earnhardt over the final 14 laps.

"We were determined to go home from the last win and improve the car," he said.

Earnhardt and Letarte are clicking in their final season together. Hendrick Motorsports named Greg Ives the crew chief for 2015 once Letarte heads to the broadcast booth.

"I think he's going to make me look bad," Letarte said. "Mr. Hendrick has a remarkable talent of matching drivers with crew chiefs."

Harvick, who clinched a spot in the Chase, was second, followed by Joey Logano.

Gordon led a race-high 63 laps and surpassed 24,000 career laps led. He still holds a 17-point lead over Earnhardt, but Earnhardt would have the No. 1 seed because he has the most points among three-time winners.

Hamlin triggered a 13-car wreck with 43 laps after he got sideways coming out of a turn. Brian Vickers tried to avoid Hamlin and slammed into Matt Kenseth to send cars all over the track. The pileup looked like a "Big One" straight out of Talladega or Daytona, with smoking, dented and destroyed cars littering the track. Tony Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet rested atop Paul Menard's No. 27 Chevy.

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 127.411 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 8 minutes, 22 seconds

Margin of victory: 0.228 seconds

Caution flags: Eight for 35 laps

Lead changes: 15 among 10 drivers

Lap leaders: Logano 1-30; Ku.Busch 31-43; Gordon 44-64; Ku.Busch 65-74; Allmendinger 75-76; Almirola 77; Gilliland 78; Gordon 79-94; Harvick 95; Ku.Busch 96-102; Kenseth 103-105; Gordon 106-131; Harvick 132-135; Biffle 136-146; Earnhardt Jr. 147-160

Comments
Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

PHILADELPHIA — Not even a coat of Crisco on light poles across the city could keep Philadelphia Eagles fans from scaling new heights in celebrating their team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years and setting up a rematch with the AFC champion N...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Pats’ Eric Lee the latest former Bull to reach Super Bowl

Pats’ Eric Lee the latest former Bull to reach Super Bowl

Former Bulls DE Eric Lee has joined one of the more elite fraternities in USF football lore.Lee, who had three tackles for the Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game, becomes the 11th Bulls player to reach a Super Bowl. He's among only eight to r...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Super Bowl LII preview: First look at New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl LII preview: First look at New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Remember when the Bills were 3-1 and in first place in the AFC East? And when the Patriots were 2-2 and allowing 32 points per game? Weird, right?The Bills part, yes. The Patriots part, no.New England had done that before. Four other times in the Bil...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

PHILADELPHIA — Confetti filled the air, fireworks erupted overhead, and fans sang "Fly, Eagles Fly!" No one dared head for the exits. There was too much to celebrate.The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.The makeshift podium hadn’t taken space on Ph...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Updated: 8 hours ago
Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best coverageThe best football broadcast I’ve ever seen was Super Bowl XLIII. That was NBC’s coverage of the Steelers’ last-minute victory over th...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Sports in brief

Sports in brief

hockeyU.s. men’s olympic Gm, key program builder dies suddenlyLongtime USA Hockey executive and U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team general manager Jim Johannson died unexpectedly Sunday at age 53, shocking the sport less than three weeks before the start...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Healthy Keys back in Aussie quarters

Healthy Keys back in Aussie quarters

MELBOURNE, Australia — Madison Keys continued her strong run through the Australian Open draw, returning to the quarterfinals here for the first time in three years with today’s 6-3, 6-2 win over Caroline Garcia.The U.S. Open finalist is yet to drop ...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballNorth Carolina at Virginia Tech7 p.m.ESPNOhio State at Maryland7 p.m.ESPN2Iowa State at Texas7 p.m.ESPNUMaryland at Indiana7 p.m.FS1Holy Cross at American7 p.m.CBSSNWomen: LSU at Texas A&M7 p.m.SECNebraska at Ohio State8 p.m.Bi...
Updated: 9 hours ago