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Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins NASCAR race at Pocono

Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates his first multiple-victory year since 2004, when he had six.

Associated Press

Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates his first multiple-victory year since 2004, when he had six.

LONG POND, Pa. — You've been warned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Danger lies ahead.

Earnhardt passed Brad Keselowski with four of 160 laps remaining in Sunday's Pocono 400 to earn his first Sprint Cup victory at Pocono Raceway and his second series win of the season.

It's the first time since 2004 — when he won six times — that Earnhardt has had a multiple-win season, and the first during his six-plus year tenure at Hendrick Motorsports.

"We're doing some of our best work, certainly, right now,'' Earnhardt said. "We should — we have a lot of passion and there's a lot of emotion, considering this is (crew chief) Steve (Letarte's) last year, and I think that also adds some drive and determination to the team to do as well as we can.

"So, that can be dangerous, I think, for everybody else if we win to get better. We're still not the best team. We can always improve."

Earnhardt and his No. 88 Chevrolet team were not the best fie most of Sunday, but good enough to be in the right position at a critical time.

Keselowski seemed to have the victory in hand on a restart with 11 laps remaining, but debris on his front grille spiked his engine temperatures.

Keselowski attempted a daring move to slide in behind the lapped car of Danica Patrick in hopes the air would nudge the debris free, but the only thing he accomplished was allowing Earnhardt to pass him for the lead with four laps left.

Earnhardt also had debris on his grille but he and Keselowski made it to the finish incident-free, leaving fans in the grandstands on their feet in celebration long after the race was over.

"I don't know what his temperatures were, but they must have been very, very hot for Brad to do that," said Earnhardt, who earned his 21st career victory.

"I knew right then when he did that, he was so slow, I thought, 'We're going to pass him, we're going to take the lead.' I thought if I just run tidy corners, he would have trouble with the dirty air and wouldn't be able to get (back) to us."

Keselowski, who led a race-high 95 laps, said he was in a difficult situation: He didn't believe his engine would make it to the finish without a quick fix.

"It was definitely a mistake because the engine made it, but it probably shouldn't have," he said. "It was one of those deals, I think I was going to get passed because I was really down on power down the straightaway."

Kurt Busch finished third. Jeff Gordon, who finished eighth, reclaimed the series points lead and leads Matt Kenseth by 16.

"I don't have much to do (today)," Earnhardt said, grinning. "(Sunday night's) going to be a long one."

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 139.440 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 52 minutes, 7 seconds

Margin of victory: 0.439 seconds

Caution flags: Seven for 26 laps

Lead changes: 21 among 10 drivers

Lap leaders: B.Keselowski 1-56; J.Gordon 57; T.Stewart 58; D.Hamlin 59-61; B.Keselowski 62-75; T.Stewart 76-83; Ku.Busch 84-88; T.Stewart 89-95; D.Hamlin 96; D.Earnhardt Jr. 97-100; B.Vickers 101; K.Larson 102-108; J.Johnson 109-111; T.Stewart 112-119; B.Keselowski 120-128; D.Earnhardt Jr. 129-130; J.Johnson 131-132; J.Gordon 133; J.Allgaier 134-139; B.Keselowski 140-155; D.Earnhardt Jr. 156-160.

Up next: Quicken Loans 400, 1 p.m. Sunday, Michigan International Speedway, TNT

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins NASCAR race at Pocono 06/08/14 [Last modified: Sunday, June 8, 2014 10:09pm]
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